This article provides a Google Drive vs shared drive comparison, along with the different ways in which an admin can manage shared drives. It also explores the various options availbale to recover permanently deleted shared drive files.

What Is a Shared Drive?

Shared drive (formerly known as Team Drive) is a shared space that allows teams to create, store, search, and access files anywhere from any device.

Unlike files in My Drive, files in shared drive belong to the team instead of an individual. Even if one of your teammates decides to leave, the file stays in the Shared drive making it accessible to the team, so that the team can continue with the work.

This feature is available for the given subscription plans of Google: Business Standard and Plus, Enterprise, Education and Enterprise for Education, Nonprofits,G Suite Business, and Essentials.

Note: Organizations that signed up for G Suite before July 2017 might need to turn Shared drives on for their domain or specific organizational units.

Shared (Team) Drive Basics

Let’s get some basics nailed down first.

 Who is an Owner of a shared drive?

Any user who creates shared drive folders or who has been given the role of ‘Manager’’ by the creator and has complete control over the drive including the permission to do the following:
a) Add/delete members to/from the shared drive.
b) Manage settings in shared drive.
c) Delete the entire shared drive.

Who is a User?
Any user of the G Suite organization.

Shared Drive Vs. Google Drive

Similarities between Shared Drive and Google Drive

  • Both the drives contain files and folders and can be created by any user. (Admin needs to turn on the Shared drive feature via admin panel.)
  • In both, the ‘owner’ or other users who have permission can access the drive. 
  • In both, the ‘owner’ can add/delete users to the files. 
  • Users with appropriate permissions can create, move, edit, comment on, view, and delete files, and also change the settings in the drive.

Key Differences between Shared Drive and Google Drive

  • Who owns files and folders?

Shared drive: The team

My Drive: The individual who created the file/folder

  • Can I restore files?

Shared drive: Yes, you can restore files in a Shared drive if you are the  Manager, Content Manager, or  Contributor of that particular Shared drive. Click here to know the different ways in which you can do this.

My Drive: Yes, if you created the file.

  • Can I move files/folders?

Shared drive: 

      Within shared drives: Yes, if you have the Manager or  Content Manager role in the shared drive.

       From My Drive to shared drives: 

You can move files from My Drive to a shared drive if you are the owner of the file, and have the Manager, Content Manager, or Contributor role in the Shared drive. You cannot move folders from My Drive to shared drive.

     From shared drive to shared drive: Yes, if you have the Manager role in both shared drives.

My Drive: Yes

  • File/folder sharing and visibility :

Shared drive: All team members (at the shared drive level) see the same set of files/folders. It is possible to share at the file and folder levels with someone not in your shared drive for more granular permissions.

My Drive: Different people might see different files in a folder, depending on their access to individual files. It is also possible to share at the folder level inside My Drive.

  • How long do deleted files stay in Trash?

Shared drive:

Each shared drive has its own Trash folder. Only members with the role of Manager or Content Manager can delete files. After 30 days, all files/folders in the trash are permanently deleted.

My Drive: 

Files in the My Drive Trash folder are permanently deleted after 30 days.

  • Inherited permissions:

Shared drive: Permissions set on a specific file in My Drive will be transferred when migrated to a shared drive.

My Drive:  Permissions at the folder level are passed down to files created in the folder.

My Drive vs Team Drive – Created by Me

my drive vs. shared drive

My Drive (Shared with Me) vs Team Drive (Member)

my drive vs. shared drive

How Do I Know If I Have Permission to Create a Shared Drive?

  • Step 1 : Open your Google Drive.
  • .Step 2 : Check if the Shared drives option is visible or not.
  • Step 3 : If yes, click on the option and try creating a new Shared drive folder.
  • Step 4 : Only if you have the permission, you will be able to create a Shared drive folder.
shared drives

What Should I Do If I Don’t Have the Permission to Create a Shared Drive?

If you don’t have the permission to create a shared drive, then ask your administrator to enable the shared drives option in the Admin console.

How Can an Admin Enable the Shared Drive?

  • Step 1 : Go to Admin console.
  • Step 2 : Go to ‘Apps > G Suite > Drive and Docs’. Make sure that ‘Drive and Docs’ is turned ‘ON’.
turn on drive and docs

 You can turn a service on or off for a specific organizational unit. To do so, select the organizational unit under the “Organizational Units” section on the left. Select On or Off. Choose “Override” if you want to keep the same settings for the child organizational unit even if the settings for the parent organizational unit is changed. Otherwise, choose “Inherit” where the settings are reverted to the same settings as its parent. To learn more about organizational structure, click here.

  • Step 3 : Select “Sharing settings.” Select the desired organizational unit.
Google Drive vs shared drive:select sharing settings
  • Step 4: Under “Shared Drive Creation,” uncheck the option “Prevent users in (your domain) from creating new shared drives.”
shared drive creation
  • Step 5: Click “Save.” It might take 24 hours for the changes to take effect.

How to Create a Shared Drive

  • Step 1: Open your Google Drive.
  • Step 2: On the left, click ‘Shared drives’ > ‘+New’.
    (You can also right click on “Shared drives” and click on “New shared drive..”)
  • Step 3: Give an appropriate name and click “CREATE.”
Google Drive vs shared drive : create shared drive

To add members to your shared drive and set access levels:

Note: This requires manager access.

  •  Step 3: Open one of your shared drives. Click “Manage members” at the top right-hand corner.
manage members of a shared drive
  • Step 4:  Add members to your shared drive. You can also assign specific roles to the newly-added members. Click “Send.”
add members to a shared drive

 By default, new members are Content managers. They can upload, edit, move, or delete all files. You can change this using the drop-down arrow next to “Content manager.

How Do I Manage My Shared Drive?

If you created a shared drive (or is the Manager of it), you can manage and control your shared drive data by assigning specific roles to your team members accordingly. 

Shared Drive Roles and Permissions

Google clearly defines each shared drive role and its corresponding permissions in their support page. Check it out below:
Permission Manager Content manager Contributor Commenter Viewer
Can view files and folders
Can comment on files  
Can edit files    
Can create and add files, can create folders    
Can add people and groups to specific files    
Can restore files from the Trash (up to 30 days)    
Can move files from My Drive to a shared drive    
Can move files and folders to the Trash      
Can move files and folders within a shared drive      
Can add people and groups to specific folders in a shared drive        
Can move files from one shared drive to another shared drive        
Can add or remove members of a shared drive        
Can change member access levels        
Can permanently delete files in the Trash      


 Can I Delete Files in a Shared Drive?

Yes, if you are the  Manager or Content manager of a shared drive, you can delete the files in that shared drive.

By default, all new members added to a shared drive are assigned the role of Content manager. However, if your role is changed to that of a Viewer, Commenter, or Contributor, then you won’t have the permission to delete the files. 

To delete a file/ Move a file to Trash:

  • Step 1:Open the shared drive and right-click the file/folder you want to delete.
  • Step 2:Click “Delete For everyone.” You will be asked for confirmation. Select “DELETE FOR EVERYONE” to confirm.
move a shared drive file to trash
Note: The file/folder moves to the shared drive’s Trash folder. Files/folders in a shared drive’s Trash folder are automatically deleted after 30 days.

To permanently delete a file in Trash:

This requires Manager access.

  •    Step 1:Go to the shared drive’s Trash folder, right-click the file you want to delete and select “Delete forever.”
  •    Step 2:Click “DELETE FOREVER” to confirm.
permanently delete a shared drive file

How to Recover Files from Shared Drive Trash Folder?

This requires at least Contributor access and needs to be done within 30 days from the date of deletion.

  • Step 1: Go to Shared drives. Select the specific shared drive and go to the Trash folder.
  • Step 2:  Right-click the file/folder you want to restore and select “Restore.”
restore from trash
This will restore the file/folder back to the shared drive.

How to Recover Permanently Deleted Shared Drive Files Using G Suite Native Features?

There are two ways in which an admin can recover permanently deleted shared drive files:

  1. Recovering deleted shared drive files from admin console
  2. Recovering deleted shared drive files using Google Vault

Option 1 – Recover Permanently Deleted Shared Drive Files from the Admin Console

Admin can recover permanently deleted shared drive files from the admin console within 25 days from its date of deletion from the Trash folder. 

  • Step 1: Sign in to your Google Admin console.
    From the Admin console Home page, go to Apps > G Suite >Drive and Docs.
  • Step 2: Click “Manage shared drives.”
manage shared drives
  • Step 3: Hover over a shared drive and click the “Restore” button.
restore a shared drive
  • Step 4: Select a date range for the data restore. If you’re restoring a shared drive and want to restore all the files that were in the shared drive when it was deleted, you must select the date it was deleted up to the current date.
select date range
  • Step 5: Click “RESTORE DATA.”

Option 2 -Recover Permanently Deleted Shared Drive Files Using Google Vault

To know how Google Vault works, click here

  • Step 1 : Log in to Google Vault using your admin credentials – click here to open Google Vault.
  • Step 2 : Navigate to the ‘Matters’ option on the left pane and select a pre-existing matter where you have already held the data.
  • Step 3 : Click on the ‘Search’ module on the left pane → Choose ‘Drive’ as the type of application and select ‘Shared drives’ as specific accounts.
  • Step 4 : You can also filter the files based on date range and advanced terms.

Step 5 : Click on the ‘Search’ button to list all the files with the specified search conditions.

recover shared drive files using google vault
Step 6 : Export the search results by clicking on the ‘Export results‘ option on the menu bar.
export results from google vault
  • Step 7 : Click on ‘Download‘ after completing the export process or to download a specific file: open the file, click on the ellipsis icon at the top right corner and select the ‘Download‘ option.

Once the file is downloaded as a zip file, administrators can send it to the respective user and ask them to upload it back to their Google shared drive.

Limitations of Recovering Permanently Deleted Shared Drive Files Using G Suite Native Features

Admin Console Google Vault
Data can be recovered only within 25 days from its date of deletion Limited storage
After 25 days, the data will be deleted permanently. No direct restore
Folder structure, sharing permissions and role permission will be lost while restoring.

How Can an Admin Recover Permanently Deleted Shared Drive Files Using Third-Party Tools?

If you have taken a backup of your shared drive files/folders using third-party applications like SysCloud, you can recover them easily even if the file gets permanently deleted. 

SysCloud offers fully automated cloud-to-cloud backup and restore service. SysCloud uses industry standard cloud storage solutions with military grade security.

With SysCloud, IT administrators can back up and restore data in just a few clicks. Moreover, administrators can define retention rules that allow backup for an unlimited period.

How to Restore Your Permanently Deleted Shared Drive Files Using SysCloud

backup shared drive using syscloud
  • Step 3 : Click on the user whose shared drive data you have to restore and select ‘Drive’.
  • Step 4 : On the left hand side, click on the option ‘Shared Drive’. Here, you can see all the shared drive data associated with this particular account. Click on the drop down button to view the sub-folders of each shared drive.
restore shared drive using syscloud
  • Step 5 : Select the entire shared drive or a specific folder that you want to restore and click on ‘Restore’. Enter the specific account to which you want to restore the shared drive data. Don’t forget to enable the ‘Check to restore file with share permission’ option to restore the file with its sharing permissions intact.
restore shared drive with sharing permissions
  • Step 6 : Click on ‘Restore’. 

All your selected shared drive files will be restored to the specific user account with its sharing permissions and folder structure intact.

To know more about Google Drive backup, read our article explaining the Top 6 Ways to Back up Google Drive.

Frequently Asked Questions

   1) Is Team Drive free?

No, Team Drive is only available in the G Suite subscription levels of Business, Enterprise, or Education; so it is a middle to upper-tier offering and is not free. The price depends on your subscription plan.

  2) Is shared drive unlimited?

No, There are limits to the number of items, members, and daily uploads you can have in a shared drive. 

  • A shared drive can contain a maximum of 400,000 files and folders. 
  • Individual users can only upload 750 GB each day between My Drive and all shared drives. Users who reach the 750-GB limit or upload a file larger than 750 GB cannot upload additional files that day. Uploads that are in progress will complete. The maximum individual file size that you can upload or synchronize is 5 TB.
  • A given file within a shared drive can be directly shared with a maximum of 100 groups.
  • A folder in a shared drive can support up to 20 levels of nested folders.
  • You can add users and groups in Google Groups to a shared drive. 
Membership Limit per shared drive
Groups 100
Combined users and groups* 600
Total individuals (users and group members) 50,000

*Note: In this 600 limit, a maximum of 100 members can be groups.

To know more about Shared drive limits, click here.

   3) How can I delete a shared drive?

To delete an entire shared drive, follow the given steps:

  • Before deleting a shared drive, make sure that the drive is empty. (If you want to keep any files/folders, move them to My Drive, or else move them to Trash.)
  • Right-click the drive you want to delete, and click on “Delete share drive.” You will be asked for confirmation. Click “ Delete shared drive” again to confirm.

   4) What happens when someone leaves a shared drive?

When a user leaves a shared drive, all the data associated with that user account stays in the shared drive. This data cannot be deleted by anyone other than the Owner/Manager of the Shared drive. 

5) What happens if the Manager leaves the shared drive?

If you are the only Manager of a shared drive and decides to exit the drive, then no other member will be able to manage the membership or settings. To prevent this situation, the Manager – before leaving – can designate another member as the Manager of the shared drive. 

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