What is the best way to allow a Google Drive user to edit documents but not delete them? Our organization has many files and would like to protect some less tech savvy users from disrupting numerous files/folders at once.

Are there administrator tools to do this?

Alternatively, is there a way to backup your folder structure in Google Drive? In case someone deletes many folders, we don't want to have to put back all the files from each owner's "My Drive".


5 Answers 5


Giving edit access to Google Drive documents is sufficient. The way these files work, once they are shared with a user, the file will appear in their "Shared with me" list

If they remove or delete a file from this list, it will not remove the document from any other user's list, nor will it destroy the file. Only the owner can trash a document.

Learn more about trashing documents here: http://support.google.com/drive/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2494934&p=restore_trash_collab

If the owner trashes a document, they can get it back from their Trash folder:

Learn how to recover a file or folder that you moved to the trash.

If something in Google Drive is moved to the trash, you'll see a warning and you may lose access to it at any time. Read one of the following sections to learn how to restore it to your Google Drive from the trash. When you restore something, it'll be recovered in Google Drive on the web, to the Google Drive folder on your computer, and to your mobile devices.

If the item is in a folder, you’ll need to restore the entire folder to recover any individual items inside of it.


If you're the owner of something and you’ve placed it in the trash, you'll see a warning that reads "This item is in your trash" when you open the doc or file.

If you’d like to restore a doc or file to your Google Drive:

Search for it in the Trash. Select the file(s) or doc(s) you’d like to recover. Click the Restore button.

Folders and file structures behave the same way, if regular editors remove these it will disappear from their "Shared with me" list but it only affects them, not the rest of the collaborators.

  • Thanks for your response. However, the scenario we are faced with is a bit different. Several users are shared on a folder with many sub folders and thereby they are shared on all the folder contents. Can we allow editing without allowing deleting of files and folders. I realize that these files can be recovered from the "owner's" "My Drive" but recreating the folder structure is a time killer.
    – Alex B
    Nov 29, 2012 at 15:35
  • 1
    Ahh, in that case I don't think there is a solution here. The folder structure IS disrupted when a user (not owner) deletes a folder. This is probably a bug in the way shared folders behave, but for now there is no good answer. Nov 30, 2012 at 19:01

Giving edit permissions to the files them-self, but only view access to the folders that the files are included in should prevent files from being deleted, but still allow them to be edited.


You're right anyone with permission to edit can clear the contents of the file, but you can always go through the revision history to see what was edited/deleted and by who. Then you can remove their permissions if needed.


Anyone with permission to edit can also "delete", by wiping out all the contents of a file and leaving it blank.

I think the only more-or-less usable solution for this is to keep a backup of every file (or the files itself, as soon as they reach a point where they will not be edited anymore) in another folders, not accessible to anyone.

  • You can use the version history of a Google document to restore an older version. I'm not sure you can do this with uploaded files (videos, for example).
    – Flimm
    Nov 24, 2021 at 13:49

I have several users sharing the same folders on each work station. Every morning, bright & early (before anyone else gets to the office), I "make a copy" of items that I CANNOT afford to lose. I have a separate folder on my drive named "BACKUP" and save the copies in there. Every morning, they get replaced with the newest "copy".

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