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Be careful moving shared Google Drive files and folders!

Please also see the knowledge base article on Google Drive for an overview of Google Drive use. Also see Google Team Drive (part of Google Drive) to see if this makes more sense for your collaborative project.

Moving content from shared Google Drive folders

Here’s what happens when users move items from a shared Google Drive folder.

A file or folder in Google Drive can be moved by dragging it to a new location or by selecting the item and clicking the Move to folder icon.

Moving a file or folder from a shared folder into My Drive (or any other folder) is a move and not a copy, so the moved content is removed from the shared folder. As a result:

  • Users will no longer see the moved files or folders in the shared folder.
  • Any permissions on the moved content that were inherited from the shared folder will be removed, and new permissions will be inherited from the destination folder (together with permissions explicitly set on a file or folder).
  1. A file has been shared with users A and B.
    Users A and B have access to the file, regardless of its location.
  2. The file is stored in folder X, which has been shared with users A and C.
    Users A, B, and C have access to the file.
  3. The file is moved to folder Y, which has been shared with user D.
    Users A, B and D have access to the file, but user C no longer sees it in folder X and no longer has access to the file.
Notifications when moving files

When a user moves a file from a shared folder to My Drive, the user sees a warning before the move takes effect. This helps reduce the risk of a user accidentally moving files and removing access from other users.

If the user proceeds with the move, they will see another message notifying them of the change and giving them a chance to undo it.

In addition, users can track activity for files and folders in My Drive to see the history of changes that have taken place, including notices when files are moved. This means if you share a folder from My Drive and someone moves an item out of the shared folder, you can see a notice in the activity history that the file was removed. The notice also tells you who moved the file, and when.

Why does it work like this?

Google Drive uses the folder metaphor, which states that a file exists in one place. So when you drag a file from one folder to another folder, you remove it from one folder and add it to another. All the permissions that the file inherited from the shared folder are lost and all the permissions from the new folder will be inherited. This is different than how labels work in Gmail or how shortcuts work on computer operating systems.

Google Drive works like this because allowing users to easily put files into multiple folders can cause sharing and deletion complications. It can also make it less obvious to users what will happen to a file they delete, edit, or share.

What should you do?

Organizations that use shared folders extensively have dealt with this in different ways. The best solution depends on your specific scenario.

  • Lock down your shared folders to ‘Can view’ access only. If a user only has view access to a folder, they can’t remove or add files to it. This is the safest way to ensure someone doesn’t add or remove content from a shared folder. However, it means you’d need to develop a business process to identify people with the Can edit sharing setting for a shared folder. Alternatively, you might want to educate your users to be careful about granting edit access to shared folders.
  • Don’t move files or folders to ‘My Drive’ that are already in a folder. Doing so will remove it from the folder. To avoid having content removed from shared folders, you might instruct your users to not move anything fromShared with Me to My Drive if it’s already in a folder.If you see a folder name to the right of a file in the Shared with Me view, the file is in a folder.
    Shared with Me is not a folder, so you can safely move a top-level item from Shared with Me to My Drive and it won’t affect anyone else (as you’re not moving anything out of a folder). However, if you click into a folder in Shared with Me and then drag an item from the folder into My Drive, that item will no longer be in the folder (for you or anyone else). To prevent users from accidentally moving a shared folder, it’s a good rule of thumb to never drag a file into My Drive.
  • Advanced users can add the file to ‘My Drive’ instead of moving it. This is not a copy of the file. It’s literally the same file located in multiple folders. For example, renaming the file in My Drive will rename it for everyone and sharing it will share the original file with anyone the added file is shared with.Users can do this by selecting a file and then pressing Shift+Z to display the “Add To” dialog box.

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