Advanced Drive Searching

Finding data in Drive and Vault can be challenging. Here are some helpful search tips you can use in Vault, in Google Drive, and in various areas of the Admin console.

One of the most troublesome aspects of having a shared Google Drive structure is when users with Edit access move files or entire folders. This is often done to reduce clutter in their Drive, but they clean up a folder shared with them. Users are often unaware that based on how the sharing was applied, they may be removing access for all users other than the file’s owner. On top of that, the file's owner may not be able to locate the deleted (actually misplaced) file.

Understanding why this happens

When the user is trying to remove the unwanted files from the Shared folder, most of the time the share permissions are being inherited from the parent folder. As soon as the file or folder is moved, the inherited sharings are removed as well. Only the owner of the file will have permission delete the file, but editors have the ability to move files from one location to another.

Locating the missing file

If you are the owner of the file, you can perform the following search in the Drive interface:

owner:me is:unorganized

When viewing the auto-completed results, you may see some of the individual files that have become unorganized, but you might not see all the results. Pressing Enter will bring up the complete search results.

What if you aren’t the owner? 

If you are not the file owner, you can use the Admin console > Reports section to locate a specific file and determine the owner and the user who performed the move. In the Drive Audit, add the filter parameters of Event name = Move and the Item Type = Folder. If you click the uneven Columns from the top right corner (highlighted below) you can choose additional data about the returned events, including the Owner and Previous Visibility.


Prevent this from happening again 

In order to prevent users from moving files from within a shared folder structure, there are a few options. While shift+Z is no longer an option, Google has introduced Drive Shortcuts and we recommend that users add a shortcut to a folder rather than moving the folder to a new location.

The next option is to grant View access to the parent folder and give Edit access to the contained files. With this setup, users will still see the folder structure, but when they try and remove a file from the structure, they will not be able to do so.

Lastly, you can utilize Shared Drives. With Shared Drives, only users with Full access can delete or move files. When deleting files, users are explicitly told that this will delete the file for Everybody. Editors can still create, upload, or edit files, but they cannot move or delete a file. The main disadvantage here is that Team Drives does not support folder level permissions, but you can assign explicit file-level permissions.


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