Google announced new plans in May to delete accounts that have been inactive for two years, as well as accounts that were created and never used, or used only briefly. Got an ancient Gmail account gathering cobwebs or a Google Photos account storing vacation pics from years past? It’s time to start looking around for those login credentials. If you haven’t signed in within the past two years, your account and everything it contains could be deleted sometime this December.
This change impacts Google Calendar, Drive, Docs, Gmail, Meet, and Photos. Accounts with YouTube videos are a noteworthy exception from the new deletion policy, as are any accounts with active subscriptions (paying your bill counts as “activity”). Also, this change applies only to personal Google accounts, not profiles tied to companies or classrooms. (Hear that? It’s the collective sound of a thousand bosses and principals sighing in relief.)
Worried about your personal Google account getting vaporized? Here’s how to make sure that your account is active, and a few quick tips in case you forgot your password.
How to Keep Your Account From Getting Deleted
Stopping Google from deleting your account is straightforward, if you can remember the password. Just log in. That’s it! No further steps need to be taken. According to the Google blog post from Ruth Kricheli, vice president of product management, “if you have signed into your Google Account or any of our services recently, your account is considered active and will not be deleted.” OK, simple enough.
There’s no need to log out and log back in to accounts you’re using just to be safe. This change is for accounts with no “activity.” What does that mean to Google? Basically, anything you do with the account is considered activity, from doing a search with Google, to reading an email in Gmail, to accessing a document with Google Drive. The goal here is to improve Google’s overall security by removing abandoned accounts, which are less likely to have strong, unique passwords or have two-factor authentication set up, Kricheli writes.
Wait, What’s My Password?
Whoops! Don’t give up yet. Maybe you forgot your password, but can you remember the username or phone number? Go here to begin the account recovery process for most Google accounts and here for Gmail.
Still encountering issues accessing your inactive account? Check out this article for advice from Google’s account safety team about what could be going on with your profile and a few potential remedies. Before it’s deleted, Google says it will send messages to the account’s main email and the recovery address. Similarly, if you’re the caretaker of someone’s account who can’t access it, or who has passed away and you’d like it memorialized, Google suggests using Google Takeout to download the data for safekeeping, or setting up the Inactive Account Manager to provide access so the account can stay accessible.
The first wave of deletions will wipe out accounts that were registered but subsequently unused. When will the second wave of inactive account deletions start? The exact day remains unclear, so it’s a good idea to try to log in ASAP.
After the new policy goes into effect, if you want to keep old Google accounts that you just use sparingly, you can set a reminder on your calendar to log in and click around every so often. Better yet, consider storing the data on a physical drive.
Update November 15, 2023: This article has been updated with additional reporting.