Google Drive is a useful place to store files in the cloud, but a new restriction has come to light that might be a problem for some users. Google Drive is enforcing a new file limit for the total number of files you can create on your Drive.
Update 4/3: In a brief Twitter thread, Google tonight confirmed that it is rolling back the limit on created files for all Google Drive users. The limit, which was imposed by surprise, was done to “preserve stability and optimize performance.” Google says that it is now looking into “alternate approaches” despite reiterating that only a small number of users were affected by the limit.
Google also addressed its shortcoming in notifying users of the limit, saying that “will communicate” any further changes to users prior to implementing them.
Our original coverage follows.
Some Google Drive users have recently noticed a message on their accounts which says that the account has reached its “creation limit” and won’t accept any new files until existing ones are deleted. The issue was first highlighted by ArsTechnica, and appears to be enforced for both free accounts as well as those subscribed to Google Workspace and Google One.
The issue was flagged by users on Reddit as well as Google’s Issue Tracker and appears to have been put in place around mid-February.
The file limit in place puts a hard ceiling on the total number of files stored in Google Drive at five million items. This limit ignores file size and type, and is a simple count of the number of files in your online storage bucket. This also includes items stored in the trash (which is automatically emptied every 30 days). When that limit is reached (or if the account has already exceeded it), Google Drive shows the following message.
This account has exceeded the creation limit of 5 million items. To create more items, move items to the trash and delete them forever
One user reports having seven million items in their account prior to the limit being enforced, with their account no longer able to add any new files. Effectively, that user and anyone else in the same situation are locked out of their accounts, with the files stored now in a “read-only” mode.
Google appears to have confirmed the limit to some users via support, but has yet to speak out publicly about it. There’s no documentation in Google’s ocean of support pages, and there’s also no mention within Drive. Apparently, Google also gave no warning to users who had already reached and/or surpassed the limit. Google has documented a total file limit on files that can be shared through Google Drive (400,000), but there’s never been any such limit on storage. Dropbox, another cloud storage service, mentions a soft limit of 300,000 files for syncing to a computer, but it’s not a total file limit for the account.
As Ars’ Ron Amadeo rightly points out, the issue here doesn’t seem to be the limit in itself, which would be understandable on free accounts or with ample prior warning (or if it only applied to new accounts). Rather that this limit hasn’t been discussed in any official capacity, and applies to existing accounts that pay for and are actively using storage. Google Drive sells storage plans starting at $2/month for 100GB of storage, which could easily be filled by five million files at 4kb a piece. In fact, that’d only take up 20GB of storage. It’d be a whole lot easier to hit that limit if you’re a business, too, like the millions paying for storage on Drive through Google Workspace.
Update: Google says that the number of users affected by this is “vanishingly small” and clarified that this is “a safeguard to prevent misuse of our system in a way that might impact the stability and safety of the system.” The company also clarified that the limit applies to “how many items one user can create in any Drive,” rather than a total file limit in Drive (meaning files uploaded to shared folders by another user don’t count towards this total, even if they count towards your storage total).
More on Google Drive:
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