Your Google account could get deleted — here’s why

Image of Gmail's logo on a laptop
(Image credit: Monticello/Shutterstock)

Google could delete your entire Google account come December time if you've not logged into or been active in it for two years. 

In an update to Google account policies, VP of product management Ruth Kricheli noted that inactive accounts will be at risk of deletion once they pass the two-year mark. 

The reason for this is security, as Kricheli explains: “Forgotten or unattended accounts often rely on old or re-used passwords that may have been compromised, haven't had two factor authentication set up, and receive fewer security checks by the user. 

“Our internal analysis shows abandoned accounts are at least 10x less likely than active accounts to have 2-step-verification set up. Meaning, these accounts are often vulnerable, and once an account is compromised, it can be used for anything from identity theft to a vector for unwanted or even malicious content, like spam.” 

That makes a lot of sense. And for people who haven’t used their Google account in some time, it may not be a big deal as an inactive account is likely in that state because it never gets used. 

However, some people may want to keep their Google account even if it’s hardly accessed in case they wish to migrate from using Apple or Microsoft's services to the Google ecosystem. 

Previously, it was the case that Google would delete the data stored in these inactive accounts. But this new policy is more of a nuclear option in that the whole account gets wiped. 

Here's how to not lose access to your Google account 

A Google account covers a huge range of services and software, from Gmail and Android to YouTube and Docs. So it’s a pretty powerful account to have.  

Furthermore, some might have used their Google account as cold storage for photos within Google Photos, then, say, swapped from Android to iPhone and thus started using Apple Photos. But if that Google account is left inactive for too long, all those photos could be lost as well. 

Of course, this is easily rectified by logging into your Google account. Simply do so via the Google Chrome browser. You may have to figure out what your password was, which could be a hurdle to cross (Google suggests you set up a backup email to ensure you can reset passwords if you forget your login credentials). 

But Google has other options to ensure you keep your account active. If you’re already signed in to your Google account on a compatible device, be it an Android phone or even a smart TV, then you could do one of the following to indicate that your account is active. 

  • Reading or sending an email
  • Using Google Drive
  • Watching a YouTube video
  • Downloading an app on the Google Play Store
  • Using Google Search
  • Using Sign in with Google to sign in to a third-party app or service

Google will also take a phased approach to deleting such accounts to ensure lax users don’t lose access to their accounts unfairly. Plus the policy will only come into action in December. 

And even then Google will send notifications to alert you to potential deletion. So if you want to keep an unused or backup Google account, you’ll have ample warning before it’s purged.

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Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.