How to Free Up Space in Google Drive

Clean Google Storage Featured Image

Many of us rely on cloud storage to save our documents, but just like a physical hard drive on your computer, space is not unlimited. Google gives its users 15GB of space, but that space is not just for your documents. Your 15GB of storage includes data from your Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos.

Depending on the amount you store online, the 15GB can evaporate quickly. However, not everything you store on Google counts toward the storage limit.

Every document you create with a Google product, like Docs or Slides, does not count against your total. You can have as many files as you want of any size without it using any space. The photos you back up from your phone only count toward your total if you save them as full resolution. If you allow Google Photos to save them in their “high-quality” format, they don’t count either.

Ways to free up more space

Drive files

To see the files in your Google Drive that are taking up part of your quota, log in to your Google Drive account and click on the storage link at the end of the menu on the left. This link will bring you to a list of the documents in your storage listed in order by size of the file. Highlight the files you want to remove, right-click, and choose Remove.

Clean Google Storage Right Click Remove

If you want to save the files in another place, you can do that by selecting Download first, and then removing them from the drive.

After you delete the files, go to your Trash (or Bin) folder, and click on the word Trash (or Bin) in the upper-left part of the screen, then click on “Empty Trash” (or “Empty Bin”).

Clean Google Storage Empty Trash

You can also try clicking on the Settings gear near the top-right of your Google Drive screen. In this window, click on “View items taking up space” to get a list of your documents in order by size. You have the same options to download and delete these files.

Clean Google Storage View Items

If there are files you want to keep that you saved in another format, such as a PDF, you can change these files to a Google file, and they will no longer take up any storage. To do this, right-click on the file you want to convert, and select Open with and then Google Docs.

Clean Google Storage Open With Google Docs

This will open the document as a Google Doc. It does not save the formatting, and you should only use this for documents that are not heavily formatted or have a lot of graphics. Only the text will be saved.


All of your photos are backed up to Google Photos at full resolution. To change the setting so that the images save at “high-quality” which is an unlimited storage option, go to and click on the menu bar (the three horizontal lines near the top left of the screen) and click on Settings.

Clean Google Storage Photos Settings

After you click Settings, you will see the option to change the resolution with which your images are saved. Set it to “High quality” to get the free storage.

Clean Google Storage Photos Upload Size

If you have photos already uploaded at full resolution, click the “Recover storage” button. This will compress your photos to “high-quality” and remove them from your used storage quota. It makes your photos lower-resolution, but the actual difference will not be noticeable for most users.

Gmail attachments

Most emails are not data hogs, but the attachments that come along with them could be. To find the attachments that are taking up the most space, type has:attachment larger:10mb in the search bar. Check the attachments to see if there is anything you need to keep, then select the ones that you can safely delete. Click the trash can icon to remove the emails.

Clean Google Storage Email

Another place you may have extra data using up your storage could be in your Spam folder. Empty your spam folder and then empty Trash to permanently delete the files.

Still Need More Space?

You may find that even with some of these space-saving ideas, you are still in danger of going over your storage limit. If so, there are ways to get more space. For $2.00 a month, you can get up to 100GB of storage. For heavy users, there are options up to 16TB of data.

If you are in the market for a new computer anyway, and you do most of your work on online apps, you can consider getting a Chromebook, which comes with 100GB of space for free.

Tracey Rosenberger
Tracey Rosenberger

Tracey Rosenberger spent 26 years teaching elementary students, using technology to enhance learning. Now she's excited to share helpful technology with teachers and everyone else who sees tech as intimidating.

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