Focus on Files in Google Workspace


Over time, the digital files we collect can become overwhelming. Almost everyone has felt the frustration of spending too much time searching, browsing, and scrolling, scrolling, scrolling to find a specific email, document, photo. There are strategies and tools that can help.

I want to do the following:

  • Reduce the time I spend trying to find my files
  • Avoid going over the data storage limit
  • Make sure I’m following University data storage guidelines
  • Use the right tools to store my data


Your total storage is shared across Google Drive (including shared drives), Gmail, and Google Photos, and files in each place contribute to your overall use. We recommend that you regularly manage the files in your Google Drive storage using the following solutions.

Note: At this time, these recommendations apply only to My Drive data. We hope to have additional recommendations for shared drives in the near future. 


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Organize Your Data

Use file structures and naming conventions so that you know where to find your files, what those files contain, and when you created them. 

  • Templates: If you create and share templates, make sure they’re well marked. 

Commit to Regular Data Clean-Up Sessions

Add the Focus on Files Google Calendar or schedule once a month events to set aside time to stay on top of your files. Only keep the files you need. During these sessions, do the following:

See How Much Storage Space You're Using

See how much storage space you’re using.

Understand Which Items Take Up Space 

  • Google Drive
    • Items in your My Drive that you own take up space.
    • Items you add to shared folders of others take up space.
    • Items in your Trash take up space.
  • Gmail
  • Google Photos

Understand What Kind of Data You Have

If your data contains information that is private or sensitive it may need additional security. Use this data security classification tool so that you have the information you need to choose the right storage solution. The results can be downloaded for future reference. 

See also: Know Your Data and How to Protect University Data

Use the Right Storage Service

  • Students can use Google Workspace
  • Faculty, researchers, and staff can use the Storage Selection Tool to determine the most appropriate tool for their data. 

How To Use Google Workspace

The University of Minnesota’s Google Workspace for Education is intended for files that are actively being used for University work and studies. Google Workspace enables students, faculty, and staff to create, share, and collaborate on files including Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Calendar, Groups, YouTube recordings, Jamboards, and Sites  

Do not use UMN Google Workspace for any of the following purposes:

  • Archive Storage 
    • Infrequently accessed files (i.e., files accessed less than once a year) or 
    • Files kept beyond the University’s recommended retention standards
  • Personal Files Storage
  • Academic Media Storage
    • Example: Video and audio recordings used in Canvas courses; use Kaltura in Canvas instead. Note: Kaltura is not a platform for archiving media files. It is intended for files that will be actively used on an ongoing basis.

Clean Up Untitled Docs

Sometimes we create documents and end up not using or needing them. 

  1. Navigate to Google Drive.
  2. In the Search in Drive search bar, enter the word untitled and search.
  3. When your results appear, use the Location dropdown menu to filter by My Drive to see any untitled documents that you own.
  4. Review and delete any documents that you no longer need.

Note: If you find documents that are untitled but should be kept, ensure they have a descriptive title to avoid showing up in future searches.

Delete Large and Unnecessary Files

Empty Your Trash

To delete your Google Drive files, move them to the trash. Files in trash will be automatically deleted after 30 days. You can restore files from your trash before the 30-day time window. You can also permanently delete them to empty your trash. If you delete, restore, or permanently delete multiple files or folders at once, it might take time for you to notice the changes.

Review Additional Suggestions from Google

Use Google’s guide to Manage your Google Workspace storage to do the following: 

  • Sort and delete files by size in Google Drive
  • Permanently delete large emails in Gmail
  • Permanently delete emails in your spam folder
  • Move photos & videos to trash
  • Delete and recover files using Google One Storage Manager
  • Remove hidden data from apps in Google Drive

Store Personal Files in a Personal Account

To be responsible with University resources, remember that services provided to you as a student, faculty, or staff member are intended for UMN work and studies only. Personal files should be kept in your personal accounts. Move personal files to your own storage (e.g., a personal Google account). Your University Google account is only for University use.

Move Files to a Different Account

Use Google Takeout to export a copy of content in your Google account to back it up or use it with a service outside of Google.

Note: People who work and study in the Health Care Component are not allowed to use Google Takeout. list of units in the Health Care Component is available on the University’s Health Information Privacy Compliance Office (HIPCO) website. 

Understand Storage Use in Google Drive for Desktop

Items in Google Drive for desktop take up a different amount of space than the same items at Review the following list to understand the differences:

  • Items in your Trash take up space in Google Drive, but aren't synced to your computer.
  • Shared items will take up space on your computer, but not Google Drive.
  • Items that are in multiple folders will be synced to all folders on your computer, taking up more space.
  • If you only sync some folders to your computer, the storage on your computer will be less than what is shown on Google Drive.
  • Your computer may show a slightly different file size than because of Mac or PC requirements.