A Guide to Migrating Google Drive Files from One Google Account to Another

by Denise Hazime on December 15, 2016

 

If you are looking at migrating Google Drive files from one Google account to another, it’s a bit of a process, but one worth looking into if you are nearing your file size limit on a free Google account and want to copy everything to a business account, or for any other purpose. If you are a Google for Education student user, Google has made this process simple with the recent introduction of Graduation for Google for Education users, which allows you to migrate your digital work in Google for Education to a personal Google account. Unfortunately, it is not available for other Google account types yet. This process is also not helpfully described in any of Google’s support documentation as of December 2016. We spoke with Eric Downing, one of UpCurve Cloud’s Certified Deployment Specialists for G Suite, to get the details on how to perform a proper Google account migration.  

Three Important Things to Keep in Mind Before Performing a Bulk Migration

The first thing to keep in mind, according to Downing, is that short of paying for a license for a specialized tool, there is no automated way to migrate from a consumer account to a business account. The second thing is formatting; if you have files that aren’t formatted as Google Docs, your formatting will be off if you convert it to a Google Doc format during the transition. However, there is a way to mitigate that we will get into when going through the process. Last, if you share files with other people, you’ll need to record your sharing & permission settings manually then re-assign them once you have made the transition. Short of writing a script that talks to Google’s Drive API, there is no user-friendly method to export access control lists (ACLs) from a consumer Google account. To break that down simply, note the following before you begin:

  • Don’t waste your time looking for a free automated tool to perform the migration
  • Be prepared to lose formatting if something goes wrong
  • Write down sharing and permission settings manually if they are important to preserve

The Ideal Method for Those With a Mix of File Formats: Both of Them

If you have both Google App files and other formats of files in your old Google Drive, the best practice is to use method one (outlined below) for your Google-formatted documents, and method two (also outlined below) for the rest. While this is a bit more finicky, you’ll be sure to preserve your formatting for your non-Google formatted files.  

Google Account Migration Method One: The Manual Process

Put everything in an Export folder

You probably don’t want to export everything, but if you do, select all your folders and drag them into a new folder in your root (top) directory named “Export”. This will make it possible for you to download all your files at once, a process which is detailed below.

Downloading your Export folder

Once you’ve created your Export folder and moved all your Drive contents into it, right-click the folder and select “Download…”.

Depending on the amount of files you are downloading, it will take some time for Google’s servers to compress the files into a downloadable .zip file. Keep an eye on the progress indicator at the bottom right of the screen.

It is important to note that Google formatted documents will be automatically converted to their respective Microsoft format, so Sheets to Excel, Slides to PowerPoint, and so on while other types of documents will be migrated as-is. Don’t worry though, you will have the option of converting them back to Google format in a later step. If you’re concerned about losing formatting during this conversion process, then you should take a look at Method 2, below.

Expand your zip file and upload everything to your new account

Once Google has finished compressing your files and folders, the file will begin downloading to your computer, depending on your download settings. Be prepared to wait for a few minutes especially if you have lots of stuff in your Drive. Locate the downloaded .zip file, expand it, and you should see your old folder structure.   Open the Google account you want to migrate to, and go to your “Settings” tab, which is accessible by clicking the gear icon at the top left. You will then see a setting which reads “Convert files”, and this is where it might get tricky for you. Remember that during the download process any Google formatted files were automatically converted to Office format. You’ll probably want to convert these back to their original Google Drive format. If this is the case, then make sure the “Convert Uploads” box is checked.  

 

Next, navigate to Google Drive, and select all within the expanded folder on your desktop and drag your selection into your new Google Drive account folder; this will preserve your hierarchical file structure. Once the Google Drive app finishes syncing your files and folders you are ready to go. To free up space in your personal account, you may want to go back and delete the Export folder, but only after you’ve verified that all of your files made it through the process. You can do this by doing a side-by-side comparison of your Google Drives by signing in to each account in a separate instance of Chrome.  

Method 2 - Google Drive Desktop Client App

When and when not to use this method

This method is much easier to use if you’ve already been using the Google Drive desktop client app on your computer, and if you are using Google Drive to simply store files that aren’t formatted for Google Apps (e.g. no Google Docs, Sheets or Slides files). If your Drive contains any files formatted for Google Apps, you’ll want to use the manual process above for them and this method for your non-Google formatted files. If you haven’t already installed the Google Drive app, you’ll need to download and install it and sync up files before you perform the migration. This is almost as tedious as method one, but worth it if creating an export folder vaults you over your allotted personal account file size limit, or if you are a bit paranoid about potential file conversions where you don’t want them, since this method does not convert files during import or export.  

Disconnect and reconnect the app

Assuming you have the app installed and synced to your personal account, disconnect it from your personal account and reconnect it to your new business account. If the Google Drive application doesn’t automatically create and select a new folder IE - “Google Drive(1)”, then you’ll want to specify one manually. Otherwise, the Google Drive app will merge the contents of your old Google Drive download with the one you are connecting in this step. While this might sound like exactly what you want to do, to avoid any confusion, let’s keep them in separate locations for now. Select everything in the old Google Drive folder, and drag or paste it into the new Google Drive folder so it syncs with your new instance of Google Drive.  

When in Doubt: Hire a Professional to Do it for You

Downing threw in a note of caution for the layperson attempting this migration. “This really isn’t a process for the faint of heart, especially if your data is important to you. We have a proprietary tool that does all of this for you and retains sharing permissions so we can do it in one operation - it takes the guesswork out of it.” Even if you didn’t purchase your Google services through UpCurve Cloud, we can manage this process for you - Downing may even be the guy who handles it if you hire us. Contact us today for more information on handling Google account migrations professionally without data loss. 

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Denise Hazime
VP of Alliances at UpCurve Cloud
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