How to Recover Deleted Files from Google Drive

how to recover deleted google drive filesAt some point, everyone clicks Delete — followed by a minor panic attack: “I forgot to save,” you mutter. Or worse, “I deleted a large chunk of a document right before I saved.”

If you’re a tech person, you’ve likely had to deal with support requests from people who’ve lost work. The employee who deleted spreadsheet cells containing next year’s budget. The executive who had to redo hours of work due to a power outage. The tech know-it-all who installed a buggy browser plugin, which corrupted the document he was working on.

These worries disappear when you use Google Drive — usually.

Your Work is Auto-Saved

Google Drive’s auto-save feature has huge implications. You don’t have to worry about power loss. You don’t worry about accidentally quitting an application. You don’t worry about clicking File | Save frequently. In Google Drive, your document is automatically saved every few seconds.

If your system crashes mid-sentence, you might lose the last few words you typed.

(The same is true for email: Gmail auto-saves email as you write. Sure, you can click the Save Now button if you like but it isn’t necessary. Gmail automatically saves and labels your work-in-progress email as Drafts.)

Each Auto-Save Creates Its Own Version

Google Drive also auto-saves your document revision history. You can view major document versions in a list on the right side of the screen by choosing File | See Revision History. You can then view smaller revision increments by clicking the Show More Detailed Revisions button at the bottom of the Revision History column. Click on any of the earlier versions to see the document at that point in time. Then click the Restore This Version link to revert your document back to your chosen previous state.

Shared documents also benefit from auto-save and revision history. As multiple authors edit a document, Google Drive auto-saves the revisions. This eliminates hours of cutting-and-pasting text from multiple authors. And because each author is working on the single document, there’s no need to worry about authors using different versions of software saving the file in varying formats.

Collaborate Without Worry (Mostly)

There’s also no need to fear that a colleague will delete your work: you can always restore a Google Doc to an earlier version. Restoring a version makes the selected version the current one — it doesn’t delete the prior versions. Two authors alternately pressing the Restore This Version button would create multiple versions of the document; neither author’s version would be lost.

Just like in the historic days of The Well, you own your own words in Google Drive; only the owner of a document can delete the document. If you delete a document you own, it moves to your Google Drive Trash. When you either Delete Forever or Empty Trash your collaborators will lose access to the document. If a collaborator tries to delete a document they don’t own, it simply removes the document from their Shared With Me list but leaves the owner’s (and every other collaborator’s) copy intact.

Where Google Drive’s Safety Net Ends

If the owner of a document deletes it, the document is deleted for everyone with whom it was shared. If the owner deletes the document permanently, Google support cannot recover it. It’s gone, period. The same holds true for third-party applications with owner privileges to documents in Google Drive.

If an angry or ignorant document owner decides to delete critical Google Drive content, no amount of Auto-Saves can undo those deletions. If a buggy third-party app wipes out a large swath of Google Drive data, now amount of Version History can bring that data back.

And remember, user error is responsible for two-thirds of Google Apps data losses.

However, all hope is not lost. Third-party backup solutions can recover an owner-deleted document – even if you’re not the owner. Backupify lets you restore deleted Google Drive documents. With Backupify, you can restore your document from anywhere. No need to go on-site to attempt file recovery or pull physical storage from an archive vault.

Google Drive and Backupify give you auto-save documents, single document multi-author revision history and automated backup. There’s no reason to ever lose a document again.

That’s what you call a good backup plan.

  • Dave

    “If a collaborator tries to delete a document they don’t own, it simply removes the document from their Shared With Me list but leaves the owner’s (and every other collaborator’s) copy intact.”

    I have two accounts. I shared a folder with a document in it. The collaborator deleted the file and it was gone from the owner’s folder as well. Too bad this doesn’t work.

  • Jon Wayne

    I deleted some files this morning by mistake, clicked restore in the Recycle Bin, the files were never restored, just gone.. shows how unreliable google drive really is.

  • Jon Wayne

    Never mind, the files were restored 1 hour later lol

  • S_Hill_FLC

    A collaborator somehow erased previous versions of the document we were working on when she made her edits to the document. When we choose Revision History for the document, it only shows her most recent edits. The previous versions are gone. The previous versions are gone from the shared drive, however do show up on the owners drive. Does anyone know how this happened?

  • S_Hill_FLC

    “If a collaborator tries to delete a document they don’t own, it simply removes the document from their Shared With Me list but leaves the owner’s (and every other collaborator’s) copy intact.”

    This has not been our experience either. The document was gone from all of the collaborators Shared With Me list as well.

  • elie

    hi.. i was wondering if i am waiting google drive app to sync a big file (400mB) and while waiting the internet was cut off, he will restart the sync automatically, but from the beginning or from where it stopped? i hope you got what i mean. thank you

  • C. van den Bosch

    The same problem here.
    And Backupify somehow seems unable to restore the files (it only restores part of the folder structure)…

  • Jennifer

    This article just saved me about a month of work. Thank you. Very much.

  • Robert Connors

    I was playing with my phone and erased data

  • jane

    I just tried to delete the files from the collaborator’s drive, and even though there was a pop up saying that it couldn’t be removed, when i went back into my first account that ‘owned’ the file, it was gone as well.

  • Rory


    Same things has happened to me. 6 hours on an assignment is gone and it’s back to the beginning. Ideas?

  • John Brad

    Thanks of sharing this article….

  • anna

    i accidentally deleted a document, 5 paragraph essay, and i cant find it. i went to ‘all items’ and ‘trash’, i pressed undo and found nothing. anyone got any other suggestions? my paper was 2/3 done and the paper is due tomorrow for english.

  • kalit

    i lost a file yesterday containing important data. i was updating this google doc file when my samsung galaxy grand got switched off due to low battery. i plugged charger and opened file but it showed 0 kb with no data …plz help me to recover.