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The Gmail purge is about to begin: Last chance to stop Google from deleting your old accounts

Published Nov 28th, 2023 6:50AM EST
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Image: Fabian Sommer/picture alliance via Getty Images

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As of 2019, Google had some 1.5 billion active Gmail users worldwide. That number has probably grown since. Every Google account comes with free access to Gmail and other Google apps, which makes Gmail one of the most popular email apps in the world. The mobile version of the app has topped 10 billion downloads alone, and that’s just for Android.

Since Google accounts are free, you can have as many Gmail handles as you want. You might employ one for work and one for personal life. And you could have one just for online shopping.

But if you don’t regularly sign into your Gmail accounts that you don’t use regularly, you risk having them deleted. Google announced the new policy in May, saying that Gmail accounts that have not been used in two years will be permanently removed.

This first purge will begin in December, so this is your last chance to prevent Google from destroying the digital data associated with that old property.

Google said back in May that the Gmail mass-deletion process will begin with accounts that were created and never used again. Google will notify users before actually purging those accounts. You’ve probably received such notifications already if you own older Gmail accounts that are at risk.

Google also said the policy update only concerns personal Google accounts. Your school or work Gmail handles will not be affected under the new terms. Also, Google doesn’t plan to delete any accounts with YouTube videos in them.

Once Google deletes a Google account, you’ll lose access to any personal data you might have in it. It’s not just Gmail, but Docs, Photos, and Drive. Considering Google’s massive growth over the years, the move makes sense. It’ll allow Google to free up resources that might be tied to old Gmail accounts.

Google also explained in May what you need to do to prevent Google from deleting your account. You must sign into Gmail or other Google properties at least once every two years. This tells Google you’re still active.

Google provided other actions that count towards marking your Gmail account as active:

  • Reading or sending an email
  • Using Google Drive
  • Watching a YouTube video
  • Downloading an app on the Google Play Store
  • Using Google Search
  • Using Sign in with Google to sign in to a third-party app or service
  • Having an active Google One subscription or other subscriptions tied to a Google account.

Google never offered a start date for the Gmail purge other than a generic “December 2023” deadline. But you’d better not postpone performing one of the tasks above for each of your Google properties.

Again, the simplest thing you can do is install Gmail on your phone and sign into all your Gmail accounts. This will ensure their safety for the following two years. Maybe also set a reminder on your handset to perform the same action for your secondary Google accounts in a couple of years. Google will not delete accounts before notifying you, however.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.