Some people are digital minimalists, while others play free with multiples of files and folders. If you’re a Google Drive user who falls into the latter camp, heads-up—Google is planning to replace your duplicates with shortcuts instead.
The process begins this year, with notifications rolling out to affected users several weeks before the automatic conversion happens. You, unfortunately, can’t opt out of this switch. (Folks who are still using Google’s Backup and Restore software on their PCs may be able to delay the transition, though, as the company says it won’t take place until you migrate to Drive for Desktop.) When the change happens, replacements will be based on ownership of the file(s) and folder(s), with access and activity also taken into account to minimize disruption for shared items.
This policy shift, obviously, is most disruptive for people who prefer to make copies when sharing documents, but anyone who keeps extra copies of files and folders as protection against accidental deletions are affected, too. If you’re in the second group, you’ll now need to back up your files in a more conventional manner—that is, put copies of your files on a backup drive as well as storing them on other services.
The changeover comes with logistical nuances to be aware of, too. The full details are in Google’s FAQ page, with the level of complexity ranging from having to adjust file permissions on original files and folders (as their sharing settings and ownership won’t change) to navigating the visibility of shortcuts in shared folders (unlike the file and folders that were replaced, shortcuts are visible to all visitors, not just those who had permission to see and interact with the originals).
After you’ve been notified that the conversion is complete, you can review the list of affected files by typing
is:replaced into the Google Drive search bar, then make any manual adjustments needed (permissions, location, etc).