Google offers several great services to its users for free: Gmail, Calendar, and Google Drive (among others). If you have a free Google account, you are given 15 GB of space across Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos but it can sometimes be hard to manage this little amount of space. In this article, I’m going to share with you some techniques to clean up your Google space once you’ve reached the 15 GB quota for free accounts.
Cleaning up Gmail
Cleaning up Gmail can be a cumbersome task if you are an email hoarder like me and have personal emails dating back to when I first opened my Gmail account. Going back and reading some of the emails and seeing names of people and things I’ve written seem like another lifetime or as if someone else wrote these emails. This brings me to my first word of advice for cleaning out your email account:
Gmail tip #1: Don’t spend too much time strolling down memory lane.
Search Gmail to find certain emails
Fortunately for email hoarders, Google has made it easy to sort through emails not only by searching for certain words, but according to dates, attachment file types, as well as combinations of dates and file types.
Use the following commands in Gmail’s search at the top of the page. Change the numbers and text to suit your specific needs. Don’t be afraid to play around with the values too!
Search for emails by length of time in years
Search for emails containing attachments
Search for emails by attachment file type
By attachment file size
filename:pdf and older_than:2y
Bulk deleting in Gmail
Go slow when deleting your emails, especially when bulk deleting; you don’t want to permanently delete an important email. If you are sure that you just want to delete things that match certain criteria, for example: emails with PDF attachments more than 2 years old, you can use the “Select all conversations” option to bulk delete.
First, set your search criteria using the above commands in Gmail, then Select All from the results. A new notification will appear, giving you the option to “Select all conversations that match this search”:
Cleaning up Google Drive
Unfortunately, Google makes difficult to see your storage quota.
How to find your Google storage quota
Step 1: Find your quota (in RED if you are over your quota) in the Google Drive sidebar
Step 2: Hover over the quota with your cursor. A pop-up appears showing you a breakdown of your storage numbers across Google. Click the blue circle icon with the “i” in it. This will take you to your Quota page:
Once on your Quota page, you can sort the files there according to file size and review and delete accordingly.
Delete or find root folders
Selecting a file in your Quota folder will display the file path and reveal the main folder that you are the owner of at the bottom of the screen. This can help determine folders that you might have missed during previous sweeps of your storage.
You’ve deleted a bunch of files but you will still need to go into your trash and empty it manually or else those files will still be hanging out in your Drive and taking up space.
It can take up to 24 hours for your Google Drive quota to reflect the changes, so you will need to be patient during this process which can be hard, especially if you’ve gotten the message in Gmail that you won’t be able to send or receive emails until you clear up or upgrade your storage.
Google Drive cons
As a storage service, I find Google Drive to be lacking in certain features that should be included with their service. If we are expected to adopt cloud storage as a physical hard drive replacement, it should be just as easy to use and manage, but it is not.
Poor user interface
How you find the files that are taking up space in your account (your Quota page) is hidden in the pop-up that appears when you hover over your storage quote in the sidebar; this information should be easier to locate if not visible at all times.
24-hour wait periods
The 24-hour waiting period that accounts may take to propagate and display accurate quota numbers is ridiculous. What’s even more ridiculous is that some customers who ponied-up the dough for a storage upgrade have reported long wait times before their upgrade took effect. As a storage service, Google Drive could take a page from Dropbox when it comes to customer service and user interface.
Google Storage Pricing
Google offers different pricing levels for purchasing additional storage space. The 100 GB upgrade for $1.99/month is a good deal if you are unwilling to part with emails from 2013 or older. Because I am used to relying on a physical hard drive, I have trouble justifying relying on cloud storage. Call me old school, but I would sooner trust the integrity of a Western Digital hard drive than cloud storage.
Google, and more specifically, Google Drive, has a long way to go. If most people weren’t already so reliant on Google services, I doubt Google Drive would be anyone’s first choice for a cloud storage service. Because they’ve built it to integrate into Gmail so seamlessly, people are sucked into the Google vortex and held prisoner by it sometimes without even realizing it.
Have any other insights into Google’s storage system that I missed? Let me know in the comments!