How to Find and Remove Large Folders in Google Drive

Jan 1, 20225 min read
How to Find and Remove Large Folders in Google Drive

Finding your large folders and removing the ones taking up the most space in your Google account was not a simple task until recently. Google Drive still does not directly offer a way to find large folders in your account. However, the Clean Drive web app makes it easy and possible to see the folders taking up the most space quickly.

This article will discuss the available options for finding and removing large folders in your Google Drive account using the Clean Drive app. It will also provide details on how filters give the ability to quickly narrow your list of large folders to a specific set of criteria. Then it goes into detail about some of the old and error-prone ways we had tried to solve this before using Clean Drive. Last, FAQs cover additional topics relating to finding large folders in Google Drive.

How to Find Large Folders in Google Drive

Clean Drive has made the task of finding large folders simple. All you have to do is log in from the Clean Drive website and scan your account.

Scanning Google Drive Files
Screenshot of Clean Drive scanning Google Drive files.

Clean Drive will present you with a storage usage report when scanning is complete.

Storage Usage Report
Example of a partial storage usage report provided by Clean Drive

You can click on the "folders larger than 1 MB" category in the report, and the page will show your largest folders first. This page will also show the number of files and folders within each folder, the folder path, and each folder's owner, as seen below.

Folders Larger than 1MB
Example listing of Google Drive folders larger than 1MB inside Clean Drive.

Filter to View a Subset of Large Folders

Clean Drive also allows you to view your large folders by different criteria using filters. The filter option is found on the large folders page by clicking the action button > filter.

Clean Drive Action Button
Action Button Menu: Bulk Delete, Filters, Select All, Delete Selected

You have multiple options in viewing your large folders, and you can combine these options. Some examples are:

  • View folders larger or smaller than a specific size.
  • View folders between a given size.
  • View large folders created before or after a given date (or in a date range).
  • View large folders owned by a specific person.
  • View large folders in a specific folder path (or multiple paths).

Filter Dialog for Large Folders
Filter Dialog for Large Folders

These filters are powerful in letting you drill down to specific large folders. It gives you control of your large folders and makes it easy to quickly remove folders taking up the most space in your Google Drive account.

Bulk Delete or Delete Large Folders in Google Drive

Once you have found the large folder you want to remove, you can select each folder one by one for removal.

Manually selecting folders to delete
Manually selecting folders to delete

Click the checkbox next to each folder and click the action button > remove to remove the folder. Or you can select all the folders on the page action button > select all.

If you have hundreds or even thousands of folders that you would like to delete, you can use the bulk delete option (action button > bulk delete). Bulk delete will honor any filters you have used and delete every folder that matches the criteria. When you select bulk delete, a confirmation dialog will appear. After you confirm, Clean Drive will remove all large folders that meet the criteria.

Confirmation Dialog for Bulk Deleting Large Folders
Confirmation Dialog for Bulk Deleting Large Folders

Clean Drive is great at clearing the clutter quickly and giving you complete control of your Google Drive account. The bulk delete feature and filtering feature makes it easy to remove large folders quickly. Finding and eliminating large folders can free up many terabytes of unwanted clutter from your Google Drive account.

Large Folders Shared With Your Google Drive Account

Viewing large folders shared with your Google Drive account is simple with Clean Drive. By default, Clean Drive always shows the largest folders first, regardless of the folder’s owner. However, you can use filters (as discussed previously) and view the largest folders owned by a specific person. You can filter by one or more users, making it easy to see folders shared by particular stakeholders in your Google Workspace.

If you choose to remove a folder shared with you, Clean Drive will remove your access and any files you own within the folder. However, the original owner will continue to have access to their folder.

How Did we Find Large Folders Before Clean Drive?

Before Clean Drive existed, few options were available for finding large folders, and most were error-prone and imperfect. If you look in the Google Support community on how to find large folders, the conclusion is that it is not possible. Specifically, the Google Drive Platinum Product Expert said:

If you need to check this inside the cloud (Google Drive) itself, that is currently not possible.

You can see that many did not like this response and downvoted the answer. It sort of feels like readers shot the messenger, poor MisterCanada.

Votes for Large Folders in Google Drive
Votes showing users wanted the ability to view large folders in Google Drive.

Let’s move on. It’s feeling kind of dangerous at the moment.

Even though experts like MisterCanada have said it is not possible to find large folders in Google Drive, there have been a few ways that we used to do it. Although, It is not recommended to use these options due to the flaws, especially now that we have Clean Drive to do the heavy lifting.

Option 1: Download a folder and view its size by right-clicking on a folder and selecting download. Google will zip up the files in the folder, and then you download the files and can extract the folder on your computer.

Problems with Option 1: First, this would require you to download each folder, one by one and would take an unreasonable amount of time if you have more than a few folders. Second, when you download a folder, Google converts all of your Google Docs and Google Sheets to a different format (DOCX and XLS, respectively). When Google converts your files, it changes the actual size of the files and is not an accurate representation of the storage used. Also, downloading the files does not account for versions of a single file, and Google Drive does consume storage space for each version of a stored file. Last, downloading a folder from Google Drive does not consider the file’s owner, making it unclear if the storage space used is from a file you own (using your storage space) or a file owned by someone else (not using your storage space).

Option 2: Sync all the files from Google Drive to your computer. You can install Google Drive for desktop, which can sync your Google Drive files to your computer. Then find and install a 3rd party application to help remove your large folders.

Problem with Option 2: Believe it or not, this is even worse than Option 1 since it includes all of the issues mentioned in Option 1 plus more. Additionally, syncing requires that you download all of your files to a desktop computer. You may not have enough storage on your computer (especially if using a Chromebook) to download everything. There is also much more time required to download all of your files. If you can download all of your files, you will find that all your Google Docs and Google Sheets are shortcuts to the Google Drive website, so finding your large folders will be completely inaccurate. You will also need to install a 3rd party application to find your large folders. Is the application safe or full of malware? Last, when you upload your files back to Google Drive, there is the risk of creating duplicates in Google Drive or corrupting files if the upload does not complete perfectly.

Notice in the screenshot below how files synced to your desktop show that the file size is only 1 KB when the files are actually using megabytes of space in Google Drive.

Files sizes are skewed when downloaded from Google Drive
Downloaded files size are not a true representation of the storage used in Google Drive

Downloading your files to a desktop will significantly skew the results of finding your large folders, so I don’t recommend it.

Using Clean Drive is simple, fast and secure. It does not download files or folders but instead grabs the minimum amount of information about your files and folders. It displays the files and folders to give you control over organizing your Google Drive account and is the best way to find large folders in Google Drive.