Google Drive has a secret file creation limit — what you need to know

Google storage
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Update: Google has since promised to roll back this change, posting on the Google Drive Twitter account that it was done to "preserve stability and optimize performance". It will now apparently "explore alternate approaches to ensure a great experience for all", and will endeavour to communicate future changes in advance.

Original story follows:

It doesn’t matter how many files you upload to Google Drive, provided you stay within your existing storage allowance, right? Sadly not, because it seems as though Google has now placed a 5 million file limit on Drive accounts — regardless of how much storage they all take up.

If you don’t have a particularly large amount of Google Drive storage, you’re not going to hit this limit very easily. Unfortunately, as Reddit user u/ra13 discovered, it’s more than possible to get there on the 2TB Google One Plan. Despite the fact all their files totalled out at 1.62 TB, they were unable to keep uploading. 

The Redditor also claims they had over 7 million files with zero issues before February 14 — after which they kept getting met with an “Upload Failed” error message.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be a bug. Speaking to Ars Technica, Google confirmed the 5 million file limit was done deliberately. Evidently this isn’t just a limit on how many files you have in your own drive, and is instead a cap on “items one user can create in any Drive.” 

Google also said this is a “preventative measure against potential "misuse of our system in a way that might impact the stability and safety of the system." The spokesperson claimed that the restriction would only affect a “vanishingly small” number of users”.

It's a hidden feature, but not in a good way

Image of Google Drive logo on a laptop screen

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

But as Ars Technica points out, this limit seems to apply to both individual and business users. 

Considering Google One offers up to 30TB of individual storage, and Workspace which includes plans that offer “as much storage as you need”, this 5 million file limit starts making even less sense.

u/ra13 also claims this limit doesn’t appear in any official documentation, and that it’s been sprung on users without warning. It’s apparently only recently that users have started receiving pop-up warnings notifying them of this change — and asking them to remove files to continue uploading new ones.

While limits on free storage aren’t uncommon, the people that are going to be affected by this are paying customers. If you’re paying up for 2TB of cloud storage you should be able to use the full 2TB — no matter what the demographics of those files might be.

While limits on free storage aren’t uncommon, the people that are going to be affected by this are paying customers.

Storing over 5 million files may be a logistical nightmare, but it’s not for us (or Google) to judge people for having so much stuff. Especially when enterprise users are involved.

So this is something to bear in mind if you’re a heavy Google Drive user. Personally if I had any hope of hitting 5 million files I’d be looking at another one of the best cloud storage services to migrate my stuff to. Ideally one that doesn’t impose such asinine limitations on every user account.

More from Tom's Guide

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.