Project Description

📖 6 mins read

Google Drive File Recovery can be a tricky one, Let’s make it more simple.

If your company uses Google’s “Loch Ness monster” aka Google Drive, then it’s probably more than just a cloud-based storage and syncing service for you. It’s the spine that holds up your valuable data resources and powers other limbs of your organization’s operations.

Unfortunately, with all of the cross-employee collaboration going on in there,  especially now with the amplified adoption of remote work, it’s not uncommon for files to ‘seemingly’ go missing from your organisation’s Google Drive repository. 

If that ever happens Don’t Panic — This simplified guide will help you know exactly what happened to your files 🕵️‍

There are a few things you need to learn when it comes to Google Drive File Recovery. Let’s start with the most basic skills and build our way up  to Drive PRO 🙌

Recover a deleted file from the Trash 🗑️

Recently deleted a file and want to recover it? That’s the simplest most common scenario.

  1. Go to
  2. Right-click on the file you’d like to recover  
  3. Click Restore.


When you move a file to your Trash folder, it stays there until you empty your Trash (it’s the virtual equivalent of taking out your trash).

If your file isn’t there in the Trash folder of Google Drive, then it might have been permanently deleted.

Blog- Google Drive File Recovery  Guide


Recover Permanently Deleted Files in Google Drive

Did you say ‘Permanently’ deleted? — Is it gone forever? Luckily, no.

Permanently deleted Google Drive files can be recovered only by a Google Workspace Admin within 25 days of deletion from the Trash using the Google Admin Console. 

Simply follow these steps :

  1. Log into the Admin Console 👉 Click on Users icon 👉
  2. Move to the user’s name whose data needs to be restored.
  3. Click on the ellipsis icon.
  4. Select the Restore Data option 👉 Specify the required date range and give the Application as Drive .
  5.  Click on Restore, then boom … the miracle happens.


Check the Activity of Deleted Files in Google Drive

Can’t find a file and don’t think you deleted? Check the activity panel first and see what you can find there. Here’s how:

  1. On a computer 💻, go to 
  2. Click My Drive 👉 Click Info on icon on the top right.
  3. Scroll through the activity panel and look for your file.

You can also use GAT+ to locate certain files on the domain ‘Drive’.


Recover Files in Shared Google Drive 

Files in Shared drives belong to ALL team members rather than a single individual. 

Even if members leave, files stay exactly where they are for other team members to continue sharing information and getting work done.

That’s why how you structure your organisation’s Shared Drive is crucial. (If in doubt, check our blog post 3 Ways to Build the Best Google Shared Drive Structure for your Organisation)

A Google Workspace Admin can recover files from a Shared Drive. Here’s how:

  1. Log into the Admin Console.
  2. Go to Apps 👉 then G Suite. 
  3. Click on the Drive and Docs option 👉 Find the file or folder you want to restore.
  4. Press the Restore button on the right of the file tab 👉 Select the date range for recovering the file (make sure the file was deleted within the span of these dates.) 
  5. Press RESTORE DATA.

Voila, now all selected files are restored to the chosen Team Drive.


Deleting Shared Files/ Folders in Google Drive

What if you’d like to delete rather than recover a shared folder or file. Is that possible?

Yes. That, however, can result in orphaned files which we’ll discuss next. 

To delete a shared Drive folder simply follow these steps:

  1. Right click on the folder you want to delete 👉 Remove
  2.  Go to the bin 👉 Right click on the folder you just removed 👉 select “Delete forever”.
  3. A pop-up will appear warning that you won’t be able to undo the action 👉 Click “delete forever”again.


Identify Orphaned Files

Sometimes, when you’ve exhausted all your options and still can’t find your file, it’s time to consider that it may have been Orphaned.

Orphaned files are homeless files created when someone (who is NOT the file’s OWNER) deletes a shared file or folder in Google Drive. 

The file then loses its parent folder, becomes ‘homeless’ and harder to find. 


Find and Rehome Orphaned Files

There are 3 Different ways to recover Orphaned Files.

A. Know the file’s name? Search directly using the ”Drive Search”.

    1. Go to Drive on a computer 💻  log in with your Google account.
    2. Go to Search 👉 search for the file by entering its name. It will appear in the results of the search, even if it’s not in any folder. You can then rehome it to any folder you choose.

B. Don’t know the file’s name?  Use parameters in the Drive search.

    1. Go to Drive on a computer 💻  log in with your Google account.
    2. Go to Search 👉 search for the following special parameters: is: unorganized owner: me (By adding owner: me, only the files that you have created that are not in a folder will come out).

C. Fix Orphaned Files Using GAT

GAT+ allows Admins to easily find and fix all orphaned files for any user, group or OU. Watch this simple video to learn how.

Blog- Google Drive File Recovery 101 Guide - 2

Recover Files from a Deleted/Closed Account

When an account that owns a Google file is deleted, that file is deleted as well—even if it was shared with other domain users.

Lost important files on a Google account that’s now closed? No problem, simply follow these steps:

  1. Restore the deleted G Suite account.
  2. Head to G Suite and log in to your account.
  3. Go to Apps.
  4. Click on the G Suite option then click on Drive and Docs.
  5. Choose Transfer ownership from the list.
  6. Enter the usernames respectively then type in the domain of the users.
  7. Choose the Transfer Files option.
  8. Delete the G Suite account again once you complete the process.

Ta- da! Now you have your files back.


File Ownership vs Sharing in Google Drive

File ownership is a crucial factor to consider when searching for missing files in Google Drive. It helps you solve the riddle better by knowing where to look. 

Files are bound to their owners, not others whom the file is shared with.

A. Ownership:

Every file (or folder) you create, sync or upload ‘You’ automatically become its Owner. 

As the owner, you can:

      1. Share it with other people.
      2. Permanently delete it from Google Drive.
      3. Control whether people can edit, comment on, or only view the file.
      4. Transfer ownership to someone else.

B. Sharing:

Whenever a file (or folder) is shared with you on google drive, that file(or folder) still remains with the owner (on their google drive). 

Now if the owner deletes the file, the file will be physically deleted from his drive, and anyone with whom the file is shared will no longer have access to it.

As a contributor you CAN’T:

      1. Delete a file shared with you. Only the owner can delete the file for good.
      2. Recover a file shared with you that has been deleted by the owner.

What if someone shares a file with you, you add it to your drive, then they later delete it. Will it still be on your drive? 🤔

The answer is No. The file is still ‘owned’ by the person who created it. All you did there was reorganise the file in your Drive so you can find it easily. That’s different from copying or downloading it. 

10 Ways GAT helps you better manage Google Drive file ownership and sharing 💡:

      1. Replacing current sharing permissions on your Google Drive files.
      2. Removing all permissions on Google Drive shares with an exception of a single user.
      3. Find publicly shared Google files.
      4. Search for Specific File Types in your G Suite Domain and Change their ownership in Google Drive.
      5. Manage files owned by leaving users easily.
      6. Remove All permissions to all ‘Sensitive’ folders and their sub-folders.
      7. Understand Google Group activity email and file sharing.
      8. Remove external shares when files haven’t been accessed for a certain number of days.
      9. Find and Transfer Ownership of Mp3 Files.
      10. Detect a Sharing Policy Violation in Google Drive.


Find Files that contain sensitive information in Google Drive

Using GAT+ an admin can find any document from the domain that contains sensitive data. This allows admins to perform a search in Google drive for all users of your domain in a bulk and find files that contain critical data to better manage and secure them.


Well, That’s it for your 101 guide now. We hope you find it useful 👋

If you have any Google Drive File Recovery related question that we didn’t answer in this guide you can send it to our experts on— we’ll be happy to help you out.

Thanks for sharing and spreading the word!