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Google backtracks on controversial changes to Google Drive

Google had quietly established a file creation limit on Drive that capped the number of files you could create per account at 5 million.

After receiving some negative feedback about the changes on Reddit, the company posted on Twitter that it has since retracted the change to “explore alternative approaches.”

We recently rolled out a system update to Drive item limits to preserve stability and optimize performance. While this impacted only a small number of people, we are rolling back this change as we explore alternate approaches to ensure a great experience for all.

— Google Drive (@googledrive) April 4, 2023

The company had implemented the new limit in February with no prior notice but never announced it publicly. The change had been put in place for all Google Workspace users, regardless of whether you paid for extra storage, several publications including Ars Technica and CNET reported.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Several users unceremoniously learned of the change when they realized they could no longer upload files despite paying for several terabytes of storage. One Reddit user detailed having seven million files in Drive with a 2TB storage plan. They received an upload failure notice and a directive to delete files before they could proceed to create new files. Currently, the primary resolution seems to be truncating files into zip folders.

At first, people seemed to think it was a bug and reported it to Google’s issue tracker, which was the biggest indicator that the change was done under the radar.

However, Google later confirmed that the limit is real, with Google spokesperson Ross Richendrfer telling The Verge that the company has made this move to “maintain strong performance and reliability” of Drive and to “prevent misuse” of the Google Workspace systems.

With the change in place, you would have received a notification once you had hit the limit, with instructions about contacting Google for support, the spokesperson added.

The only reprieve to the change was that the 5 million file cap did not include files that are shared to your Drive by other users, so you could have hosted a larger number of files as long as you’re not the original creator.

Still, this was particularly an issue because you would have had the potential to hit your file creation limit way before they run out of storage, and paying customers might be paying for more storage than they can even use. Ars Technica noted that “five million 4KB files would take up 20GB of storage,” and 30TB of storage could easily equate to billions of files.

With paid customers and Workspace business customers being Google’s bread and butter, this file creation limit could make customers rethink paying for storage, which is likely why Google ended up retracting it.

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Fionna Agomuoh
Fionna Agomuoh is a technology journalist with over a decade of experience writing about various consumer electronics topics…
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