Google can delete your old accounts. Here’s how to stop it

On May 16, Google announced new plans to remove accounts that have been inactive for two years, as well as accounts that were created and never used (or used only briefly). Do you have an old Gmail account that collects cobwebs or a Google Photos account that stores vacation photos from years past? It’s time to start looking for those login credentials. If you haven’t logged in in the last two years, your account and everything in it could be deleted starting in December.

This change affects Google Calendar, Drive, Docs, Gmail, Meet, and Photos. Accounts with YouTube videos are a notable exception to the new removal policy, as are any accounts with active subscriptions (paying your bill counts as “activity”). Also, this change applies only to personal Google accounts, not profiles linked to companies or classrooms. (Hear that? It’s the collective sound of a thousand bosses and directors sighing in relief.)

Are you worried that your personal Google account will be vaporized? Here’s how to make sure your account is active and some quick tips in case you’ve forgotten your password.

How to prevent your account from being deleted

Stopping Google from deleting your account is easy, if you can remember the password. Just login. That’s all! No further action is necessary. According to the Google blog post From Ruth Kricheli, Vice President of Product Management, “If you’ve recently signed in to your Google account or any of our services, your account is considered active and will not be deleted.” Ok, pretty simple.

There’s no need to sign out and back in to the accounts you’re using just to be safe. This change is for accounts without “activity”. What does that mean for Google? Basically, anything you do with the account is considered activity, from doing a search with Google, reading an email in Gmail, or accessing a document with Google Drive. The goal here is to improve Google’s overall security by removing abandoned accounts, which are less likely to have strong, unique passwords or have two-factor authentication set up, Kricheli writes.

Wait, what’s my password?

Oh! Don’t give up yet. Maybe she forgot her password, but can she remember the username or phone number? Go here to start the account recovery process for most Google accounts and here for Gmail.

Are you still having trouble accessing your inactive account? Check out this article for advice from the Google account security team on what might be going on with your profile and some potential remedies. Before it’s removed, Google says it will send messages to the account’s primary email and recovery address. Similarly, if you’re the account manager for someone who can’t access it, or who has passed away and want to commemorate it, Google suggests using Google takeout to download the data for safekeeping, or configure the inactive account manager to provide access so that the account can remain accessible.

The first wave of deletions will remove accounts that were registered but then not used. When will the second wave of inactive account removals begin? The exact day remains unclear, so it’s a good idea to try to log in before December rolls around.

After the new policy takes effect, do you want to keep the old Google accounts that you use sparingly? Try setting a reminder on your calendar to log in and click every once in a while. Better yet, consider storing the data on a physical drive.