Google Drive Shared Folder Quota Issues

Google Drive Shared Folder Quota Issues

Recently, I ran into this issue with Google Drive where it wouldn’t let me upload content to a folder shared with me by a friend. This friend in question had lots of space available on his drive account and I was only uploading content worth a fraction of the available space. But every attempt to upload the files would fail with an error message: “Not enough storage quota to upload. Upgrade Storage”

Google Drive error message when uploading to a shared folder
Error message when trying to upload to a shared folder. Click for full-size image.

The friend that had shared the folder with me, had more than 12GB of available space in his account. And the content I was uploading to this drive was about 4GB. So, you’d expect it to work, right?

Any normal person would expect that since I was uploading to someone else’s shared folder, the data would count against their quota. So did I. But as it turns out, Google Drive has a very unique (or should I say weird) way of treating such cases.

How does Google Drive Compute A User’s Storage Quota

Google Drive calculates storage quotas based on the ownership of files. Where those files are actually stored, does not matter. Their size would count against the storage quota of the file owner irrespective of the upload location. And when you upload a file, obviously, you are assumed to be the owner of the uploaded file. Thus, no matter where you upload a file, you can never upload more data than your own account allowance.

You can view the ownership of any file by right-clicking it and selecting “Share”. In the resulting dialog box, click the “Advanced” link. The current owner of the file has the label “Is owner” to the right of their name:

Advanced sharing settings dialog showing current owner. Click for full-size image.

Google does allow you to change the owner of a file, if the file in question is a Google document, i.e., a Google doc, Google spreadsheet or a slide. To change the owner of such a file, click the Pen icon against the name of the person you want to make the owner and select the “Is Owner” option from the drop-down menu and click Save Changes. Google Drive will ask you for a confirmation and once you click Yes, the file’s ownership will be transferred.

Be careful while doing this though, because once you transfer the ownership of a file to somebody else, you will no longer be able to change it back unless that person does it for you.

Transfer ownership of a Google file.
Transfer ownership of a Google file. Click for full-size image.

Also, the above method is only applicable to Google file types. You cannot, for example, change the ownership of an image file.

Google must have their reasons for this behavior, but it’s very confusing from a user’s perspective, and reduces the usability of Drive. What’s the point of having cloud storage, if you cannot use it to collate pictures from friends?

To make matters worse, Google does not make this information easily available. I had to dig deep into Google’s consumer forum to find a clue. There I found other people facing the same issue and figuring stuff out on their own. So, I did some of my own experiments to confirm the theory and decided to document it all here in case this helps someone.
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