How to Delete Files From Google Drive

Delete files permanently to free up space

What to Know

  • Highlight the items you want to remove and select the trash icon.
  • Open the Trash folder to delete them permanently.
  • Google provides various methods to find large files to delete.

This article explains how to delete files from your Google Drive account from the desktop site and the mobile app. Deleting files, especially large ones or items sitting in the Trash folder, is an easy way to free up space in your account.

How to Delete Files From Google Drive

You can delete both files and folders from the Google Drive website and the mobile app. It doesn't matter if it's a document, video, spreadsheet, image, slideshow, etc.; they're all accessible through Drive.

Use Your Computer to Delete Google Drive Files

  1. Visit the Google Drive website, and log in to your account if necessary.

  2. Select the folder or file you want to remove. To select more than one item simultaneously, hold down the Ctrl or Command key as you make your selection.

    You might not be able to select everything you want to at once. If, for example, there are a few files in one folder you want to remove and other files in another folder, you'll need to split up the task and delete the first set first, and then go into the other folder to remove those.

  3. Select the trash icon on the top-right. The files will move to the Trash folder immediately.

    Google Drive delete button

Use Your Phone to Delete Google Drive Files

If you're working from your smartphone, you can still delete files from Google Drive. In just a few steps, the files will be gone, and you'll have more storage space available.

  1. Locate the file or folder you want to remove. You can search for it or browse manually through the Files tab.

  2. Tap the three-dot menu next to it, and choose Remove.

    To delete more than one item at once, tap-and-hold on the first one, and then continue tapping for the other items. Tap the trash icon at the top if you go this route.

  3. Confirm by selecting Move to trash.

    Google Drive move to trash confirmation box

Does Deleting Files From Google Drive Free Up Space?

Yes, but not immediately.

If your intent when deleting files is to free up space in your Google Drive account—maybe to make room for more emails or photos, you might notice that your storage usage didn't change after completing the above steps.

That's because Google Drive doesn't permanently remove deleted items. It instead collects them in the Trash folder, allowing you to restore them if you need to.

You must manually empty this folder if you want to free up space instantly—otherwise, they'll be permanently deleted automatically after 30 days.

How Do I Permanently Delete Files From Google Drive?

To skip the 30-day wait for trashed items to be removed, delete the files for good by emptying the Trash folder. It will free up the space the Trash folder is occupying. In other words, if there's 500 MB of files in there, emptying it will instantly give you 500 MB of space again, which you can use for other files.

Select Trash from the Drive menu to open Trash for My Drive, and use the Empty trash button to delete those items permanently.

Empty trash button in Google Drive

You can also right-click single items and choose Delete forever to permanently remove just those.

Delete forever option in Trash for My Drive

If you're using the mobile app, tap-and-hold a deleted item to select it, and then go into the three-dot menu at the top to find the same Delete forever option.

How Do I Clean Up My Google Drive?

Google Drive simplifies clearing away files to free up drive space. Below are some of the best ways to clean up your account, but before you begin, you'd be wise to take a quick look at where in your account the most storage is being used. It will help identify where you should focus.

Open Google One Storage and glance at the storage details list. As you can see, most of the data in this example is in Google Drive, but Gmail and Google Photos count toward Drive storage as well.

Google One storage details list

See What's Using Up the Most Space

We'll start with addressing Google Drive directly. Here's how to list out all the biggest files Drive is storing, putting you just a few clicks away from some potentially huge space gains:

  1. Visit your Google Drive Storage page by selecting Storage from the left-side menu.

  2. All the files using your Drive storage are listed here, sorted by size. It's a great place to regain the most storage in the quickest way possible. Just select and delete anything you don't want anymore (and remember to do the same in the Trash folder).

    List of biggest Google Drive files

Another method is to search for files or file types you suspect are taking up more storage than they should. Select the search options button to the right from the search bar at the top. Pick a file type from the menu, like Archives or Videos, and then select SEARCH to get a list of all of them.

Google Drive search options

Transfer Files Elsewhere

Files take up storage in Google Drive because they are, stored in Google Drive. If you take something out and then delete it from Drive, you'll free up that space for something else.

For example, say you've been keeping home movies online. Instead of having them sit in Google Drive, especially if you're nearing your storage limit, transfer them to a different free online file storage service. There are plenty to choose from, many of which have ample space for video backups.

Several online backup services provide a second location for your locally stored files. So if you decide to keep those movies on an external hard drive attached to your computer, you could protect them by creating an extra copy with one of those online backup solutions.

Downloading from Google Drive is simple. Just right-click a selection of files/folders, and select Download.

Google Drive download option

While it's safe to remove the files from Google Drive once you've downloaded them to your computer, we recommend waiting to trash them for good until they're confirmed to be fully backed up elsewhere, like at one of those online file storage services.

Something else to consider is Google Photos. Since Photos counts toward Drive storage, this is another easy way to clean up your Google Drive. However, instead of following the above steps, use Google Takeout for an easy method of transferring Google Photos out of Drive and into a different service; no manual downloading or uploading is necessary.

  1. Open Google Dashboard.

  2. Scroll down until you see Photos, and select Transfer data.

    Google Dashboard recently used Google services
  3. Choose what to export, and then press Next step.

    Everything in your Google Photos account is selected by default, but you can pick specific albums if you prefer.

    Google Takeout export photos wizard
  4. Choose the delivery method, and then select Link accounts and create export. Your options are Flickr, Microsoft OneDrive, and SmugMug.

    Google Takeout photos delivery method
  5. Follow the remaining on-screen prompts to give Google permission to access your photos, to log in to the service you selected in the previous step, and to complete the transfer.

Use Google's Storage Manager

Other handy details about Google Drive usage can be had from the Google Storage Manager.

Google storage manager

Once open, it shows you deleted Gmail messages or spam emails that you can permanently remove. It also lists emails with large file attachments and large files, videos, and photos.

List of large Gmail attachments
List of large Gmail attachments.
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