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Say Goodbye to Your Neglected Google Accounts

There's still time to save Google Photos, Gmail and other accounts you haven’t used in two years


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Act fast if you want to save a Google account you haven’t signed into or used for at least two years. Google began purging inactive accounts, and any pictures, documents or other content stored within them, on Dec. 1 as part of a policy change that the tech giant announced back in May. ​

The new policy applies only to personal Google accounts and includes content stored in Google Workspace apps — Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet and Calendar — as well as Google Photos.

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​Google has no immediate plans to touch inactive business and school accounts. Also safe for now are accounts with YouTube videos, and those with a gift card balance or subscriptions to a news publication or app initially set up with a Google account. ​

Why the change?

​According to Google, forgotten or neglected accounts are more vulnerable to cyberattacks, possibly leading to identity theft, spam or malware. That’s because idle accounts may rely on old or reused passwords that could have been compromised along the way.

​ ​It’s fair to assume that if you’ve ignored an account for this long, you also haven’t kept up with account security. Google’s internal analysis shows abandoned accounts are at least one-tenth as likely as active accounts to have two-step-verification security measures in place, a layer of protection beyond passwords that typically involves a one-time code sent to your mobile device to prove it’s really you.​

How to keep your accounts active

​The obvious thing is to use these accounts before it’s too late. While you’re logged into your Google account:

  • ​​Read or send email.
  • ​Watch a YouTube video.
  • ​​Tap into Google Drive.
  • ​Download an app in the Google Play Store.
  • Use Google search.
  • Use Sign in with Google to sign into a third-party app or service. ​

​Keep in mind, if you have more than one Google account set up on your device, make sure each has been used within a two-year period.

​The first accounts on Google’s hit list are those that were created and never used again. So, while Google has started removing accounts, the new policy is being phased in, and you still may have a short window to save now-inactive accounts you’ve used in the past from extinction.

Now what?

​You have options. Google provides free tools to help you manage and back up your data.

​With the decade-plus-old Google Takeout tool, you can export a copy of content in a Google account for use with a service outside of Google, perhaps Google Drive docs you send to a cloud storage repository such as Dropbox.

​Google also advises folks to provide recovery emails that let you get back into a Google account if you can’t log in. Keep those emails up to date.

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