I have many Google files and folders owned by someone else.

If I go ahead and simply delete them, will that impact that person in any way - in other words, will their folder, files, or documents get removed or affected?

Thanks so much!!


If you aren't the document / file owner you are able to remove them from "My drive" not to delete them. But be specially careful with folders because there are reports that folder editors removed files from the folders causing that the files become orphans for all.



2020 valid answer.

They will not be able to view the files but their files are NOT deleted. They can still find and recover the files they own

Steps to find and recover lost/orphaned files from Google drive

Step 1:

Log in to Google drive.

Step 2:

Find lost files by clicking on this link: FIND MY LOST FILES

by placing on the search bar:

is:unorganized owner:me

Step 3:

Recover files by just right-clicking on the file and selecting Move.

How to find and recover my lost files/folders in Google drive

To conclude

It is safe to delete files from your Google drive not owned by you.
Still, you should notify the owners on how to find and recover those (orphaned) files.

Following the above steps even removed files by anyone (created or uploaded in a shared folder owned by someone else) can always be recovered by the present owner of the mentioned files.

Noone can delete uploaded or created files in Google drive but the owner of the mentioned files.

When searching the site other similar questions like: Does deleting a file from Incoming folder in Google Drive delete the original file?, What happens to files when deleted from a shared folder which has been added to their Google Drive?, How to view orphans in Google Drive, In Google Drive, does 'remove' delete file? It says it's still accessible by collaborators, Where are files that I shared with someone going after he deleted them come up as well. I find those either confusing to me or quite old and possibly outdated.

  • Please check my updated answer for more info. And please remember that as per site guidelines when an answer addresses your question, you should accept it so others can benefit as well. – marikamitsos Feb 1 '20 at 19:51

If the file was removed from a shared folder:

If you own the file and you deleted it, the file will be in your Trash. You can search your Trash to find it. Other people will still be able to find the file using the URL for that file, if they saved the URL (which always remains the same). Or, they could see in the Activity pane on the right-hand side of the shared folder (click the ⓘ icon) that you deleted it, then they can click on the name of that file there to find it. Although they can find it, they cannot edit it or add it to their Drive. For a Google Doc, they will see this dialogue box:

Removed file dialogue box

With general file types, the file cannot be downloaded or added to their Drive. Although, it seems that if it is subsequently shared (by any of the collaborators) with another person via e-mail, that person will be able to download it. This may be a bug.

The file will only be inaccessible to others if you go to the sharing settings for that file and remove the collaborators. Or, if you permanently delete it from Trash.

If you do not own the file and you deleted it (or rather, removed it from the folder), it will not be in your Trash. In fact, you just removed your access to it—even though everybody else can still completely access it. As before, they will be able to access it with the URL, or by clicking on the file name in the Activity pane. This time, the file still exists in the owner's Google account, but it is "orphaned", i.e. it does not belong in any folder in their account, but it still takes up storage space. The owner will be able to find their orphaned files by going to https://drive.google.com/drive/search?q=is:unorganized , that is, by searching "is:unorganized". Or, they could just search for the file name if they remember it (or find it in the Activity pane).

In this instance, it is possible to restore the file back to the folder if a collaborator adds it to their Drive, then moves it back to the folder.

If the file was shared individually:

If you own the file and you deleted it, the file is in your Trash, and it will be removed from the "Shared with Me"* of collaborators as well as the places in their Drive where they stored that file. Conveniently (for them), if you restore the file, it will also be put back in the places where they stored it in their Drive, and appear in their "Shared with Me" again.

Again, the collaborators will be able to find the file via the URL or their Activity pane, but won't be able to edit or download it.

If you do not own the file and you deleted it (or rather, removed it) from your Drive, it will still appear in "Shared with Me", and the owner and other collaborators won't be affected. You can also remove a file from "Shared with Me" that you no longer want listed there, but it isn't easy to find the file again if you do that.

*"Shared with Me" is a tab on the left-hand side.

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