How To Find The Hidden “Orphan” Files That Eat Your Google Drive Storage

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If your Google Drive is constantly, inexplicably overflowing, you may be part of those users can lose their storage space due to overabundance from hidden, “orphan” files. Files become orphaned when their parent directory is deleted but the file itself is not. For example, if you upload a document to a folder in your friend’s Google Drive but your friend deletes the folder later, the file you downloaded remains in your google storage and counts against your data limit, even if it is no longer directly accessible.

While this is a rare occurrence, the recent shutdown of Google Music has dramatically increased the possibility that users have orphaned music and podcast files that were not properly deleted before the service was shut down, because the users of this reddit thread discovered.

Fortunately, there are ways to find and remove at least some of those without housing files.

How to find and delete orphaned files in Google Drive

Those files still appear in Google Drive’s “Storage” list, but unless you know the name of each other file in your Drive, it will be almost impossible to tell which files indeed have orphan summer. However, this trick (via Workspace advice) allows you to find and remove (or restore) orphaned files that clutter your Google Cloud storage:

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Screenshot: Brendan Hesse

  1. Go to Google Drive in your browser or open the Drive mobile app
  2. Connect the following string in the search bar: is: unorganized owner: me
  3. Perform the search and all orphaned files should appear.
  4. Right click on an orphaned file and select “Add to my reader” to restore them to your drive, or “Remove” to send them to your trash.
  5. If you are deleting them to recover storage space, navigate to your Trash folder, then click files and select “Delete forever” to completely delete them from your Drive and Google storage.

I tried the above process on my two Drive accounts and found 4.6 GB of value of orphaned files, so it is worth looking for orphaned files even if you have plenty of storage space left.

Thanks to reader Jamie White for the tip!


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