Google Drive tips for saving storage space and for hiding files

Save space on Google Drive and choose the folders to sync

If you are using the free space on Google Drive and it is nearly all used up, what can you do? There are several ways in which you can free up space. You can also hide files on Google Drive too.

See which files are using the most space on Google Drive, how to get more space, and other Google Drive tips.

Check Google Drive usage

At the bottom of the sidebar in Google Drive is the amount of space used and the total space. For example, it may say 8GB of 15GB used.

To get a clearer view of the space used, let the mouse hover over the icon next to Upgrade storage. Here you can see that I have used 14GB of 19GB total storage. (The usual amount of free space is 15GB, but extra can be earned in various ways.)

Google Drive space usage

Wouldn’t it be useful to know what is using the most space on Google Drive? You can easily find out. Click the tiny blue (i) icon and a list of files is displayed in descending order by size. It is labelled Quota used and the biggest file on Google Drive is at the top and the smallest is at the bottom.

The files using the most space on Google Drive

This enables you to see at a glance what is using the most storage space. Take a close look at the biggest files because deleting them will free up the most space. Click a file and then click the trash can icon to delete it.

If you want to know where a file is located on Google Drive, click it to select it and at the bottom of the window is the path to the file.

Delete deleted files

Viewing files sorted by size means you can delete the biggest files and free up the most space, providing they are not needed of course. If a bunch of files are deleted and the space usage is checked again, you will see that it has not changed.

In order to recover storage space, deleted files must be really deleted because files in the Bin still count towards your storage allocation.

Files in the Google Drive Bin count towards used space, so empty the Bin

Select the Bin in the sidebar to see all the files you have deleted. They are not really deleted and just as files in Windows are moved to the Recycle Bin, deleted files on Google Drive are moved to the Bin. It must be emptied to free up the storage space. Click Bin at the top of the page and then click Empty bin.

After emptying the Bin, my storage usage dropped from 14GB to 10GB. It turns out I had 4GB of files in the Bin! This is because the Bin is never emptied, unless you do it yourself, and it just keeps on growing and using your valuable storage space.

Google drive space usage

Compress files on Google Drive

Another space saving tip is to compress the files on Google Drive by storing them in zip archives. Some files compress more than others and Docs, Sheets and Slides should not be compressed because they do not count towards the space usage. Images like .png, .gif and .jpg do not compress well and are barely worth the effort.

Many other file types do compress well and offer good space savings. If there are files you don't access very often, but which you need to keep, compress them.

Open an Explorer window, open the synced Google Drive folder on the disk. Select one or more files and folders, right click them and select Send to, Compressed (zipped) folder. Afterwards the files can be deleted, leaving the zip archive. Don't forget to empty the Bin to recover the space or they will hang around on Drive forever.

Compress files online

Compressing files on the disk drive is straightforward, but suppose you don't use Google Backup and Sync? If the only access you have to Google Drive is through a web browser, how do you zip files to save space?

Download them. In Google Drive in a browser, select multiple files by clicking the first and Shift+clicking the last. Then right click them and select Download on the menu. Instead of downloading the files individually, Google zips them up and downloads one zip archive.

You can then delete the files you selected to remove them. Then drag the zip file from the Downloads folded and drop it on the browser window to upload it.

The result is you replaced multiple individual files with a single zip.

Hide files on Google drive

If you have the Google Drive app installed on one or more computers, it keeps a folder on the disk drive in sync with the online storage. One is a mirror image of the other and it is convenient when accessing files, especially if you work across several computers or devices.

Actually, the Google Drive folder on the computer is not quite a mirror image of the online storage and one folder is not synced. The Bin is only available online and it is not synced to computers running the Google Drive app (it is actually called Backup and Sync from Google these days).

Anything you put in the Bin stays in the Bin forever, or at least until you delete it, and the Bin is not synced to any computers. This means that you could store files on Google Drive that do not take up space on the computer and cannot be seen on the PC.

Deleting a file is a quick way to stop syncing it and remove it from local disks on all your computers. The file can still be accessed online in the Bin.

Of course, folders to sync can be selected in the Backup and Sync app. Click the icon in the taskbar, click the three dots in the top right corner to open the menu and select Preferences.

Select Google Drive on the left and select Sync these folders only. Tick the boxes against the folders to sync. Clear the checkbox against folders that should not be synced.

Select the folders to sync in Google Backup and Sync

You cannot choose whether to sync individual files, but you can move them to a folder that is not synced.

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