It happens to the best of us—you create a few word documents and upload some high-quality images from your family vacation, and voila! Google Drive is screaming at you about how there’s no space left. Fortunately, it’s easy to see what’s taking up the most space and how to free up more.
Before you go on a rampage and start deleting a bunch of random files, we recommend taking a moment to learn how you can determine what’s hogging the most space in your Drive account, as well as what kinds of files count toward that limit and how you can clean it out. You might also find it helpful to learn a few ways to increase the limit of your digital storage. That way, you can keep your Google Drive clean, organized, and ready for all of your future files.
By default, all personal user Google Drive accounts get 15GB for free. This is a pretty good deal, given that you don’t have to pay a dime for it, especially since other free cloud storage services limit their free tiers to just a couple of gigs (usually less than 10GB and often much closer to 2GB). However, it doesn’t take a ton of effort to fill up that 15GB limit, especially with all of the things Google counts towards it.
The catch with Google Drive is that Google gets to choose what counts towards that 15GB limit, not you (well, for the most part). Many of the files from its other G Suite software count, which can have you bumping up against that limit sooner than you might like to be.
Here’s what Google files do and do not count towards your Google Drive Limit:
Google counts nearly everything in Gmail, so emails and attachments. Photos at the original quality (bigger than 2,048 x 2,048 pixels) and videos longer than 15 minutes count, too, as do any other files you manually upload to store.
Another big culprit for your waning storage space is the series of random unwanted files that someone else shares with you. You can find these in the Google Drive sidebar, entitled “Shared with me.” These can include files of all varieties sent to you by organizations, coworkers, family, friends, and even spam from other businesses.
Google does not count any word documents you create in Google Docs, any spreadsheets from Google Sheets, any presentation slideshows from Google Slides (thankfully), any forms or surveys from Google Forms, or any information for Google Sites. It also excludes photos smaller than 2,048 x 2,048 pixels and videos shorter than 15 minutes in Google Photos.
One way to clean out your Google Drive is to find out which files are the largest and delete or relocate them. Most people probably have a few gigantic long-forgotten files from years ago that are eating up your storage space. This will be the most effective way to clear up some space with the least amount of effort.
The first and easiest step to take is to open up Google Drive and look at the bottom of the sidebar. There, you will see a cloud logo with the word “Storage” next to it, with a bar just below it showing how much of your current storage limit you are currently using (and the option to buy more just below that). If you’ve got room to spare, you probably don’t need to take any other action for the time being. If you’re getting close to that limit, keep reading to find out some ways to manage that.
Second, head over to Google Drive’s Storage page, either on mobile or on your desktop. This is technically the page for your Google One storage, but Google Drive is part of that, so the company lists all that information on this page. Anyone with a Gmail account automatically gets 15GB of free storage, and your usage will show up on that page regardless of which other Google apps you use (or what your total storage limit is).
You’ll see a graph that shows you how much of your total storage limit is being used on this page. It also breaks down that storage on a more granular level, showing how much space is taken up specifically by things like Gmail, Google Photos, or device backups (for example, if you have a Google Pixel 6 smartphone).
Third, check out the Google Drive Storage manager. This nifty tool automatically seeks and lists out all the files you probably no longer want or need, like spam and deleted emails, large Gmail attachments, unsupported photos and videos, or extra-large photos and videos. Items like these quickly clutter your storage and can be nice to get rid of even if you aren’t bumping up against your storage limit.
If you want to free up more space in Gmail, fret not! There are a couple of easy-peasy ways to do so without manually going through all of your emails one by one. We recommend searching for files by size first, which you can do by typing in “has:attachment larger:2MB” (or whatever size you want to enter there) in the search bar at the top of your Gmail. From there, Google will sort any emails over that limit, starting with the largest; this makes it pretty easy to see any sizable culprits.
Prefer just to toss out old emails? We totally get it, and there’s an easy way to do that, too. This time, you’ll type in “older_than:2y” (or whatever time frame you want, using “m” for month if you don’t want to go quite that far back). Google will then show you all of your emails starting at that point and working backward.
If you’re looking to free up more space in Google Drive, you can directly view your specific quota for the program. That page shows you all of your files and how much space they each take up, starting with the ones that are the largest. Remember that any files you upload manually will take up space here, as will files that have been shared with you. Those are usually visible at the top of the quota page, making them easy to find.
If you don’t want to upgrade your storage through Google Drive or Google One (or if you are already on the highest-capacity plan and still need more space), don’t fret—you have options. The easiest bet here is just to upgrade how much storage you have through Google One, as it’s already integrated with programs you likely use on a regular basis.
You can start with the super affordable Basic and Standard plans, which net you 100GB and 200GB of storage, respectively, and only cost a couple bucks a month. If you still need more storage beyond that, no problem. You’ve got options for 2TB, 5TB, 10TB, 20TB, and 30TB plans, the pricing for which starts at a reasonable $9.99 per month and goes up to $149.99 per month.
Stick with Google, but upgrade how much space you have.
If you don’t want to stick with Google’s storage, there are a ton of other cloud storage options for you to choose from. The two most popular other services that provide comparable storage and features are Dropbox and Microsoft OneNote.
Dropbox offers both a free Basic and paid Plus individual plan, as well as a Family plan for up to six users. The Basic plan nets you 2GB of storage, while both the Plus individual and Family plans give you 2TB and a slew of other fantastic features. The Plus plan costs $9.99 per month, and the Family plan is $16.99 per month.
Want storage for you or your family outside of Google? Go with Dropbox.
Microsoft OneNote also offers a free Basic plan, which offers you 5GB, alongside a premium Standalone storage-only plan with 100GB for $19.99 per year. It all just comes down to how much storage you want, your budget, and what other features (if any) you want.
Want a more affordable storage-only plan? Stick with Microsoft OneDrive.
Of course, you can always take your storage offline, too. In some instances, you’re fine to keep a file on your desktop. We recommend keeping the files you interact with most often in Google Drive but moving older files elsewhere. And if you want the option to take your files with you on the go, we recommend grabbing a portable SSD or even an external HDD.