Google Drive, shared files, and the best way to assume file ownership
April 2, 2024 12:08 PM   Subscribe

I need to take ownership of a bunch of files that have been shared with a Gmail account. I think I know how to do this, but would love a sanity check. Details below....

A team I'm on uses Google Drive. Until recently, there was no (Team) address, so members just shared files with each other; once the account was established, we've individually shared all of those files with the account over time so they are accessible on the Team account's Google Drive.

This is not an ideal set up for various reasons (e.g., many team members rolled off the team years ago, and if one of them decides to clean up their Drive and remove a file, the Team Drive will lose access to said file [right?] and it will be difficult to get back).

The most obvious solution to me is to download every file and folder that appears under "Shared with Me" on the Team's Drive, and save locally. Then, I'd remove all of those Shared files and folders from the Drive, and reupload them to the Team Drive from Team account so they'd appear actually ON the Team Drive (versus just being shared with it). From then on, we could share files with individual members but the Team account will always appear as the Owner of these files.

Is my thinking correct? I want to make sure I am not missing something before I take that critical step of removing all the shared files since, again, it will be very difficult to track down old members to get them back again. Thanks in advance for any insight or tips you can provide.
posted by lovableiago to Technology (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't think you need to download them locally - you should be able to just copy them right there in your Google drive. You can highlight multiple files all at once and copy them en masse. See screenshot here.

The real problem will be getting people to refer to and edit the new saved copies rather than the old shared copies! Once you have the files all copied, ask the original owners to delete the originals or at least retitle them "OLD VERSION DO NOT USE."
posted by mskyle at 12:23 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]

Oh or: the owner of the document can click on the little "folder" icon in the top bar and actually move the document into a shared drive. I'm not clear, though, on whether you have an actual "shared drive" or just a "drive that belongs to the 'team' account."
posted by mskyle at 12:28 PM on April 2

Is this actually a account or are you paying for Google Apps (or getting it for free in some way)? If it's the latter, you shouldn't need to download and re-upload, you should be able to move those files and folders directly. Google has instructions here.

If I understand what you are proposing correctly, you will end up with two copies of the files (one in the Shared Drive and one in someone's Drive), which is probably not what you want. The problem is that you can't delete a file from someone else's Drive, so even if they aren't shared with the Team account any more, they'll still exist in the original owner's Drive.
posted by ssg at 1:36 PM on April 2

Response by poster: Thanks folks; to clarify a couple things:

mskyle - If I copy all the files, it puts "Copy of" at the beginning of all the file names. To remove it would be time/effort-prohibitive. Also, assume I don't have a way to instruct most of the document owners around what to do on their end--they are effectively out of the picture.

ssg - The address is basically (Team)@(Larger The owners of all these individual docs are just random ex-members with addresses, not within the @(Larger domain so I don't think I'd have access to do what those instructions detail. And I actually don't care if there is still a copy on someone else's Drive--it's not a propietary or privacy issue--I just want Team to own its own copy so we're not subject to an individual's management of their own Drive (and thus at risk losing files someday). I'm hoping to avoid having two copies on our Team Drive by selecting "Remove" on the old versions once I get the local copies uploaded.
posted by lovableiago at 2:16 PM on April 2

In that case, I think you could most easily accomplish this by using Google Drive for Desktop. I believe that if you just copy and paste the files on your computer between the My Drive folder and the Shared Drives folder, you should get copies without the "Copy of" prefix.

Note that there is a permission that you might not have to move folders to Shared Drives (it's weird that this isn't a default permission, but your IT folks should be able to give it to you).
posted by ssg at 2:33 PM on April 2

The original owner can transfer ownership to a new owner.

I’d suggest doing that for any files managed by someone still on the team.
posted by nat at 7:14 AM on April 3

Seconding that how you do this is for the documents owner too transfer ownership to you.
posted by Iteki at 9:53 AM on April 3

Response by poster: It appears that the option to change ownership is not available to individual users (me); only G Suite Administrators.

My original question wasn't so much "is there a better option" as "is the way I'm wanting to do this going to cause any problems I may not be aware of".
posted by lovableiago at 12:20 PM on April 3

You definitely don’t have to be a G-Suite admin , but you maybe do need to be using an account through an institution that uses Gsuite.

(I transferred ownership of six files just last week, the instructions here worked fine, but I was transferring between two accounts at a gsuite-using institution. There’s no way anybody would have given me any special admin rights, though).
posted by nat at 4:49 AM on April 4

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