How to manage Google Workspace storage from a phone

At your storage limit in Google Drive, Gmail or Google Photos? You can find large items and move them to the trash to clear up space from your phone.

Screenshot of Google Drive storage usage, with an iPhone Gmail search ("larger:10mb") and arrow pointing to Gmail storage usage, and Android Google Drive Storage icon with arrow pointing to Drive storage usage.

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

When you hit your Google Workspace storage limit, things no longer work. You can't send or receive Gmail messages. You can't store more files on Google Drive. And you can't back up photos or videos with Google Photos.

Your first step should be to contact your Workspace administrator. An administrator might check the organization's overall storage, investigate user account storage usage and then either purchase additional storage or upgrade the license linked to your account. Some Workspace Enterprise plans offer unlimited storage! (Individual users not on organizational plans might consider a Google One plan purchase.)

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Your second step would be to delete large emails, files or videos or photos you no longer need. In an earlier article, I covered steps that you (and a Google Workspace administrator) might take to reduce the storage used by your account. All of these steps work well with a desktop-class web browser, such as Chrome. 

But not every person who uses Workspace has access to a desktop. And it's not necessarily obvious or easy to figure out how to reduce your Workspace storage usage from your phone. However, it is possible with the steps below. (The Google One mobile app on iOS or Android helps individuals manage storage, but doesn't allow access from organizational accounts.)

Before you start, if you use Chrome on Android, I recommend you first force enable zoom. On your phone, open Chrome, tap the three dot menu (upper right) | Settings | Accessibility | then check the box next to Force Enable Zoom (Figure A). This makes it possible to pinch-in and pinch-out on web pages.

Figure A

Three screenshots from Chrome on Android: (left) After three dot menu tapped, shows Settings circled, (middle) Accessibility circled, in the Advanced section, and (right) Force enable zoom checkbox checked.

If you use Chrome on Android, you will likely want to force enable zoom to make it possible to zoom in and zoom out.

How to check Drive, Gmail and Photo storage usage

In Chrome, while signed in to your Google Workspace account, open the Drive storage page (as shown in the background in the photo at the top of this article) to review storage used by your account on Drive, Gmail and Photos. Prioritize your efforts to reduce storage based on the space used in each of these apps.

How to find large files on Drive storage from your phone

  1. Go to Google Drive in either Chrome (e.g., on Android) or Safari (e.g., on iPhone).
  2. Tap the three horizontal line menu in the upper left, then tap Desktop Version (Figure B, left). This switches from the mobile view of Drive to the standard view on the web.
  3. Tap Storage (Figure B, middle). This displays a list of large files on your Drive, sorted from those that take up the most storage space to the least (Figure B, right)
  4. Tap on a file name to select it, then tap the Trash icon. Review the file name and then tap on the Move to Trash button only if you are certain you no longer need the file. Repeat this process for as many large files as you wish. 
  5. Optional: While Drive will automatically remove items from Trash after 30 days, you also may empty trash manually. Tap on the Trash icon on the left side of the screen, then tap Empty trash. If you are certain you no longer need the deleted files, tap Delete forever.

Figure B

Four screenshots: (upper left, inset), My Drive in Chrome, with three horizontal lines circled, (left) Drive menu options with Desktop Version circled, (middle) Storage option circled, (right) Page zoomed a bit, moved to show file sizes starting at 11.82GB, in descending file size.

In your mobile browser, open Google Drive and switch to the Desktop Version, then tap Storage. This displays files stored on My Drive, sorted from largest to smallest.

How to find large email in Gmail on your phone

  1. Open the Gmail app (on either Android or iPhone) and make sure you are signed in with your Workspace account.
  2. In the search box, search for email larger than a specific file size. Enter larger:10mb to locate email larger than 10Mb, for example, as shown in Figure C. If the list is very long, adjust the search size (e.g., larger:15mb) to find fewer, but larger, emails.
  3. Tap on email in the returned results to review it. Once you are certain you wish to delete an email, tap the trash icon (in the upper right). This immediately moves the email to the Trash. Note, unlike with Drive files above, there is no additional confirmation step.
  4. Optional: As with Drive file, the system will automatically delete email that is in Trash more than 30 days. The simplest way to empty Gmail trash, though, is to use the Gmail mobile app. While signed into the Gmail app with your Workspace account, tap the three horizontal line menu in the upper left, then tap Trash. Near the top of the screen tap the Empty Trash Now button that displays, then, if you are sure you no longer need any of the email in trash, tap Empty.

Figure C

Screenshot from Gmail app on Android, with 5 email displayed, and "larger:10mb" in the search box at the top of the screen.

Install the Gmail app on either Android or iPhone, sign in with your account, then use the larger:10mb search term to find attachments larger than 10Mb.

How to find video files in Google Photos on your phone

While Drive and Gmail both provide methods for people who use Workspace accounts to search for large files, the Google Photos app on Android or iOS lacks equivalent large file search/sort features on phones as of November 2021. However, a search of Photos for video files may help you find items that take up significant storage space.

  1. Open the Photos app and make sure you are signed in to it with your Workspace account.
  2. Enter a video file extension in the search field. From the Google Photos help page, supported video file types include ".mpg, .mod, .mmv, .tod, .wmv, .asf, .avi, .divx, .mov, .m4v, .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .m2t, .m2ts, .mts, and .mkv files." For example, you might search for .mp4 or .mov files, as shown in Figure D.
  3. Review the video file search results. Tap on a file to display it.
  4. If you no longer need a video file, tap on the trash icon, then tap Move to trash. Repeat this process for as many files as you wish.
  5. Optional: The system deletes backed up items after 60 days in trash, while items that aren't backed up are deleted after 30 days in trash. To manually empty the trash sooner, tap the Library, then Trash, then tap the three-dot menu and tap Empty Trash. If you are certain you no longer need the items in the trash, tap Delete permanently (or, on iPhone, Delete).

Figure D

Screenshot from Google Photos on Android, with a search for .mov that has returned hundreds of files. 21 videos displayed on screen, with durations (e.g., 03:44) displayed in the top-right area of each.

In the Google Photos app on Android or iOS, you might search for various video file extensions, such as .mp4 or .mov. In the Photos app, this helps you identify video files, which may require significant storage space.

How do you manage Workspace storage for people who are mobile-only?

If you use an organizational Workspace account, the simplest way to review and reduce your storage is to do so from a laptop or desktop with Chrome (or, alternatively, on a Mac, Safari). The above options are the best techniques I've identified for people who use Workspace that are mobile-only.

If you're a Workspace administrator, what methods do you use to monitor storage for people in your organization? If you primarily access Workspace from a mobile device, what practices do you use to stay under storage limits? Let me know how you manage Workspace account storage from a mobile device, either with a comment below or on Twitter (@awolber).

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