Accidental deletion of files usually results in repercussions and regrets as you can keep your files forever. What actually happens when you delete a file can vary by system and service. For example, Google Drive treats it differently. Deleting an unshared file has different results than deleting a shared file. Things get complicated when you delete shared files or folders. Are you concerned about deleting files from Google Drive? We are here to help. This article will guide you through what happens when you delete a file or folder from Google Drive.
Deleting files will help you free up space on your Google Drive. However, the storage released will depend on several factors. We have listed several scenarios below based on file owner, file location, and more.
Let’s start. But before that, read the following important points.
What to know when deleting files from Google Drive
- Only the owner of the file can effectively delete the file. Others only delete the file from their own view, and don’t actually delete the file.
- The owner of the file is whoever uploaded it to Google Drive. The storage used will only count against the file owner’s Google Drive quota.
- When you delete a file from any of your devices e.g. Google Drive Android app, the file will be deleted from other devices i.e. iPhone / iPad app and web version.
- If you directly delete a file from any of the Google Drive products like Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc., those files will also be deleted from Drive. The same goes for the situation vice versa, i.e. removing Drive will remove it from other services.
Now let’s take a look at different scenarios.
What happens when you delete an unshared file or folder
Things are simple when you delete a Google Drive file or folder that is not shared with anyone. Basically, if you’ve uploaded a file to your own Google Drive folder, deleting it will move it to the Trash or Trash folder in Google Drive. Likewise, when you delete an unshared folder from your Drive, all files in that folder are also deleted and placed in the recycle bin.
Recycle Bin is a special type of folder that keeps your deleted files for 30 days after which they are permanently deleted. You can manually delete the file from the recycle bin if you don’t want to wait 30 days. The Recycle Bin helps to recover files within 30 days of deletion if you accidentally deleted them.
Note: Files stored in the Google Drive recycle bin are counted in Google Drive storage. Find out what else matters in Drive storage.
What happens when you delete a shared file or folder that you own
When you delete a shared file that you own (which you uploaded to Google Drive), it is deleted from your view and sent to the Trash folder for 30 days. You can recover the file within 30 days or permanently delete it from the recycle bin within 30 days. The file will be permanently deleted after 30 days from the recycle bin. The same goes for shared folders. All files in the shared folder will be deleted and placed in the recycle bin.
Pro tip: Check out 9 tips for using and managing Google Drive folders.
For others who have access to your shared file or folder, the file / folder will disappear from their Google Drive account. However, they can still access individual Google Drive service files like Docs, Slides, etc. if they have the file share link. You will find the link in your email.
When they open such a deleted file, they will be notified that the shared file is in the owner’s recycle bin and will be deleted permanently. To continue using the file, they will need to create its copy using the Make a Copy button. Otherwise, the file owner can transfer ownership of the file before deleting it.
Other files, such as images, PDFs, are not accessible when deleted from owner’s side. Accessing such a file will display an error indicating that the file is in the owner’s recycle bin.
In a nutshell, users who have access to the shared file can access some of them within 30 days of deleting the file (if it is in the owner’s recycle bin). After 30 days, or if the file or folder were permanently deleted from the Recycle Bin, the file / folder would no longer be accessible to anyone unless a copy was made.
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What happens when you delete a shared file or folder that belongs to someone else
You will find all shared files / folders in the “Shared with me” section of Google Drive. Three situations arise in this case depending on whether the file is part of a shared folder or does not belong to any folder.
Case 1: delete a shared file
When you delete a shared file that doesn’t belong to any folder, the file is deleted from your Google Drive view. Since you are not the owner of the file, it is not deleted for everyone. The owner and users who have access to the shared file can still use it normally.
Point: Can’t delete Google Drive files? Find out how to fix Google Drive not deleting files issue.
Basically, deleting someone else’s shared file only removes it from your Google Drive account. The file will not be visible in your Trash folder because you simply deleted the shortcut from the file or folder and not the actual file owned by someone else. However, if you click the file’s shared link again, you can still access the file and it will reappear in your Google Drive.
Note: The owner of the file will not be notified that you deleted the file.
Case 2: delete a shared folder
All of the above is also valid for records. In other words, deleting a shared folder will remove it and its associated files from your view only. Nothing will happen on the side of the beneficial owner.
Case 3: delete a shared file from a shared folder
There is an exception that if you delete a file from a shared folder, such file will be orphaned. In other words, even if the file disappears from your view, it is not actually deleted. The real owner of the file can still access it. The file will be available in the owner’s My Drive folder. They can even search for the file to find it.
What happens when you delete your added file in someone else’s shared folder
Users who can access the shared folder can upload a file or create a new file in shared folders. If you upload a file to a shared folder and the owner deletes the folder, what happens to your files?
In such situations, only the folder and files owned by the folder owner will be deleted for everyone. The other files (owned by others) will be orphaned because they don’t have a folder now, but will not be deleted.
Basically, files added by other users will stay in their own Google Drive accounts. As the folder no longer exists, the owner of the files can find the files in the root folder of Google Drive, i.e. My Drive. You can also enter is: unorganized in the Google Drive search bar.
Point: You need to move the orphaned files to new folders to organize them.
Free up storage
We hope you understood the consequences of deleting files or folders from Google Drive. In short, deleting shared files owned by someone else will not free up storage on your Google Drive account. Only files that you uploaded to Google Drive should be deleted to free up storage space.
Google Drive does not display the size of the folder. Find out how to find out the size of folders in Google Drive without downloading them from the following link.
Last updated on Dec 15, 2020
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