Google added file limits to Drive secretly

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 1, 2023

For the past two months, some Google Drive customers have been locked out from using the service. These users have received error message about file quotas on Google Drive.

Messages such as "Error 403: This account has exceeded the creation limit of 5 million items. To create more items, move items to the trash and delete them forever." are shown to users.

Google rolled out the limit without public notification and the official documentation does not list such a limit. The issue affects all users of the service, but for the most part paying customers who are subscribed to the largest terabyte plans available.

Customers who were hit with the message initially thought that they ran into a bug, but Google did not fix the issue in the two months the file limits were active.

Google did respond to an Arstechnica article recently. The company confirmed in a statement that the 5 million files cap was "a safeguard to prevent misuse of our system in a way that might impact the stability and safety of the system". Google noted that the file limit applies to any Drive a user has access to, not each individual drive.

A 5 million file limit may look like an unreachable number for most computer users, but even free accounts may hit the limit if they just uploaded small text files or other small files to the service.

5 million 1 kilobyte text files are enough to hit the limit, and they would occupy 5 gigabytes of space on Google Drive. Even larger files, say 1 Megabyte files, would just require 5 terabyte of storage on Google Drive.

Google One customers may subscribe to 10, 20 and 30 terabyte plans, which are priced between $49.99 and $149.99 per month. Google Workspaces plans have a 5 terabyte storage limit, but Enterprise customers have options to increase the limit to "as much storage" as needed.

Google has not updated the official Google Drive documentation at the time. The company has documented other file limits, most notable the Google Drive sharing limit, which is 400,000 items, on Google Support articles.

Google customers are hit with the notification without prior warning. Google Drive does not provide information on the number of files stored by a particular user, and there is no warning when a user is getting close to the 5 million files limit on Google Drive.

While most Google Drive users will never reach the limit or come even close to it, Google clearly has implemented the change in a customer-unfriendly manner. The change was implemented without prior announcement, and documentation was not updated to reflect the new limit. Customers were left guessing for two months, and they would probably still be guessing were it not for the Arstechnica report on the matter.

Google is rolling out a new design for Google Drive currently.

Google added file limits to Drive secretly
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Google added file limits to Drive secretly
For the past two months, some Google Drive customers have been locked out from using the service. These users have received error message about file quotas on Google Drive.
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  1. VioletMoon said on April 2, 2023 at 12:47 am

    18675 files are on my computer, and I admit I’m not that great at housekeeping.

    Honestly, can’t imagine 5,000,000 files; it’s a situation that Google never theoretically considered. Who stores 5,000,000 1kb files–for fun? Circus porn? Animated GIFs? Personal historical archive?

    If I were Google, I’d make the amount even smaller. Over 100,000 files–the person can go elsewhere with the trash. Take a class in prioritizing. Those same people most likely have drives and drives stacked around the home thinking it’s important trash. Toss the drives, slim down.

    And, a far reach, but most likely they rent storage sheds to keep more rubbish that they can’t part with [tears, sentimental BS]. Past life artifacts.

    And make it clear that the Drive isn’t meant for backups, or promote a special Drive for backups.

    “dir /s /a-d c:”

    It’s called “hoarding disorder”: Yes, it’s a real “mental disease”!

    “Hoarding disorder is an ongoing difficulty throwing away or parting with possessions because you believe that you need to save them. You may experience distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. You gradually keep or gather a huge number of items, regardless of their actual value.”

  2. Andy Prough said on April 1, 2023 at 6:48 pm

    The CIA and NSA mass surveillance computers can probably only process 5 million files in a batch. So Google is probably simply helping out their spy agency business partners here. Otherwise the backdoors Google builds into its cloud products would be like a firehose, overwhelming the spy agency computers.

  3. Tachy said on April 1, 2023 at 4:40 pm


    Having not read that other article, did Google actually say this was a ‘change’, recent or otherwise?

    Perhaps this limit has always been there and no one had hit 5m files until now.

  4. Bobby Phoenix said on April 1, 2023 at 3:50 pm

    5 million items? HOW? I’ve had my account since 2010, and I just checked my “items”, and I have just over 2,000 (two thousand). How can you have over 5 million?

    1. ipnonymous said on April 1, 2023 at 5:07 pm

      system backups?

  5. Dave said on April 1, 2023 at 1:08 pm

    Anything the least bit “sensitive” is RAR encrypted with a strong password here. I don’t trust them with that sort of data.

  6. Anonymous said on April 1, 2023 at 8:19 am

    Someone who uses the cloud does not have my sympathies. You still fall for the tricks of these ruthless tech companies.

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