Transfer Ownership of Google Drive Files Owned by Someone Who Left U-M


This article guides individuals/departments/units on how to transfer ownership of Google Drive files/folders owned by an individual who has already left and is no longer at U-M.



U-M Google, Drive


  • Some of my Google files/folders were owned by an individual who left the university. I need them transferred to me/another individual at U-M. What should I do?
  • I've lost access to Google files/folders owned by an alum/retiree. Their account was suspended because they remained over their storage limit, and the data is now at risk of being deleted. How do I regain access to and transfer ownership of these files/folders to me/another individual at U-M?


It is critical that your department/unit works with the departing individual as part of offboarding to have ownership of university business-related files/folders transferred to another individual at U-M or, preferably, a Google shared drive owned by your unit before they leave. If this has not happened and ownership still needs to be transferred even though the individual has already departed, follow the suggestions below based on the specific situation.

Important: The following suggestions require you to know whether the departed individual still has access to their U-M Google account or not. You can check their affiliations by searching for their name or uniqname in the MCommunity Directory and viewing their profile. If they still have affiliations, such as alum, retiree, or a remaining role in a different unit, then follow the suggestions in the “has access” section below. Otherwise, follow the suggestions in the “doesn't have access” section.

Note: If you have lost all access to files/folders owned by an alum/retiree, their account was most likely suspended because they exceeded their Google storage limit. Follow the suggestions in the "doesn't have access" section for this situation. (If you can still view the alum/retiree's files/folders in Google Drive, then follow the suggestions under the "has access" section.)

The individual still has access to their Google account

The departing individual may still have access to their Google account if they are a U-M alum or retiree (who keep their Google accounts when they leave) or have other remaining roles that grant them access to their account (such as a sponsorship in a different unit). 

If this is the case, the best course of action is to ask your department/unit to reach out to the individual who owns the files and request that they transfer ownership themselves.

Follow the steps in Article ID: 9248 for instructions on gathering a list of links to files (and folders) that need to be transferred to then share it with the departed individual. Ask them to refer to Transfer Ownership of Files and Folders in Google Drive for instructions on how to transfer ownership of files (and folders) to another individual within your team and/or to a Google shared drive owned by your team.

Remember: Ownership is not cascading in Google. If the individual only transfers ownership of a folder that contains files you need, the ownership of all files/folders within that folder does not change. The individual will need to transfer ownership of every file and folder within the folder structure.

The above reminder is just one of many reasons that ITS recommends using Google shared drives for storage of university data (specifically Google file types, like Docs, Sheets, and Slides) to ensure your department/unit does not lose access to or ownership of important files/folders when an employee leaves. Instructions for transferring ownership of data to a shared drive are provided in the documentation referenced above.

The individual doesn’t have access to their Google account (i.e., suspended)

No longer affiliated with U-M

If the individual no longer has access to their Google account because they left and are no longer affiliated with U-M (and aren't an alum or retiree), there is a 90-day period beginning on the day they lose all affiliations before the account and its associated data are deleted.

Refer to Claim Data Owned By Non-Affiliated Google Accounts for more information on transferring ownership of their data.

  • The documentation includes a link to an ITS tool where you can view a list of non-affiliated accounts who own files on which you are an Editor.
  • You should thoroughly consider each account and their affected files to determine whether the files should be kept or not. If a file hasn't been accessed in months/years, and the only reason to keep it is "just in case," it's probably time to let it be deleted.

Alum/retiree over their storage limit

The Google accounts of alumni and retirees who exceed their 15GB storage limit are considered abandoned, suspended, and scheduled for deletion. All sharing on their owned files/folders is also removed to alert collaborators like you of pending deletion. If you have lost all access to files/folders owned by an alum/retiree with whom you were collaborating, their account was likely suspended because of this process.

To regain access to and transfer ownership of this data, the best course of action is to reach out to the owner and request that they reactivate their account and transfer ownership themselves ASAP.

Remember that the owner does not have direct access to their U-M email and may not have set up mail forwarding before graduating/retiring, so you should reach out using any method you have other than their email address, such as a phone number or external chat service you've used to communicate with them previously.

If you CAN get ahold of them and they agree to help, refer to the steps above under the "has access" section. If you CANNOT get ahold of them, the process will take longer, and you will need to request assistance from ITS.

Request Assistance from ITS

If none of the above resolve your issue, and you are a faculty/staff or student with a university job, work with your unit HR representative to have them complete the Access to Employee-Held Data for U-M Units form, and an ITS staff member will assist you.

If you are a student who has no HR representative (i.e., you have never worked for the university), you should request assistance from IT User Advocate.

Additional Information

Review Leaving U-M for additional information on processes that occur when someone leaves the university.

Need additional information or assistance? Contact the ITS Service Center.



Article ID: 9249
Mon 11/7/22 12:03 PM
Thu 3/14/24 4:13 PM

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This article provides information on the Google message someone might notice when a file owner's account is over its storage limit: "The file is view-only. No edits can be made to this file. Contact file owner for details."
This article provides instructions for transferring ownership of files and folders in Google Drive. It includes instructions for both transferring to another individual account OR to a Google shared drive.
This article guides departments/units on how to gather a list of files/folders a departing employee owns and share it with the departing employee to request that they transfer ownership back to the unit.