In December, Google sent emails out to Google users, advising them of updates to its storage quota policies: namely, the threat of deleting your content if you’re over quota. Over the past few days, several articles have been posted with headlines warning that Google will start charging you for and/or deleting your content starting on June 1st when the new storage quota policies go into effect. Fortunately, this isn’t quite accurate and a bit misleading.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Yes, Google will start enforcing your 15GB of free storage across Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos. Yes, High quality and Express quality photos will start counting towards that 15GB limit after June 1, 2021. Yes, Google will start charging for extra space used over that 15GB limit or delete your content, but only after you’ve been over that quota for two years. In other words, if you are over the 15GB limit as of June 1, 2021, Google may (keyword being may) delete your data on June 1, 2023, after giving you at least three months warning doing so, allowing you to download your data or pay for more storage. Google explains everything in its Help Center article on the topic.
So what exactly counts towards your storage? Google outlines in detail what will count:
- Google Drive:
- Most files in your “My Drive,” including PDFs, images, and videos.
- Items in your Trash. Learn how to empty your trash.
- Starting June 1, 2021, any newly created Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms, or Jamboard files will count toward storage. Existing files will not count toward storage, unless they’re modified on or after June 1.
Important: Please note that this change will not go into effect until February 1, 2022 for Google Workspace and G Suite editions.
- Gmail: Messages and attachments, such as items in your Spam and Trash folders
- Google Photos:
- Photos and videos stored in “Original quality.”
- Photos and videos uploaded in “High quality” or “Express quality” will begin to take up space on June 1, 2021. Older files uploaded before that date won’t take up storage space. Learn more about Photos backup options.
- If you go over your storage quota or don’t log into your account for 2 years or longer, these “High quality” photos are deleted. Learn how to keep your Google Account active and under quota.
As for what doesn’t count towards the storage quota limits, the list is shorter but should still provide some relief for users:
- Google Drive:
- Files in “Shared with me” and shared drives. These files only take up space in the owner’s Google Drive.
- Google Sites.
- Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Jamboard, and Drawings files you create before June 1, 2021, and don’t edit after that date.
- Google Photos: Photos and videos backed up in High quality or Express quality before June 1, 2021.
I’ve been using Google since at least 2003. I have over 50,000 emails (excessive, I know, but that’s a topic for another day) and images dating back to 2002. As you can see in the below screenshot, Gmail takes up the bulk of my storage with those photos — most backed up in original and high-resolution from Google Nexus and Pixel phones over the years (all of which don’t count) — only account for 0.03GB of my storage. After June 1st, 2021, only images uploaded AFTER that date will increase that storage count. You can check your storage usage on Google One.
Sure it sucks that Google is starting to charge for space use over 15GB, especially for those who have relied on Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos for many years. The good news is photos that were currently classed as free storage (including original quality and high-resolution) uploaded before June 1, 2021, and documents uploaded before this date and not modified after will not count towards that storage quota.
While you may have to worry about exceeding your 15GB, most of what you have in your Drive or Photos before June 1, 2021, are likely safe, assuming you log in once every two years. And, no, Google is not going to arbitrarily delete your precious memories and files without giving you at least 3 months’ warning… two years from now.