When you delete a file from Google Drive, it goes to your Google Drive trash. Files in the trash are not permanently deleted right away. Instead, Google keeps them there for a period of time before permanently deleting them. This allows users to restore deleted files if they change their mind or delete something by accident.
So are Google Drive files permanently deleted eventually? Or do they continue taking up storage space indefinitely? Let’s take a closer look at how the Google Drive trash system works.
How the Google Drive Trash Works
When you delete a Google Drive file, it is moved to the trash. The file will remain in the trash for 30 days. During this time, you can restore the file to its original location if you change your mind or realize you deleted something important by accident. This gives you a month-long safety net.
After 30 days, Google Drive will automatically and permanently delete files that are still in the trash. At this point, the files cannot be recovered. The space they were taking up is freed on your Google Drive storage.
If you need to permanently delete a file right away, without waiting 30 days, you can also manually empty the trash through your Google Drive settings. This will force all files currently in the trash to be permanently deleted.
What Happens When You Permanently Delete a File
When Google Drive permanently deletes a file from the trash, it is completely removed from Google’s servers. The file is no longer taking up any space in your Drive storage quota. Google states the file cannot be recovered once permanently deleted.
Some key things to know about permanent deletion on Google Drive:
- The file is removed from Google Drive servers and can no longer be accessed through your account.
- All versions and edits of the file are deleted, not just the most recent version.
- The file is deleted across all your synced devices and Google Drive apps.
- The file cannot be found by searching on Google Drive or any synced computers.
In essence, the file is completely erased as if you never stored it on Google Drive. The space it occupied is freed up as if the file never existed.
Special Cases of File Deletion
In most cases, deleted Drive files follow the 30-day trash retention period before being permanently erased. However, there are some special cases where files are immediately and irreversibly deleted:
- Emptying the trash – Manually emptying the trash will immediately delete all files inside, regardless of how long they have been in the trash.
- Shared files – If a deleted file was shared with you by someone else, it will be immediately and permanently deleted from your Drive when deleted.
- Google Workspace accounts – Admins can configure Google Workspace accounts to immediately delete files when users delete them. They bypass the trash.
- Google Drive File Stream – The Drive File Stream app for Mac and PC immediately deletes local versions of files when you delete files, skipping the trash.
In these cases, files are permanently gone as soon as you click delete. So be extra careful when deleting files this way.
Recovering a Deleted Google Drive File
If you accidentally deleted an important file, you have options to try recovering it, depending on how long ago it was deleted:
- Less than 30 days – Restore the file from the trash.
- 30-60 days – Use Google Drive’s file restore feature (may not work for all files).
- Over 60 days – You likely can’t recover the file on your own. Try contacting Google Support.
Prevent permanent deletion by avoiding emptying your trash right away. Also be careful when deleting shared files that don’t go to the trash.
Does Deleting a File Free up Space?
Yes, deleting Google Drive files does immediately free up space in your Drive storage quota, even before permanent deletion happens.
When you delete a file, it is removed from your available Drive storage and the space it occupied is freed up, whether it’s sitting in the trash or deleted permanently after 30 days. So you don’t need to wait for permanent deletion to regain that space.
Space Freed Up from File Deletion
Here is an example to illustrate how deleting files frees up space right away:
|Starting Storage||500GB used|
|Delete 200GB video file||300GB used after deletion|
|Video file sits in trash||Still only 300GB used|
|Video file permanently deleted after 30 days||Remains 300GB used|
As you can see, space is freed up as soon as that file is deleted and moved to the trash. You gain back the 200GB right away, giving you access to it again. It doesn’t matter if the file sits in the trash for the full 30 days before being deleted forever.
Should You Permanently Delete Unneeded Files?
Since deleted files free up your Drive storage immediately, is there any reason to permanently delete them from the trash right away?
Here are some reasons you may want to permanently erase files instead of waiting 30 days:
- You have sensitive/private data in the file and want it gone for good as soon as possible.
- You want to clear out your trash to keep things tidy.
- You uploaded an incorrect file and want to permanently remove evidence of it.
- You fear you may accidentally restore the file from the trash if it sits there.
If none of those apply, it’s fine to let Google permanently delete the files automatically after 30 days. But for privacy or peace of mind, manual permanent deletion is recommended for sensitive files.
Can Deleted Files be Recovered After Permanent Deletion?
According to Google, once a file is permanently deleted from Drive, it cannot be recovered. The file is completely removed from their servers.
Some sources claim third-party data recovery services can sometimes restore deleted Google Drive files. However, this is not guaranteed. Success likely depends on:
- How soon after deletion you try recovering the file.
- Whether the file segments are still on Google’s servers.
- The amount of new data written to Drive after deletion that may overwrite file segments.
So while it may sometimes be possible to recover a deleted file using data recovery methods, consider permanently deleted Drive files unrecoverable for all practical purposes.
Best Practices for Removing Google Drive Files
To effectively manage your Google Drive storage space, keep these best practices in mind for removing files:
- Delete unneeded files regularly to free up storage space.
- Double check files before emptying the trash to permanently delete them.
- Manually delete sensitive files from the trash immediately.
- Clean out your trash periodically to remove unneeded deleted files.
- Never rely on deleted files remaining in the trash indefinitely.
- Back up important files before deleting them from Drive.
- Avoid mass deleting files unless you’re absolutely certain.
In summary, when you delete Google Drive files they are first moved to the trash for 30 days. This allows you to restore them if needed. After 30 days, Drive permanently deletes files from the trash. This completely removes them from Google’s servers.
Deleted files free up your Drive storage space immediately, even if still in the trash. But sensitive files are best permanently erased from the trash right away. Once permanently deleted, chances of recovery are very slim.
Follow best practices like regular deletions and trash cleaning to effectively manage Drive storage. And back up important files before removal. Understanding Google Drive deletion procedures allows you to optimize your online storage usage.