May 16, Google has announced new plans to delete accounts that have been inactive for two years, as well as accounts that were created but never used (or used only briefly). Got an ancient Gmail account that collects cobwebs or a Google Photos account that stores vacation photos from years past? Time to start poking around for those login credentials. If you haven’t logged in in the past two years, your account and everything it contains could be deleted starting as early as December.
This change affects Google Calendar, Drive, Docs, Gmail, Meet, and Photos. Accounts with YouTube videos are a notable exception to the new removal policy, as is any account with an active subscription (paying a bill counts as “activity”). Also, this change only applies to personal Google Accounts, not profiles associated with companies or classes. (Have you heard? This is the collective sigh of relief of a thousand bosses and principals.)
Worried about your personal Google account being vaporized? Here’s how to make sure your account is active, plus some quick tips if you forget your password.
How to prevent your account from being deleted
Preventing Google from deleting your account is easy if you can remember your password. Just log in. That’s it! No further steps are required. According to a blog post by Ruth Kricheli, Google’s vice president of product management, “If you have recently logged into your Google account or any of our services, your account will be considered active and will not be deleted.” Okay, so simple.
To be on the safe side, there is no need to log out and back in to the account you are using. This change applies to accounts without “Activity”. What does this mean for Google? Basically anything you do with that account is considered an activity, from searching with Google, to reading emails in Gmail, to accessing documents with Google Drive. The goal here is to improve Google’s overall security by removing abandoned accounts that are less likely to have strong, unique passwords or set up two-factor authentication, Kricheli wrote.
wait, what is my password?
oops! do not give up. Maybe you forgot your password, but do you remember your username or phone number? Go here to start the account recovery process for most Google accounts and here for Gmail.
Still having trouble accessing your inactive account? Check out this article for the Google Accounts Security team’s advice on what might have happened to your profile and some possible remedies. Before the deletion, Google said it would send a message to the account’s primary email address and recovery address. Likewise, if you are an administrator of someone’s account who lost access or has passed away and you wish to commemorate it, Google recommends using Google Takeout to download data for safekeeping, or setting up Inactive Account Manager to provide access so the account can maintain access authority.
The first wave of deletions will delete accounts that were registered but then not used. When did the second wave of inactive account deletions start? The exact date is unknown, so it’s best to try and log in before December rolls around.
Want to keep your old Google account that you just use sparingly after the new policy goes into effect? Try setting a reminder on your calendar to log in and hit it often. Even better, consider storing your data on physical drives.