When compared to Dropbox’s 2GB and Box’s 10GB, Google Drive looks to be a great deal with 15GB of free space. The hitch is that the 15GB limit applies to both your Gmail account (messages and attachments) and Google Photos.
Those emails and photos add up quickly, and you may find yourself over the 15GB limit sooner than you expected.
Fortunately, recovering Google Drive space is as simple as locating the files, messages, attachments, and videos that are taking valuable gigabytes.
Step 1: Find the problem
To find out what’s taking up so much space on your Google Drive, go to the Drive storage page. There’s a pie chart here that shows how much space you’re using up; click over the chart to see a breakdown by platform.
Gmail messages and attachments, as you can see, take up the majority of my Google Drive space, however, I also appear to have roughly 4GB locked up in Google Photos.
On this page, you can also see how much total storage you have (including any bonuses you may have earned), and you may upgrade your Google One plan if you need more space. Google One plans start at $2 per month for 100GB or $20 per year and go up to $10 per month for 2TB.
Step 2: What counts toward your limit?
Because not everything in your Google Drive counts against your storage limit, don’t remove stuff at random. Anything you create in Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides does not contribute to your quota (neither does any Google Doc, Sheet, or Slide shared with you). Almost everything in Gmail counts, but only images larger than 2,048×2,048 pixels and Google Photos videos longer than 15 minutes count against your Drive storage limit.
Step 3: Clean up the Drive
Navigate to My Drive in Google Drive. If you get a grid of thumbnails instead of a list, click the List view button in the upper-right corner of the screen.
Your Google Drive files should now be visible and arranged alphabetically. Google used to let you rapidly sort your Drive files by file size, but now the only sort options when you click the Sort button in the top right corner are Name, Last modified, Last altered by me, and Last opened by me.
You may still organize your files by file size: In the lower-left corner of the screen, you should see the amount of storage space you’re using, as well as a link that says Buy extra storage. Hover your cursor over this location until a box with a breakdown of your Drive storage appears. Click here to go to Drive, which will be at the top of the list.
Your Drive folder will now be categorized by “Quota used” or file size, and you may start deleting larger items to save up space.
If you don’t want to delete your PDF files, you may convert them to Google Docs to save space (or Sheets or Slides, depending on the file). To do so, right-click the PDF file and choose Open from the drop-down menu, followed by Google Docs.
A new Google Doc will appear with the same name as your PDF file, and the old PDF file may be erased.
Clear your Trash folder once you’ve deleted the files from your Drive. Click Trash, then choose the files you want to delete permanently, right-click, and then select Delete forever. A file will take up space on your Drive until it is permanently deleted.
Step 4: Tackle your Google Photos
Why do I have 4GB of photos in Google Photos even though I seldom use Google? Because I use Android’s automatic image backup service, which uploads all of the full-size photos I take on my Android phone to my Google Photos account.
Because you can’t search Google Photos by file size, going through and deleting data hogs will take some time. To begin, go to Google Photographs and pick Photographs to see all of your photos.
To delete images, hover over them until a little check box appears in the top left corner. When you tick the box, all of your images will be marked as checked. Select all of the photos you want to get rid of, then hit the Delete button.
Click the menu button in the upper left corner and select Settings > High Quality to prevent your Android phone from automatically uploading full-size images. High-Quality images are lower in resolution than the originals recorded by your phone and hence take up no space in Drive.
Step 5: Purge your Gmail
Let’s be honest: if you’ve made it this far, your Gmail account is probably using the majority of your Google Drive space. Read our guide on how to clear up your Gmail to get rid of large files and bothersome newsletters. If you need help organizing your inbox so you can identify the old emails you no longer need to keep, check out these 10 Gmail organization tactics.