How to manage Google storage and increase Google Photos storage

If you are struggling for storage in Google Drive, Google Photos or Gmail account, here is a guide to managing it and freeing up space. I will use an Android phone, but an iPhone will do.

Google provides 15 GB of free space, although you may have earned a bit extra if you have taken up offers over the years. I have 19 GB of free space for example. It sounds a lot, but it is easily used up, especially if you take a lot of photos and videos, or use Google Drive a lot.

Google Photos storage was free up until June 1st 2021. From then on, any photos or videos taken, add to your storage usage. It is important to understand that photos and videos taken before this date, do not count against your storage.

My immediate thought was to download a lot of old photos from years ago and archive them offline, such as on a USB drive. However, they don’t count against storage and so removing them will not free up space. Only photos and videos added after June 1st 2021 count. You cannot free up space by deleting old content.

Google storage space is used by everything you do on Google, like Drive, Gmail, Photos, Docs, email attachments, and so on. This means that you can gain more space for photos by deleting old emails for example.

You don’t have to delete photos and Google storage space is used by everything. Emptying the trash on Google Drive for example, will free up space for photos. You must consider everything that uses your Google storage.

1 Google Drive storage view

How much space are you using in your Google account? Open the Google Drive app on your phone and tap the hamburger icon in the top left corner to open the menu.

Google Drive storage displayed in the app on an Android phone

Under Storage is the amount of space being used, both as a horizontal bar and in gigabytes. You can easily see how much space is used and how much free space remains. Tap this storage widget.

2 Google storage summary

The next screen shows a breakdown of the storage usage. It is helpfully color-coded and also broken down into Google Drive, Gmail and Google Photos. I actually have hundreds, maybe thousands of photos, but none taken before June 1st 2021 count. Only photos and videos uploaded after that date are shown, which is why it is only 0.34 GB in the screenshot below.

Google Drive storage display in the app on an Android phone

Apart from this breakdown of usage by three Google services, this screen is not much use. It is visually attractive, but it will not help you manage your storage usage. Swiping up on this screen just shows adverts for Google’s paid storage plans, which is an option when you are running out of free space of course.

3 Google Photos storage

Forget the Google Drive app if you want to manage your storage usage and open the Google Photos app. Tap your picture in the top right corner and your storage usage is displayed in a similar way to Drive.

Google drive storage in the Photos app on an Android phone

Ignore the Free up XYZ GB option at the bottom. This is for freeing up space on the phone by deleting photos on the device that have been uploaded to Photos. It is not for freeing up space in your Google storage. Tap the storage widget.

4 Manage storage from Photos

The next screen is much more useful than the one in Drive and at the top is an estimate of when my free storage will be full. It guesses in about two year’s time, based on the rate at which I am currently using it. I am OK for now, but you will see a different message of course, and your storage may already be nearly full.

The bar at the top shows used and free space and below it breaks down the used space into Photos, and Drive and Gmail combined.

Google Photos storage display in the Photos app on an Android phone

What is interesting and useful here are the features for managing your storage use and for freeing up space. It shows the usage for Large photos and videos, Screenshots, Other apps, Blurry photos, and right at the bottom is Clean up Gmail and Drive.

Let’s take a look at some of these features.

5 Delete blurry photos

Tap Blurry photos and you are shown what the app thinks are poor pictures. Is it right? Do you need these photos? They are not good and they can be selected and deleted.

Google Photos app on a phone showing blurry photos

Why so few blurry photos? It is not because I am a great photographer, but photos taken before June 1st 2021 do not count towards storage, so, blurry or not, they do not appear here.

6 Delete large photos and videos

Select this item on the manage your storage screen and the biggest items stored in Photos are listed by size. Videos are naturally bigger than photos, so expect to see mostly videos. Remember that only items added after June 1st will appear.

Google Photos app on a phone showing the biggest files

Videos and photos can be selected and deleted, but you don’t want to delete valuable and irreplaceable items. Do not delete anything unless you are sure you do not want it or have a copy elsewhere, such as on your computer or a USB backup drive. Preferably both.

This is a nice feature in theory, but in practice I want to keep those items, so I rarely delete anything even if it is taking up a lot of space. There are few savings to be made here.

7 Google One storage manager

Tap the last item listed in Google Photos manage storage screen and a browser opens and shows Storage manager at the Google One website. (You may need to log in.)

Clean up Google storage at Google One website

This has lots of useful items like deleted emails, spam emails, deleted files on Drive, (swipe up for more), large items, emails with large attachments, large files, large photos and videos, and more.

Clean up Google storage at Google One website

This is excellent and you can visit each of the items to see more details and to free up storage space by deleting things you don’t need or can live without. Here are large files on Google Drive – it says I can review and clear 7.7 GB.

Clean up Google storage at Google One website

It’s not pretty and the color scheme makes text almost invisible, but you can select large files and delete them on Google Drive to free up space. you need to be absolutely sure you do not need those files because there is no way of getting them back once they are deleted. If the files are not used very often, think about downloading them and storing them offline, such as on the computer or a USB drive.

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