If you are short of storage space on Google Photos and Google Drive is nearly full, here are some useful ways to free up space. Don’t pay for more space, use what you have more efficiently.
Everyone with a Google account, which is a lot of people, has 15 GB of online storage in which to keep their data. Gmail, Google Drive and Google Photos all use the same space. Well, not exactly the same space, but usage of each is added together to get your total usage. It must add up to less than 15 GB or you will not be able to receive any more emails, store any more files or upload any more photos.
Long time users like myself may have more free space than normal and I have 19 GB of online storage because I took advantage of special offers years ago. Even with a bit of extra space, it is all too easy to run out.
Google Photos was free and unlimited up until a couple of years ago. Now your photos and videos count towards your Google account storage total. Only photos and videos uploaded to Google Photos after 1 June 2021 count and anything before that is ignored.
Let’s look at the ways to recover space and make room for more photos and videos in your Google account. This guide applies to a Windows PC, Apple Mac, Linux or Chromebook desktop computer. If you want to know how to do this on an iPhone or Android phone, read How to manage Google storage and increase Google Photos storage.
Increase Google photos storage
By now, you may find that your Google Account free storage is becoming full and if so, you need to take action. One option of course, is to pay for extra storage and increasing the limit to 100 or 200 GB is fairly cheap.
Go to Google One Storage to see how much online storage space you are currently using. Scroll down the page to see how much various storage options cost. It is less than the price of a take-away coffee a month for 100 GB and even 2 TB of cloud storage is cheaper than a Netflix subscription.
Manage Google Photos storage
For many people, photos and videos take up the most storage space in their Google Account. Managing your photos is also the easiest way to free up space. By deleting unwanted photos and videos, you will gain space and it could put off having to buy extra storage. At least for a while.
Go to photos.google.com and click the gear icon in the upper right corner of the page. There are two options here and photos can be stored in Original quality or Storage saver. Original quality uses a lot of space, but if you are serious about your photography, you need it. For most people, the storage saver option is fine. Photos and videos use less space, but you will not notice any difference in quality.
Click the Manage storage button to continue. Let’s save even more storage space in Google Photos.
Storage use prediction
At the top of the Manage storage page is your current storage usage. It shows how much space is used and predicts how long it will take you to fill that storage based on how much you use over time.
This is a fun estimate, which may or may not be accurate. Don’t take it too seriously!
Review and delete photos
Scroll down the Manage storage page and there is a Review and delete section containing several options.
Click Large photos and videos to see a list of the largest items in Google Photos, which also contains videos of course, because these usually occupy the most space.
Click each video to preview it because the content is not always obvious from the thumbnail. Select any large items you do not want and click Move to bin in the toolbar at the top of the page. Be careful not to delete anything you need. You can get deleted items back, but it’s best to check each one first.
Return to Review and delete and select Blurry photos. Click photos to view a larger version and select the selection circle in the corner of the thumbnail to select images. Delete them as before.
Be careful. The thumbnail images of photos shown here may look sharp and you might think they are OK to keep, but if you click them to view them full size, you will see that they really are blurry.
Some photos are worth keeping even if they are blurry. For example, old photos taken a long time ago on ancient film cameras may not be sharp. It’s just the technology that was used back then. The photos may be the only ones you have of people or events, so don’t delete them if they are valuable.
There is a Screenshots section in Review and delete. Sometimes we take screenshots to remember something, like an email, a website and so on. Review your screenshots and delete any images you no longer need.
The Other apps section contains photos saved by apps other than the camera app. For example, there may be photos and videos saved from WhatsApp and other sources. Review them and delete unwanted images.
Finally on the Manage storage page of Google Photos is Recover storage. Click the Learn more link.
If you have uploaded photos and videos using the original quality option, you can convert them to storage saver quality. Some phones take huge photos and even budget models can take 48 or 64 megapixel images. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra takes 200 megapixel images!
If you really need to store photos that big, you need to pay for the 2 TB storage subscription. If you don’t, and most people don’t, select the Storage saver option to limit the size of future camera uploads and shrink the size of any you have already uploaded with the Recover storage option.
Photos still look very good with this setting and only serious photographers need to store images at the original resolution.
Empty the Google Photos bin
After deleting blurry photos, large photos and videos, screenshots and so on, how much space have you saved? None! If you free up space on Google Photos is not working, don’t worry, there is a good reason. Go to Google Photos home page and select Bin in the sidebar. Everything you deleted is in the bin and items are only removed after 60 days.
You will get the space savings eventually, but if you need to free up space right now, click the Empty bin option in the upper right corner.