7 Essential Google Drive Storage Tips

In reality, you almost certainly don’t. As the old saying goes, “every day’s a school day” — and in this class, I’m going to try and explain a few more things you really should know about the app.

Before I get going, I want to make it clear: this is not about the well-known stuff, I want to open your eyes to the little things that can help you maximize its potential.

Without further ado, here are my seven essential things you really should know about Google Drive.

1. Trash Takes Up Space

Because Google Drive is an online service, there is a temptation to think the Trash folder is automatically emptied after a pre-determined amount of time.

That’s not the case — it actually acts a lot more like the Windows Recycle Bin — anything you delete will remain in there forever until it is manually emptied.

In many ways, that’s a good thing. It stops you accidentally losing important documents, keeps your main folders free of junk, and gives you a way to recover files many months later.

So what’s the catch?

Files in the trash still take up your precious storage space. If you lean heavily on Google Drive, these can quickly mount up into many gigabytes of data. If you only have a free plan and also use it for photos and other backups, you will quickly be hitting your limit.

Empty Google Drive Trash

To empty the trash, navigate to the folder, click Trash at the top of the screen, then select Empty Trash.

2. File Size Mismatch Between Computer and App

Are you seeing two different figures when comparing how much space the app says you’re using with how much space your local Google Drive file says your using?

Google Drive Space

There are a few different possible causes:

  1. If the discrepancy is huge — perhaps several gigabytes — you probably need to empty your trash. Your local file does not sync the trash folder and does not know the amount of space it’s using.
  2. Shared items take up space on your Google Drive account, but not on your computer.
  3. Items that you have saved in multiple folders on the app will be downloaded multiple times to your computer, thus taking up more space.
  4. If you’re only syncing certain files, there will obviously be a discrepancy.
  5. And lastly, PC and Mac requirements may result in fractional differences. There is nothing you can do about this.

3. Check Storage

You can check your storage situation through the online app, but did you know you can also check it through your Google Account? It’s a handy trick to know if you’re ever unable to access your Drive account for any reason.

Just navigate to myaccount.google.com/intro/preferences#storage and you’ll be shown how much space you’re currently using. Click on the arrow for a detailed breakdown.


(Remember, Gmail also eats into your Google Drive storage limits).

4. Android Shortcuts

Have you given up on Apple after its hugely controversial decision to dump the headphone jack in the new iPhone 7? Jumping to Android will give you more than the simple ability to charge your phone and listen to music at the same time — namely, Google Drive shortcuts.

It can be annoying to open the Google Drive app every time you want to access a file, especially if you need to access them several times per day. Since August 2016, you can add home screen shortcuts for your most used files and folders.

Google Drive Shortcut Android

To create a shortcut, navigate to the file or folder you want to add and tap the three vertical dots. Scroll down, then hit Add to Home Screen.

5. Selective Syncing

If you have a large Google Drive folder, it might not make sense to synchronize everything with your laptop. For example, you probably don’t need a local copy of your website’s back-up or every single photo you’ve ever taken with your mobile phone.

It’s much better to selectively choose the most important content. It will be less of a strain on your bandwidth and the syncing process will be much faster.

Google Drive Sync Folders

If you’re on Windows, click on the Google Drive icon in the taskbar. If you’re on a Mac, you’ll normally find it in the menu bar. Then, click the three dots in the top right-hand corner and head toPreferences. Choose the option called Sync These Folders Only and make your choices.

6. Save Bandwidth

This is another great tip if you make use of the desktop app.

If you notice other internet-enabled programs running slowly when Google Drive is syncing, you should limit the amount of bandwidth it can use. Head back to the Google Drive icon and openPreferences. This time, click on the Advanced tab and under Bandwidth Settings enter your desired speeds.

Google Drive Bandwidth

Click apply to save your choices.

7. Backup Photos and Save Smartphone Space

How many useless photos do you have saved on your phone? If you’re anything like me, you’ll have endless photos of price labels in shops, millions of wholly unfunny memes from WhatsApp contacts, and an unhealthy number of snaps of your dog. You should get rid of some.

Google Drive Free Space

Fire up the Google Photos app, press the three horizontal lines in the top right-hand corner, and tapFree Up Space. The app will now scan your photos to see which have already been backed up to your Google Drive account. Once it’s finished, it will tell you how many photos can be safely deleted.

The feature will even automatically alert you if you’re nearing your storage capacity.

Give Us Your Little Tips

I’ve given you seven little hints and tips that you might not have been aware of, but there are countless more.

Have you found a way to hack the app and make it even more useful? Do you know about some buried setting that everyone should be aware of? Or maybe you have a problem that we can try and fix?

Reach out to us in the comments section below and let us know your thoughts, tips, and opinions.