Google account: How to keep inactive Gmail, Drive and Photos accounts from being deleted - login and passwords

Here's how to keep your long-lost Google accounts if you want to hold onto precious data before they get deleted

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Google has announced it will begin deleting inactive accounts that have remained unused for two years or more next month, in an effort to mitigate security risks. The tech giant first revealed its plans back in May, but clarified at the time that the actual deletion of accounts would not commence until December 2023 at the earliest.

Upon the deletion of an account, the data and content associated with services such as Gmail, Google Drive or Google Photos may also be impacted. So, what can you do if you want to keep your account around? How can you save your data ahead of the purge? Here is everything you need to know.

Why is Google deleting accounts?

A man walks past the logo of Google in 2018 (Photo: ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images)A man walks past the logo of Google in 2018 (Photo: ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images)
A man walks past the logo of Google in 2018 (Photo: ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images)

Earlier this year, Google said its decision was informed by internal research, which revealed that older accounts are significantly more susceptible to issues such as phishing, hacking and spam. This vulnerability arises because they are less likely to employ contemporary security measures like passkeys or two-step verification, and are more likely to depend on reused passwords.

Dormant accounts can attract the attention of hackers, as when an account remains inactive, and its user does not actively monitor it, any suspicious activities or unauthorised access may go unnoticed. Hackers may seek to use these inactive accounts to gain entry into other services, initiate spam campaigns or impersonate the legitimate account holder.

The deletion of such accounts serves as a preventive measure against these forms of attacks. By eliminating inactive accounts, Google hopes it can mitigate the risk of unauthorised access and potential data breaches.

Inactive accounts might also retain personal or sensitive information that could be enticing targets for cybercriminals. Removing dormant accounts is a proactive measure to reduce the risk of data exposure, safeguarding personal information from unauthorised access. Keeping inactive accounts also requires the allocation of server space and other resources, which could otherwise be used to enhance the efficiency of Google's infrastructure, resulting in improved performance and cost-effectiveness.

How can I stop my account being deleted?

Owners of accounts at risk of deletion will receive multiple warning notifications before any action is taken. These notifications will be sent to both the account's email address and the recovery email if one has been given.

The company plans to remove inactive accounts in stages, with accounts that users created but never revisited being the first in the firing line. This will exclusively impact personal accounts to begin with, with businesses and institutions such as schools remaining unaffected by the account deletion process.

To safeguard your account from deletion, all you need to do is log in to your Google account or access any Google service. As an extra precaution to ensure that your account is not removed, you may want to interact with your account by reading an email, watching a video or performing a quick search to demonstrate to Google that you are actively "using" your account.

If you're happy with the idea of parting with your account but wish to retain the associated data and content in services like Gmail, Google Drive or Google Photos, Google offers users the option to export or retrieve the data before the account is deleted. Users are strongly advised to back up their crucial files or transfer them to another account.

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