While Google One is relatively new on the scene and provides many unified tools for managing data for individuals and families alike, most users may not be aware of the built-in feature for freeing up storage space across their Google Account. “Storage Manager” by Google is a powerful system that takes advantage of the company’s servers to let you process bulk amounts of data all at once. With limited space on free accounts, and Google’s recent decision to say goodbye to unlimited this method as well as direct bulk Google Photos management can be lifesavers!
You could simply visit each Google service and manually delete files, but this new option frees up your need to strategically plan and execute individual tasks by combining them all into one webpage. For anyone not yet using Google One, you can sign up and get a membership that includes not only the aforementioned storage management but also device backups, Google Store rewards, Pro help sessions directly from Google Support, additional Google Photos editing features, hotel discounts, and even a VPN (for 2TB+ plans). As a heads up, even free Google Account holders can use Storage Manager, but these other perks come with a subscription.
Accessing Google Storage Manager
With all of the basics out of the way, let’s see how you can potentially free up hundreds of gigabytes of data on your Google Account so that your start the new year out with a clear head and storage space to spare! First, you’ll want to navigate to the Google One Storage page.
From here, you’ll see a full breakdown of your Google Account storage across Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos. Additionally, Google Recorder and storage you’re sharing with your loved ones via your Family Group are listed here as well. It’s a colorful bar that’s segmented out in the same way that Apple has done for years. This is my second favorite feature of Google One, just below the storage management tools, that is.
Alright, let’s scroll down. Just below your breakdown, you’ll see a banner called “Get your space back”. It says here that you can “see ways to free up space in Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos”. Just go ahead and click “Free up account storage”. As a reminder, you can simply upgrade below this space if you want to remove account restrictions until you have time to clean things up, but I recommend following along today so you can start off the new year in a great space!
Reviewing and Deleting Items
On this next screen, you’ll see suggestions for Discarded items like recently deleted emails and files, and spam that you can remove to free up some space. Additionally, Google Photos sometimes has “Unsupported videos” – or videos that the service can’t process or play because of their file type. At the bottom of this screen, you can completely remove them, but I’d recommend downloading a copy of them with Google Takeout instead! Just because Google can’t make use of them doesn’t mean that you want your precious memories deleted, right?
I just want the steps
1. Visit the Google One Storage Manager
2. Scroll down and click “Free up account storage“
3. Review Discarded items, Large Items, and Other items
4. Select items you no longer need
5. Click the trash can icon at the top-right of the window (These items will be permenantly deleted!)
The bulk of the work here will be you going through the “Large items” section. As you can see in my example above, there are almost 50GB of storage that I can free up on my account! That’s pretty impressive, but it’s important to realize that you may not want to delete all of these files. In fact, I’ve found that I often don’t. Google just knows that they’re large items, but it doesn’t understand their sentimental value to you.
Clicking the “Review and free up…” button under each of the three boxes (Email with large attachments, Large files, and Large photos and videos) will bring you to a screen where you have some pretty powerful filtering and organizational tools for making sense of these items.
I’m going to move forward with Large files in Drive. In the photo below, you can see that I have blurred out my personal items, but what you’re looking at is 31.5GB of photos and videos in Drive from back when Google Photos was tied to it. Back on July 10, 2019, the company separated the two to reduce confusion, but I and others continue to have loads of storage taken up by what was left in Drive, which is frustrating.
The Great Drive and Photos Sync Debacle of 2019, a.k.a. “Can I really delete these files?”
Instead of deleting these items, we’ve kept them for fear of them being deleted from both services if we remove them from one or the other. In order to determine whether or not you can remove these files safely without losing your precious memories, we’re going to ask a few questions.
First, did you use the “Upload from Drive” tool in Google Photos to place items into the service? If so, these are copies of the Drive photos and videos and are in no way connected to the originals! This means that you can safely delete these in the Storage manager from the Drive section without fear. Just remember that Original quality items you copy from Drive to Photos will count towards your storage quote on both products, and all photos and videos copied remain in each service until you delete them separately.
On photos.google.com, you can use a new feature called “Upload from Drive”, which lets you manually choose photos and videos from Drive to copy into Photos. This feature may not be available for everyone until the end of July 2019.Google Photos Help
Once items are copied into Photos, items are not connected between the two products.
If you’re not sure if you’re currently syncing your content from Drive in Photos, just visit your Google Photos Settings and see if there’s a “Google Drive” section. If there isn’t, then you’re not syncing the two. If there is, then you are! If you used to sync your Photos library with Drive back in the day, you’ll see a “Google Photos” folder in your Google Drive, and it will have subfolders in it labeling the years and months., then you used to sync your Photos Library to Drive! However, these are no longer connected to one another in any way, shape, or form.
So, in summary, so long as you’ve copied all of this data over to Google Photos, you can literally delete the entire Google Photos folder in Drive and you won’t lose any data since – and I repeat – they are no longer connected, but you will certainly free up a crap ton of storage, and the Storage Manager makes that a cinch.
To boost your confidence, you can see right on the help page for this Google Photos and Drive Sync debacle change that Google states directly that after July 10, 2019, any photos or videos you delete or change in Drive will not affect the copy you uploaded to Photos – hooray! Again, be sure you’ve synced a copy over by using the previous steps before deleting anything though!
As a final note on this whole mess, anyone using Google Drive Backup & Sync with photos (the “Upload newly added photos and videos to Google Photos” option) should note that it doesn’t take up duplicate storage, but removing it from one or the other does not affect the opposite service. Additionally, removing it from one of these services does not remove it from your computer, even with Sync installed (Unless you’re using file streaming)!
A Few Important Points
It’s important to note that Storage Manager only displays files that count against your account storage quota, so any files you’ve uploaded or edited before June 1, 2021 are being stored without filling up your One bar, but any files that were created or modified after June 1, 2021 are counting against you. Here’s an interesting bit of fine print – Google reserves the right to completely remove all of your Gmail, Photos, and Drive content (including Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms, and Jamboard files) if you remain over your storage quote for 2 years or longer, so yeah…it’s probably a great idea to take advantage of these tools periodically!
Pro Tip: If you aren’t sure if you can keep your account active within the 2-year time limit, then you should consider setting up the Inactive Account Manager. This tool provides a way for you to share parts of a Google Account or its data with a trusted contact. I’ve heard of people using this to archive or manage accounts for loved ones who have passed away in order to keep that data from being deleted until they could find a way to memorialize it or take action on it.
With that being said, the company will give you email and notification notices within these services and will contact you at least 3 months prior to deleting anything to see if it can get a response from you or get you to take action. Paying for extra storage or simply using Google Takeout to download a copy of all of your data to avoid losing all of your files are both great options too.
Enjoy your freed up storage space!
In the end, using the Takeout tool to download a copy of the Google Photos folder from Drive to a local hard drive is another way to be sure you aren’t losing any photos or videos. While Google has clearly outlined its method for separating Drive and Photos, it still makes people uneasy to delete things since they used to be tied together.
We don’t assume responsibility for any lost data in the case where you don’t follow the above instructions to a tee, so please be wise and backup your data with Google Takeout before attempting to use the Storage Manager. I’m saying this a third time because it’s crucial!
However, if you’ve followed along with this tutorial, then you should have tens of gigabytes free on your Google Account now primarily thanks to the deletion of the Large files section in the Storage Manager! I hope this helped to clear things up, and I hope you have freed up tons of storage for the new year. If you have any questions about anything here, please let me know in the comments so I can help to clarify it!