We recently moved from Dropbox to Google Drive for our whole company and I used one user account to move everything into Google Drive. Now most/all of the file/folders are owned by one account. The folders are broken out by department and I'd like to set the owner of all of the files inside of that folder to the department head. Is there a way to do that without going into each folder? I'd like to solve this in the webapp, but if not, how can I do this with the API?

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    If the owners can run Google Drive on their desktop machine (I tried it with Windows) they can duplicate each folder that SHOULD belong to them, and when the copy is re-uploaded to the cloud, all files will fully be in their ownership. Carefully remove the original copy. I'm making this a comment since it's not a true answer. It's a work-around that might be less hassle than some of the other answers. – Fuhrmanator Jul 3 '17 at 18:56
  • Related question for how to do this with one item: webapps.stackexchange.com/q/114423/24544 – Flimm Feb 27 '18 at 9:14

I created a command-line tool to handle this.

After following the setup instructions on the GitHub project, you can run the tool with a specified path prefix and the email address of the new owner:

python transfer.py PATH-PREFIX NEW-OWNER-EMAIL

After getting authorization from OAuth, it will recursively walk the Google Drive account it got authorization to, match against the path prefix (ignoring non-matches), and then transfer ownership to the new email. If the new email address indicates a user who isn't even shared on the item yet, it will handle that as well. The current owner will not lose access, but the new or old owner can revoke it.

I should note that it's not always possible to transfer ownership of an item in Drive. For example, it's not possible to move ownership for an item from G Suite (Google Apps for Work) account to a normal GMail account. It can be shared (which the script will do), but ownership transfer will fail.

  • I've tried out your script but the structure of the folder hierarchy is lost. All the files transferred appear in the new owners drive at the top level. Do you know how to perform the transfer so sub folders, and their files, remain in the folders? – Tony May 13 '15 at 14:28
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    You may want to share the content with the intended person from the GUI first and then use the utility to promote them to owners. – David Timothy Strauss Jun 2 '15 at 21:50
  • Thanks! I had to fix a small Unicode bug in your script (check the pull requests on github), but then it worked fine. Only downside: It can only change ownership for Google files (docs, stylesheets, etc.), not for uploaded files like PDFs, because Google simply doesn't allow that, neither through the API nor the web interface. :-( – jcsahnwaldt says GoFundMonica Sep 13 '15 at 16:26
  • Could you please explain what is the PATH-PREFIX ? I am not sure if this process is correct: run the python command once then hit enter, get the link, paste it to browser, get the token, re-run the command put the token. After this process I get the "Gathing file listings for prefix []..." with all the root directories I have in my Google drive, put not any change to ownership. – thanos.a Nov 13 '15 at 13:28
  • @JonaChristopherSahnwaldt Can you clarify? We used this script extensively with normal files in Google Drive. – David Timothy Strauss Jan 20 '16 at 23:51

Seems like a very simple process to me...

You can use the search bar at the top of the WebGUI for Google Drive. Just select your user's username in the owner dropdown, choose the type (such as folder if you want to), choose the location of the folder you want to turn owner to the department head, then click search.

In the search results, select as many folders as you want to process in one round (I like to do it in chunks so I can see progress). Then right click, "share". Set the department head user to OWNER rather than write access.

Rinse and repeat as needed (if you do the same thing again the files you have already converted will not show up in your search of course because they are now owned by the department head).

enter image description here

  • Nice, the critical insight here is that you can select multiple items, right click on the selected collection and change the sharing settings on all at the same time. – jorfus Jul 17 '19 at 22:25

You can check several folders, then press right mouse button, choose 'Share', and edit access rights.

Does it work for you?

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    Not recursive, but it helps. – Ryan Shillington Mar 7 '14 at 19:35
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    According to Google's help, using the "share" settings at the folder level will only add the new recipient as an "editor" for the existing files in that folder. (From a programming point of view, the files are the children items of the folder.) To actually change the ownership of files, one much click the checkbox on each file and use the "share" option. – rwong Jul 10 '15 at 22:49
  • This cannot set me as the new owner where I can only edit. – thanos.a Nov 13 '15 at 13:18
  • @9000 This was I can only give the ownership to other users, not get it if I don't have it. In my case I have a folder that contains files. Some of them I own, some other owned by another user. In the end I want to own all files. – thanos.a Mar 10 '16 at 8:01
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    @thanos.a: Security does not work this way. To own a file that somebody else owns, you have to have that somebody give you the access. Imagine someone opening your folder and somehow getting ownership of your files without your consent. – 9000 Mar 10 '16 at 15:34

The best way I have found to do this is to head on over to the "All Items" view, keep on scrolling down until no more files load, and then hit the tick box on top which selects all files and folders in the current view. Once all items are selected, click more, and then share and share again. In the share box change to the appropriate sharing levels and click done.

The only caveat here is you change the permissions for ALL of your files and folders.

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    Where is the "All items" option ? – thanos.a Nov 13 '15 at 13:19
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    Google Drive locks up and crashes in the web page when there are too many files. – Chloe Aug 7 '17 at 15:28
  • cmd + A for "Select all" is helpful here. Command click to deselect if you must. – Graham P Heath Sep 12 '18 at 16:16

The best way I could find for consumer Gmail with a shared folder where files and subfolders are owned by different people: log in to the account which holds the files, go to "My account" -> "Manage Content" and download all files. The zip contains all files in the original structure. The re-upload (including overwriting) all files with the new owner account.


For Google Apps users: the administrator can sign in to https://admin.google.com/ and navigate to Apps > Google Apps > Drive > Transfer Ownership. This operation keeps the files accessible to both users but recursively changes ownership of every file/folder from UserA to UserB; one could temporarily transfer all to themselves then promptly set desired permissions on each file/folder.

Google - Transfer ownership of Drive documents

enter image description here

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    That would transfer ALL files to another user. I need something that will take a subset of files and change the ownership. – Dan Mandle Nov 8 '15 at 14:17
  • This is used when the other account is about to be removed. – thanos.a Nov 13 '15 at 13:32
  • Sorry, wasn't explicit enough. The point is that one could temporarily transfer all to themselves then promptly set desired permissions on each file/folder. – sh78 Jan 14 '16 at 10:58
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    @musophob You should edit your answer to include that last comment of yours. "Comments are temporary "Post-It" notes left on a question or answer." – Vidar S. Ramdal Sep 4 '17 at 9:12
  • @VidarS.Ramdal good call! – sh78 Apr 26 '18 at 2:52

Move the files. You make the folder sharable to the new owner and then have them move everything in it into a new folder. That makes it all theirs and the original owner loses access. They can chose to share it back or not.

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    -1: Moving the files don't change file ownership. – Rubén Oct 13 '15 at 19:19
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    This would also make a mess of the files in all but the most simplistic situations. Also, it may not even be possible to move the files depending on permissions and once owned, this wouldn't be an issue. Further still, I do not believe permissions will be inherited from a "folder", just by "moving" a file/folder into it. – rainabba Jan 11 '16 at 18:49

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