How to Recover Deleted Files from Google Drive: 4 Options

Accidental and intentional file deletion is extremely common among corporate employees. You may have Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) users who have deleted a file or a number of files only to realize it was not the file or files they assumed. This article is comprehensive guidance for Admins on how to recover deleted files from Google Drive.

As a data loss protection company, we recover data for companies and individuals all the time. In this article, we’ve accumulated our experience in Google Drive data recovery for our clients and share the methods which will help you recover deleted files from Google Drive.

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Your Recovery Options Depending on How the File Was Deleted

Google Drive file restoration depends on how the file has been deleted. There are two key type of deletion: soft and hard. The former is when a deleted file ends up in a Recycle Bin. A user can easily recover it from there.

The “hard-delete” means the file is not in a Trash folder and thus is deleted permanently. In this case, Admin can change the situation depending on certain conditions.

The table below represents different types of deletion problems and ways to solve them.

The user deletes a file from Google Drive but it’s still accessible from a Trash folderUse the “Undo Delete” operation and Google Drive Trash Restore
The user permanently deletes a file from the Google Drive Trash folderRestore file with G Suite Admin Console
The user or admin deletes a G Suite accountRestore the account from G Suite Admin Console and transfer the files’ ownership
The user overwrites a file, causing data loss/changeUse Google Drive Manage Versions functionality
Need to recover permanently deleted files or prevent the above-mentioned data lossesUse third-party backup and file recovery program 

Let’s look at all these methods for recovering data in Google Drive, how they work, and how you can restore deleted data in G Suite.

Do you need to restore Microsoft 365 files? Learn about Drive recovery for MSO.

Want to undo Google Calendar Delete? Check out Calendar Recovery.

Google Drive Recovery From the Trash Folder with “Undo” Operation

In this section, we’ll talk about the best-case scenario of data loss when users can use the ‘undelete files’ function of Google Drive. It can be used only in case of soft delete, i.e., the file or folder is still in the Trash folder

This Google Doc recovery option is known to most G Suite users as ‘undo delete in Google Drive.’ If you catch the delete action quickly enough, there is a “bubble tip” box that pops up in the Google Drive window, alerting you to the delete operations and giving you the option to Undo the delete operation. As a result your file will return from the Google Drive Trash back to its initial folder.

Here are three easy steps to recover items from the Trash folder:

  1. Go to your Google Drive and click on Trash in the left menu panel.
  2. Find the file you’ve lost and right-click on it.
  3. In the context menu that appeared click RestoreCheck the file in its original location.

 How to Recover Deleted Files From Google Drive

Restoring data entries from the Trash folder of Google drive

Use this function if you want to recover deleted folders.

It doesn’t matter if you’re restoring deleted files on Android, iOS, Windows, or Mac, as long as you are following these steps and your files haven’t been deleted permanently.

Tip: Check your Trash for other files that you may have accidentally deleted.

Note that this functionality can help you recover recently deleted files only. You have 30 days to restore files this way. After this period the files will be purged from Trash and will be lost forever unless you have a third-party backup.

Note that there’s another instance of non-recoverability. If the user has performed the Empty Trash function, they will not be able to restore any files that got to Trash before this function, even if they have been recently deleted from Google Drive.


How to Recover Deleted Files From Google Drive

This section is written specifically for the Amins who wish to learn how to recover lost files in Google Drive. It also applies to cases when you need to restore a deleted folder.

You need to recover hard-deleted files (removed from Trash either manually or due to them staying there for 30 days). Admins can recover from:

  • Google Workspace Admin Console
  • A third-party backup
  • Google Vault (in case you have a DLP policy)

How you restore permanently deleted through the Admin Console

You need to use your Google Workspace Admin Account to perform this type of restoration.

1. Go to the Google Admin Console, find Directory in the left menu, and select Users.

2. In the list of users, find the one whose files you need to recover.

3. Hover the mouse over their name; on the right, you’ll see the More button; click it.

4. The context menu will appear, choose the option Restore data.

5. In the opened window, indicate the date range within the last 25 days and press Restore.

Note that this recovery is only possible within 25 days since the hard delete of the files, i.e., since they were removed from the Trash folder. After 25 days, there is no way you can restore them unless you have a backup.

How to Recover Google Drive Files From Deleted Account

Sometimes we can rush into deleting an account of a former employee and clean Google Drive. In other cases, the user can accidentally delete their account with all data on it. This section of the post describes the Google Drive recovery for a deleted Account.

To restore Google Drive files from a deleted account, you need to use your Admin account.

1. First, restore the deleted user account.

2. Make another user an owner of the Google Drive files/folders.

  • In the Google Admin Console, open the Menu and click on Apps
  • In the unfolded menu, select Google Workspace and then Drive and Docs
  • Scroll down and find Transfer Ownership. Upon clicking it, you will be redirected to the page.

  • You will see two fields (From User and To User). Type in the email addresses of the respective users and click Transfer Files.
  • Delete the restored account once Google has transferred the data.

Note that only Super Administrators can recover deleted Google account only within 20 days after the deletion. After 20 days, all data associated with this account will be erased from the data centers and impossible to restore.

How to Restore Overwritten Google Drive Files Using Manage Versions

This section overviews the instances when a data entry has been overwritten in Google Drive. In this case, the user can benefit from the Manage Versions feature.

There are two ways users can recover overwritten file in Google Drive:

Manage Versions

1. Find the necessary file in Google Drive and right-click on it.

2. In the context menu, click Manage versions.

3. In the pop-up window, look through the versions of the data entry. To make things easier for users, each version has time and date. Choose the necessary one, click on three dots, and then press “Download” in the context menu.

4. Google Drive will download the file version on your PC. You can then upload it back to the cloud.

Version History

1. Open the necessary file. If you want to save the current content, click File in the top menu and then Make a copy in the drop-down menu. Google Drive will create a copy in a new tab. Return to the initial document.

2. Click File, Version History, and See version history. Alternatively, in the upper menu, find an icon of a clock outlined by a counter-clockwise arrow. You will be redirected to the Versions page.

3. In the left menu, you’ll see timestamps with versions. By clicking them, the version will appear.

4. Once you’ve found the necessary version, click the “Restore this version” blue button in the top of the screen. Confirm your choice in the pop-up window.

How to Prevent Unrecoverable Data Losses in Google Workspace

All the above-described methods can’t restore data in 100% of cases. To prevent situations in which employees permanently delete files, we suggest that businesses get backup and data recovery software. These tools can help you prevent data loss in case of human error, man-in-the-middle attack, or even ransomware. Such solutions recover files deleted from Trash folder. 

Any permanently deleted file is gone forever without a mechanism or data protection solution in place that allows recovering from a backup of the data needing to be recovered.

As we’ve mentioned before, deleted files have their due date, which is from 20 to 30 days depending on the type of deletion. Unless these files are covered with a retention policy (which is rarely the case), they will be permanently deleted after this period. There is no way to recover old files afterward.

Given that many important files simply don’t need to be revised regularly, most accidentally deleted documents get permanently deleted because employees and IT admins miss out on these 30 days.

Let’s also not forget about the ransomware threat that encrypts your files and makes it impossible to restore them without paying a ransom or having a backup. The average ransom payment in 2020 has jumped to $178 000 and paying the price doesn’t guarantee you’ll get your files back, so backup is your only solution. Remember, it’s best to back up than frantically look for ways to recover lost files.

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5 reasons to use backup tools instead of standard Google recovery:

1.  Permanently Deleted Files Restoration. You can always restore files, even if they’ve been permanently deleted or encrypted by ransomware.

2. Selective Recovery. You can recover data selectively (one file) or in bulk (a folder or whole Google Drive), and both operations will be equally quick and straightforward.

3. Point in time Restore. You recover deleted data with all its settings, sharing permissions, and folder structure.

Ready to try a professional backup tool with no strings attached? Try Spinbackup for Google Workspace.


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