Google will delete files on Google Drive it thinks you don’t need

From 2022, Google will automatically delete your files on Google Drive. What! Yes, it is true. Some files you stored on Drive will be deleted and replaced with shortcuts. Be prepared!

Is Google really going to delete the files you have stored in Drive? Yes and no. It is complicated and you need to know exactly what will be deleted, why, and what effect it will have on you. Don’t panic, breathe deeply and read on.

Why are Google Drive files being deleted?

The most likely reason that Google will delete files on Google Drive is because so many people are storing files online these days, it is becoming increasingly expensive for the company to store them. Online storage requirements and the costs associated them are probably rising rapidly and, even worse, with no end in sight. Something needs to be done to stop them or at least reduce them.

The solution Google has come up with is to delete files from your Google Drive online storage. Don’t panic though, it is not as bad as it might at first seem. In fact, in some ways it will benefit many people, although it may potentially cause problems for others.

Which Google Drive files are being deleted?

People often have duplicate files in their online storage like Google Drive and they are simply a waste of space. You might accidentally upload the same file twice to Google Drive and store it in different folders. A file you uploaded to the Documents folder this week might also have been uploaded to a folder called My Docs last week or last month. You might duplicate files online for various reason, such as to create a backup.

You can accidentally, or even on purpose, put the same file twice in different folders on Google Drive and you probably have one or more duplicates in Drive right now.

If you have the same file stored more than once in Drive, Google will keep one master copy and delete all of the others. It will replace the duplicates with a shortcut.

What is a Google Drive shortcut?

A shortcut on Google Drive is just like a shortcut on the computer. You probably have a few of these on the Windows desktop or Apple Mac desktop, such as shortcuts to programs, folders or files.

You can easily see Windows desktop shortcuts because they have a little curved arrow in the corner of the icon. Click a shortcut to an app and it runs just like it does when you click the app. Click a shortcut to a folder or file and it opens, just as if you had clicked the actual file or folder.

A shortcut on Google Drive
Shortcuts on Google Drive have a small, curved arrow in the corner

Google Drive shortcuts work in the same way as those on your computer. Click a shortcut and whatever it points to will open as if you clicked the real thing.

Which duplicates are deleted on Google Drive?

Google will apply a set of rules to any duplicate files it finds stored in your Google Drive in order to work out which one to keep and which should be replaced with shortcuts. The rules are designed to minimize disruption and problems, but there may possibly be unintended side effects for some people. We will have to wait and see.

There can be complex situations with files that are shared and have sharing permissions. For example, if a shortcut to a file is shared, but the file itself has restrictions, it’s not going to work. The shortcut cannot bypass the permissions of the file it points to. You would have to share the original file, not the shortcut.

Multiple people accessing files through sharing permissions could be a source of problems if they are duplicates and they are replaced by shortcuts. If you don’t do that sort of thing, you probably won’t have any issues.

Create shortcuts on Google Drive

To avoid potential problems with Google deleting files on Drive, I would recommend browsing your online storage and looking for duplicate files yourself. Delete the duplicates and, if necessary, create your own shortcuts to the files where you need them.

1 Add a file shortcut in Google Drive

Create Google Drive shortcuts
Right click (PC) or Ctrl+click (Mac) on a file in Google Drive

Open a web browser and go to to see the files and folders in your online storage. Right click (PC) or Ctrl+click (Mac) a file and a menu appears. Select Add a shortcut to Drive on the menu.

2 Browse your Drive storage

Create a Google Drive shortcut
Where should a file shortcut be created?

Where do you want to store the shortcut to this file? A small panel opens with the top level of your Drive storage showing. Click the arrow at the right of My Drive to view the folders in Drive.

3 Choose where to save the shortcut

Save a Google drive shortcut
Choose where to save the Google Drive shortcut

You can choose to store the shortcut anywhere in your Drive storage. Here I chose the My Docs folder. Select your own favorite folder.

That’s it. The shortcut looks and works just like the real file, but it uses almost no storage space on Drive. Replacing duplicate files with shortcuts frees up space.

How do you stop Google deleting files?

The benefit of replacing duplicate files with shortcuts is that less space is required on Drive. This means that you can fit more files in Google Drive. Stop wasting space!

Google Drive settings
Open the menu in Google Drive

If really you do not want Google to delete duplicates, click the gear icon at the top of Google Drive and then click Settings on the menu that it displayed.

Google Drive settings
Google Drive settings

Here you can see the notice about files being replaced by shortcuts and underneath are two options. One is Replace with shortcuts and the other is Don’t replace with shortcuts.

I’m guessing you will need to act before Google begins de-duplicating your Drive space. Once it has been done, I don’t know whether it can be undone.

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