How to Transfer Ownership of Google Drive Folder in 2021: Taking Control

Navigating Google's ownership system can be a difficult task. This guide on how to transfer ownership of a Google Drive folder will help you do just that.

Aleksandar Kochovski
By Aleksandar Kochovski (Editor)
— Last Updated: 2021-07-12T13:17:14+00:00

It’s an unfortunate situation. You’re working with someone and collaborating in Google Drive, but the relationship ends on a sour note. Now you’re left with a bunch of content that you’re not the owner of. You want to transfer ownership of the Google Drive folder to yourself, but to your dismay, it’s not as simple as it seems.

Key Takeaways:

  • If your former employee or contractor is on your company’s Google Workspace account, then transferring the ownership of a folder in Google Drive can be a relatively easy task.
  • Setting a new owner for a Google Drive folder gets a bit more complicated when the original owner is on a different Google account, but it’s not an impossible task.
  • If you’re set on staying with Google Drive, you have two options: pay to add your contractors and part-time employees to your Workspace or use “shared drives” instead.
  • If Google’s ownership system is too much for you, you can always switch to a service like Egnyte Connect, which makes user management a breeze.

Even if things do end well with your contractor, it’s still a hassle to transfer ownership of their files. It’s a common scenario, but it doesn’t have to be a painful one. In this article, we’ll guide you through how to transfer ownership of a folder in Google Drive, so you can avoid messy breakups with employees and contractors.

  • The short answer is yes, you can. However, it only works if you’re using a Workspace Enterprise account with the right privileges and if the person you’re transferring from is also on that same account.

  • If you have a Workspace Enterprise account, it’s easy to move files around and change ownership via the admin console. If that’s not the case, the process is quite a bit more involved and isn’t as easy as it seems.

  • Although you might think you’re the owner of your own files on Google Drive, that’s not always the case. If you’re collaborating with another person, even if it’s in a shared folder you created, they own any folders and documents they add to that folder.

Is It Possible to Transfer Ownership of Google Drive Folders?

You would think changing the owner of a folder is a simple procedure, but in reality it’s not that straightforward. If your company is using the Enterprise version of Google Workspace (formerly G Suite), but your contractor isn’t on that same account, there is no direct way to change the owner of their files and you have to use work-arounds that leave the job half done.

There are exceptions to this. If you’re the administrator of your company’s Workspace account, you can change the owner of any file or folder stored on that account, as long as it was created by someone on the same account.

Likewise, if your business uses a Workspace account, and your contractor or employee is on that same account, then they can transfer ownership of their files to other people within the company themselves.

The same goes for if you’re both using the regular Google domain (in other words, a “gmail.com” email address). However, this depends on the goodwill of the other person to actually transfer their files to you.

Can You Change the Owner of Any Google Drive File?

Unfortunately, you can only set a new owner for files created in Google apps. In other words, you can change the owner of Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings and My Maps. You can transfer ownership of a folder as well, but changing the owner of the folder won’t change the owners of the files within that folder.

However, this does not apply if the original owner is on your company’s Workspace account. In that case, the admin can transfer all of their files to another owner, although the original folder structures will be lost.

That said, there are several ways to transfer the ownership of a folder or file in Google Drive, though the results might not be fully satisfactory if you’re not on the same Workspace Enterprise account. Let’s jump right in to all the ways you can change the owner of a Drive folder.

How to Transfer Ownership of a Google Drive Folder Using Enterprise Features

If both your company and your contractor are on the same Workspace Enterprise account, the process is pretty easy and it’s all handled from the admin console in Workspace. We’ll give you a few steps that you can follow to change the owner of a folder, but first you need to make sure that you have everything you need.

  • Make sure that the original owner’s account is active — not deleted or suspended
  • Check to see that there is enough space in your own account to fit all the files you want to transfer
  • Make sure your Workspace account has the “Data Transfer” and “Drive and Docs” privileges enabled

Now that you have your house in order, let’s look at the steps to transfer ownership of a Drive folder.

  1. Log in to Your Workspace Admin Console

    In any web browser, go to admin.google.com and enter your login credentials.

    google drive admin email address
    If you want to transfer ownership of a folder to a new user, the first step is to enter the admin console.
  2. Enter the “Apps” Section of the Admin Console

    Now that you’re in the admin console, first enter the “apps” section. This will let you access all Google Apps, such as Google Docs and Drive.

    google apps documents
    In the admin console, the “apps” section contains all Google Apps, including Google Docs and Drive.
  3. Transfer Ownership of the Previous Owner’s Files

    While in “Drive and Docs,” click on “transfer ownership.” You will see two fields named “from user” and “to user.” Enter the original owner’s username in the “from user” field and the new user’s username (or your own) in the “to user” field. Then simply click on “transfer files” to finish the job.

    change old owner to new owner email address
    To change the owner of the files you want to transfer, enter the old owner’s email address in the “from user” field and the new owner’s email address in the “to user” field.

When everything is finished, the new user will see a folder appear in their personal Drive named with the previous owner’s email address. This folder will contain every file and document the old owner created within your company’s Workspace account. Both owners will receive an email notifying them of the transfer and the old owner will lose access to their files.

However, as we mentioned previously, this method is only valid if the person you’re transferring files from is on the same Workspace account as you. If that’s not the case, as it very often isn’t, you’ll have to look for an alternative way to transfer their files (we’ll tell you how to do that in a bit).

How Well Does Google’s Enterprise Folder Ownership Transfer Work?

If you’re moving files around within your company’s Workspace account, then you shouldn’t run into any major issues. The real problems arise when your contractor or employee is on a public email account and you are not. Another issue with this method is that folder structures aren’t preserved, so you’ll have to reorganize their files after they’re transferred.

Other Ways to Transfer Ownership of Google Drive Folders

If you’re not able to transfer the folders you want, to a new owner via the admin console, here are a few alternative ways you can still get the transfer done.

Use Shared Drives

The simplest way to transfer ownership of files and folders within Workspace is to not do it at all. If you’re confused by that statement, you’ve probably been going about this thing the wrong way. It’s all well and good if your organization wants its users to work in separate Drives, but trust us, the alternative is much less of a hassle.

workspace share drives
Using “shared drives” is an easy way to mitigate all of Google Drive’s ownership issues.

You see, Enterprise users have access to so-called “shared drives.” In these special Workspace folders, it’s the company that owns the shared files, not individual users, so issues over ownership never come up in the first place. So just have all your employees and contractors work in “shared drives” and all your ownership woes will go away.

Transfer Ownership via Sharing

If you’re not keen on changing your Drive’s structure to using “shared drives” there are still ways to transfer ownership. File sharing is a basic function of cloud storage, but Drive offers a few tidbits that give a little more depth to its sharing features, including changing the owner of a file or folder. The following method will require two things:

  1. Both the new owner and the original one have to be on the same Workspace account or at least on regular Gmail accounts
  2. The original owner will have to do most of the legwork, so their cooperation and availability is key

If you’ve checked off both of those things, you (or rather the person who owns the folder) can move on to the following steps.

How to Transfer Ownership via Sharing

  1. Share the Folder

    The first thing they have to do is share their folder with you. This is done by right-clicking on the folder and selecting “share.”

    workspace shared drives
    To change the owner of their folder, the original owner will first have to share the folder with you.
  2. Choose a New Owner

    In the sharing dialog box, they have to enter the new owner’s email address (your email address if they’re transferring ownership to you). Pressing the button that says “done” will finish the initial share.

    share drive folder email address
    Enter the email address of the person you want to share the folder with.
  3. Transfer Ownership of the Folder to the New Owner

    Now that the original owner has shared their folder with you, they can transfer ownership to you. To do this, they have to go into the sharing dialog box again (right-click on the folder and select “share”).

    Next to the new owner’s name, there will be a dropdown menu for setting permission levels (either “editor,” “commentor” or “viewer”). Clicking on that dropdown menu will reveal a new option called “make owner.” As the name not-so-subtly implies, this will transfer the ownership of the folder to the new owner.

    change new owner share
    Once you’ve clicked “make owner,” ownership of the folder will be transferred to the new owner.

Et voilà! You are now the owner of the folder. However, because everything makes perfect sense in Google Land, when you change the owner of a folder, it doesn’t transfer ownership of the files within the folder.

To do that, your former employee or contractor will have to go into the folder, select every file and repeat the sharing process. Oh, and that goes for every subfolder, too. Sounds fun, right?

Copy the Previous Owner’s Folders to Your Account

Now, this might be the least complicated way to transfer ownership, but there are some serious drawbacks to it. However, if you’re that desperate, it’s really the only option you have left. If your former contractor or employee is not quite willing to cooperate, you can take ownership of their files by simply copying them to your account.

  1. Select Every File in the Folder

    Google Drive doesn’t let you copy entire folders (of course), so the first step is to actually go inside the folder and select every file. Make sure you don’t accidentally select a subfolder, as that will remove the option to copy.

    select every document
    Select every file or document inside the folder, but avoid selecting any subfolders.
  2. Copy the Files

    Right-click on the files you’ve selected and choose “make a copy.”

    copy entire contents folder
    Copy the entire contents of the folder, again avoiding any subfolders.
  3. Move the Files and Documents to Your Own Folder

    The final step is to simply move the copies you’ve made to your own folder by right-clicking and selecting the “move to” option, then selecting either “my Drive” or any other folder you own from the menu. Be sure to select the copies and not the original files. The copies will have “copy of” before their file names.

    move copied documents
    Move everything you copied to your folder.

Unfortunately, this method comes with a few drawbacks. Any comments you’ve made in documents will disappear. The same goes for attached files in documents. Plus, if you use any productivity plugins that link to specific documents, they will all get unlinked. The old owner doesn’t lose access to the original files either, which can sometimes be a problem.

Alternatives to Google Drive: Transfer Folder Ownership Easily

If the whole process of changing folder ownership in Google Workspace seems too involved and complicated, that’s only because it is. Thankfully, you’ve got several options that do the job much better than Google.

MultCloud

multcloud add cloud
Multcloud lets you set a new owner by transferring folders from one account to another.

MultCloud is a cloud-to-cloud management platform that lets you handle multiple cloud accounts from one place. It’s far from a one-trick pony, though. One of the aces up its sleeve is moving files between different cloud services, and this option works for transferring files between different Google accounts as well.

Which means MultCloud can transfer the files from the folder in your company’s Google Drive account (that you’re not the owner of) to your own. This, of course, will also change the ownership to you. This comes with the same drawback as copying the files manually, so it might not fit the bill exactly. Read more about what Multcloud can do in our full Multcloud review.

Egnyte Connect

egnyte user management
Egnyte offers a host of third-party integrations, including both Google Apps like Workspace and Microsoft Office apps.

If all the issues with Google Drive’s ownership system are too much for you, you can always switch to a new cloud storage provider. Egnyte Connect is an excellent alternative that also happens to work with Google Docs and the rest of Google’s office apps, as well as Microsoft Office 360. Read our full review of Egnyte for more information.

Egnyte is a powerhouse for productivity and its features are geared specifically toward businesses. Besides the wealth of third-party apps it integrates with (including remote work staples such as Trello and Jira), it also has a user management system like no other. You can set permissions for users at every level and, best of all, there’s no trace of Google’s ownership shenanigans.

Final Thoughts

Transferring ownership of a folder in Drive can be a real pain in the rear. If you and the previous owner are on the same Workspace account, you have the right privileges and Jupiter and Venus are in just the right position in the sky, you may be able to go through the process with relative ease.

In most other cases, it’s gonna get messy. There are some roundabout ways to transfer ownership of a Drive folder, but most of them involve a few rolls of duct tape and some elbow grease. However, if you’ve managed to follow along with this guide, you’ve probably solved all of your Google Drive ownership issues.

Did you manage to transfer ownership of all your old employee’s files to your account? Have you had enough of Google’s ownership system and are ready to move on to better things (like Egnyte Connect)? Let us know in the comments below. As always, thank you for reading.