How to Recover [Permanently] Deleted Google Drive Files: 4 Ways

How to Recover [Permanently] Deleted Files From Google Drive: 4 Options

This article was updated in February 2021.

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.

As a data loss protection company, we recover data for companies and individuals all the time. In this article, we will share all the mechanisms in place to help you recover deleted files from Google Drive, whether it’s photos, sheets, video, audio, or text documents.

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Your Recovery Options Depending on How the File Was Deleted

There are many ways to delete and restore files, but ultimately, they boil down to two scenarios. In the first scenario, your files were “soft-deleted”, meaning they are still recoverable using in-built Google tools. In the second scenario, files are “hard-deleted” permanently, meaning there is little you can do without backup. We speak in detail about how data gets hard-deleted in the notes under each point, but in a nutshell, it happens after 30-60 days after deletion. 

ProblemSolution
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 hard-deleted files or prevent the above-mentioned data lossesUse third-party backup

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

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

In most cases, you can recover Google Drive files deleted from the Trash folder. It’s possible if an end-user accidentally deletes the wrong file or folder without emptying the trash. In this case, you can perform the “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 gives you the option to Undo the delete operation. This essentially moves the file from the Google Drive Trash back to the original location.

However, if it has been more than a few moments since the file is deleted, this window will eventually go away. At that point, you will have to navigate to the Google Drive Trash folder and then restore the file from there.

To restore items from the Google Drive Trash folder:

  1. Navigate to Trash under My Drive.
  2. Right-click on the file that was deleted. This will open a context menu with two options – Restore and Delete forever.
  3. To recover the file, choose the Restore option. This will return the file to its original location.

Google Drive undo delete function

Restoring items from the Google Drive Trash

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.

Note that you have 30 days to restore files this way. If it has been more than 30 days after the deletion, or if the user has purged the Trash folder, these files go to the category of permanently deleted files.

How to Recover Permanently Deleted Files From Google Drive

If the files were automatically purged from the Trash due to the end of the 30-day period or manually deleted by someone, you have two options:

  • Restore data from a backup or retrieve them from Google Vault
  • Restore data from G Suite Admin Console

We assume that you haven’t backed up your Google Drive account, and the files weren’t covered with DLP policy, which means you can’t retrieve them from Google Vault. Let’s head straight to the second option: Admin Console restore.

How you restore permanently deleted through the Admin Console:

1. Sign in to your G Suite Admin account

2. On the Google Console, select Users

How to recover permanently deleted files from Google Drive via Admin Console

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

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

5. From the presented menu, choose the option Restore data.

restore files

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

Google Drive restore deleted files through admin panel

Note that you have 25 days since the files were permanently deleted from the Trash folder to recover them this way. 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, or the user themself can accidentally delete their own account with all data on it.

To recover files from a deleted Google account, stick to the following course of actions:

1. First, restore the deleted user account.

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

  • Sign in to your Admin account
  • Go to Apps
  • Select G Suite
  • Click on Drive and Docs
  • Select Transfer Ownership

Transfer ownership of a G Suite account

  • Type in the usernames of both the previous and future data owners and click Transfer Files.

Restore a Google Workspace account

  • After the transfer is completed, you can delete the account again if you need to.

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

Another built-in feature for Google Drive data recovery allows you to recover data that may have been overwritten. Accidentally overwriting data is a scenario that often happens when you perform a Save operation unintentionally or to the wrong file. Without saving a new version of the file, a Save operation overwrites the data that may have been changed or deleted before the Save operation is performed.

How to restore the alternate version of the overwritten file using the Manage Versions:

1. Right-click on a file housed in Google Drive; you will see the Manage versions option in the context menu.

2. In the opened Manage Versions dialog box, you’ll see the available versions of the file that can be restored. The date and timestamp of the file will be displayed, allowing the user to see the version’s timeframe captured. When the version is decided upon, click the three “dots” next to the file and select Download.

This will allow you to download the version of the file selected.

Manage versions in Google Drive

Manage versions keeps alternate file versions that can be downloaded

Another way to recover the previous version of the overwritten file is by visiting the Version History of this file:

1. Open the needed file.

2. Click on the Last Edits link that is located at the top of the page.

3. You’ll be presented with all changes made in this file linked to the day or specific time they were made.

4. Go through the changes, find the version you need, and click on it.

5. Click Restore this version.

How to Prevent Unrecoverable Data Losses in Google Workspace

All the above-described methods can’t restore data in 100% of cases.

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 retention policy (which is rarely the case), they will be permanently deleted after this period.

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 that paying the price doesn’t guarantee you’ll get your files back, so backup is your only solution.

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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.

4. A Few-Clicks Recovery Process. Given that files get deleted all the time, the process must take as little time and effort as possible.

5. Easy migration. You can effortlessly migrate data between user accounts and even between business suites like Google Workspace and Microsoft 365.

6. Version Control. Every version of your file is under your control.

7. Cross-Account Recovery. You’ll be able to restore deleted data to another user’s account.


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