How to Reclaim Google Drive Storage Space: An In-Depth 2800 Word Guide

Running out of free cloud storage is a common frustration for Google Drive users. Between Google Docs, Photos, large downloads, and shared files, that initial 15GB fills fast!

Once you hit capacity, Drive functionality slows to a crawl. Uploads fail, backups stop, mobile apps crash, and you may even risk losing data. Clearly, keeping enough open storage is crucial.

This 2800 word guide will dive deep on tried and tested tactics to:

  • Understand why Google Drive memory fills up
  • Check usage and pinpoint storage hogs
  • Delete unnecessary files and old backups
  • Adjust settings to optimize capacity
  • Upgrade plans if needed
  • Utilize alternatives like external drives

Follow along as we clear space for smooth Google Drive performance!

Why Google Drive Storage Fills Up

Let‘s first demystify what‘s eating your precious cloud capacity.

Google Drive forms part of an integrated storage ecosystem tying together Gmail, Photos, Docs, Sheets, Android devices, and more. Any files saved, edited, shared, messaged, or backed up across those services count against your overall 15GB limit.

Videos and photos are common culprits, with just a few 4K clips or high-res images easily hitting gigabytes of data. Picture a family trip uploading GoPro and DSLR footage to the cloud – space vanishes instantly!

Large downloaded files like .zips, PDF reports, media edits, installations, and desktop/documents folder backups also pile on the megabytes rapidly. Before you know it, you‘re prompts away from maxing out capacity.

Now let‘s explore what happens when you actually surpass the storage threshold and get those dreaded "Google Drive out of space" errors:

Impacts of Exceeding Google Drive Storage Limits

Running on empty has wide-ranging impacts:

  • Failed uploads: New files/folders can‘t sync or backup to the cloud
  • Limited access: Opening shared files suddenly fails
  • Broken backups: Auto-saving from devices halts, risking data losses
  • Email restrictions: Can‘t access attachments or shared message files
  • Photo disruptions: Mobile auto-backups pause
  • Survey/form issues: File submissions break or data doesn‘t save
  • Feature limitations: Core functionality in Drive, Docs, Sheets restricted
  • Billing problems: Paid accounts may incur charges or account holds

Clearly, keeping your cloud storage optimized is mission critical!

Now let‘s explore solutions…

12 Ways to Clear Google Drive Storage Space

Without further ado, here are 12 proven techniques to clean, manage and maximize your Google Drive capacity:

1. Review Third-Party Shared Files

Collaborating with other people‘s files fills space fast.

Audit shared docs, sheets, photos and folders to find obsolete, duplicate or unnecessary items you can delete.

But beware, simply hitting delete could break workflows. First, message the file owner and ask them to back up the data or give permission to remove. Then proceed clearing their share off your Drive.

2. Remove Bulky Gmail Attachments

Emails themselves eat chunks of storage, especially those big file attachments.

Target and eliminate oversized attachments using Gmail‘s handy search filters:

  1. In Gmail search, click the options dropdown
  2. Set filter to only show emails "larger than 10 MB"
  3. Scan results and permanently delete unneeded messages
  4. Also empty deleted items from your email Trash folder

With sprawling inboxes, this trick can rapidly free gigabytes!

3. De-Clutter Google Photos Library

Photos and videos tend to pile up unchecked over the years. So pruning your media library yields big storage payoffs.

On Google Photos:

  1. Click Select
  2. Choose all non-essential images/clips
  3. Hit Delete
  4. Confirm in popup to finalize removal

Just know deleted items also disappear across synced devices and apps sharing that Google account!

4. Remove Large Downloaded Files

Sometimes massive downloaded files get lost in Drive storage after serving their purpose. Reclaim capacity by hunting down these space hogs!

In Google Drive:

  1. Go to Storage settings
  2. Click Review Items to scan your usage breakdown
  3. Sort the scandalous space offenders by file size
  4. Select unnecessary hefty files
  5. Choose Delete forever in the menu

My rule of thumb – ruthlessly delete any file over 100MB I haven‘t touched in over a month.

5. Wipe Google Drive Backups

Backup data from your phone, tablet, computer also piles on the megabytes. Clearing unneeded device backups gives breathing room.

On Google Drive:

  1. Under Storage, select Backups
  2. Right click on outdated backups
  3. Choose Delete backup to remove

Don‘t forget to double check backups restored elsewhere before deleting!

6. Empty The Trash Regularly

Simply deleting files just sends data to Google Drive‘s Trash folder. Items sit there 30 days before auto-permanent deletion.

Manually emptying the Trash immediately wipes files for instant space relief:

  1. Click the Trash icon
  2. Select Empty trash
  3. Confirm in popup

Add this to your monthly cloud storage maintenance routine!

7. Enable Storage Saver In Google Photos

The Storage Saver setting slightly compresses images/video uploaded to Google Photos without huge visible quality loss. This optimization saves capacity for the long run.

Turn it on via:

  1. Google Photos settings icon
  2. Scroll down and toggle on Storage saver

Set and forget for all future uploads.

8. Remove Orphaned App Data

You‘d be surprised how much hidden space gets eaten by orphaned third-party app data. Reclaim gigs by deleting their inactive drive bloat.

On Google Drive:

  1. Click Settings
  2. Select Manage apps
  3. Choose unnecessary apps
  4. Click Delete hidden app data
  5. Check storage before/after to compare space gained!

9. Upgrade Google Drive Storage Plans

If you still need capacity after optimizations, upgrading your paid Google Drive storage is the nuclear option. Depending on use cases, choose between:

Plan Price/Year Storage
Basic $1.99/month 100 GB
Standard $2.99/month 200 GB
Premium $9.99/month 2 TB

Or get a mammoth 30TB through Google One subscription plans. Either way, more room for files without the headaches!

10. Offload Files To External Drives

Physically moving files like photos, videos, archives or backups off Google Drive frees the most cloud space.

Offload options:

  • External hard drives
  • Competing cloud services like Dropbox
  • Network attached storage (NAS) devices

Then permanently delete the redundancies left on Drive.

11. Delete Device Backup History

Backup data from your Android phone alone can eat 20GB+. Wiping history clears this drive bloat.

On Google Drive:

  1. Click Backups under Storage
  2. Next to device name, click the overflow menu
  3. Select Delete backup history

Data stays put on the original device. Only cloud copies removed to maximize space.

12. Enable Auto-Delete Trash

Finally, enable auto-trash deletion so Google Drive automatically removes files lingering 30+ days. This prevents forgotten file buildup.

On Google Drive:

  1. Click Settings
  2. Under Trash, toggle on Auto-delete
  3. Set timeframe to 30 days
  4. Hit Save

Now Drive self-cleans older trashed data every month. One less headache!

Recap & Next Steps

Altogether, these 12 tips encompass a complete game plan for reclaiming Google Drive capacity.

I recommend first trying easier fixes like permanently deleting unused files or clearing backups. Adjust app settings where possible for optimizations.

If you still need more power, upgrading plans or offloading to external drives provides guaranteed breathing room.

Hopefully these Google cloud storage best practices help you keep critical files safe, while avoiding dreaded "out of storage" errors going forward!

Let me know if the guide helps successfully clear space, or if any lingering Google Drive issues persist. Now enjoy some newly free storage capacity!