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Cornell University

Google Drive Orphaned Content

Why it happens and how to manage it

This article applies to: File Storage at Cornell

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The term “orphaned content” is used to describe items left behind when their owner left the university without transferring ownership to someone else.

When materials are orphaned, the owner will be shown as DELETED USER, followed by the previous owner's name. If you hover over the item, you will see the owner’s email address with “formerly-” added to the beginning.


Searching for Orphaned Content

You can execute a Google Drive search for all content that is shared with you that is pending deletion so you can determine if anything you depend on is at risk.

The above link is a shortcut for the advanced search (shown in the image below).

Google Advanced Search Window

Preserving Orphaned Content

The simplest method is to make a copy of the content for yourself. Download the content shared with you and upload it into your own Drive. 

For complex situations when multiple people are sharing a repository of information, CIT may be able to help relocate the data. This is very time-consuming, so we’ll ask you to try making a copy before requesting this assistance. Contact the IT Service Desk for assistance.

Avoiding Orphaned Content from Staff Turnover

A Google Shared Drive can be set up where ownership is group-based, rather than individual-based. Faculty and staff can request a Shared Drive by submitting a ticket to the IT Service Desk. Student organizations must ask a faculty member to request and sponsor the shared drive on their behalf.

I can't find a folder that I previously saw in My Drive or Shared with Me. Is it gone?

It's probably still available to you, but it may have moved. In the Google search bar, type the name of the item, some text you know is in the content, or the owner of the item prefixed by the word “owner” and a colon. For example, owner:pqs665 or owner:phil

Please see Google’s search instructions for additional search techniques.

Can there be more than one owner for a folder or file?

No. While there can be multiple editors and viewers, there can be only one owner. 


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