What happens to my Google Photos if I don’t pay for storage?

Google gives everyone 15GB of free cloud storage. If you need more, you’ll need to pay.

If you think of your Google Account Storage like a real world storage unit, these concepts will be easier. Let’s say you had a small storage unit that would hold 15 boxes of stuff. Once it gets full, what happens? You can’t store any more stuff! If you take out some of the old boxes, you can put in new ones, but you’re limited to 15 boxes total.

3 Choices when your storage is full

It’s the same with your Google Account Storage. Google gives everyone 15GB of storage for free. Once you fill that up, you have 3 choices:

  1. Do nothing
  2. Get rid of some stuff
  3. Pay for a bigger storage amount

If you choose #1, you won’t be able to add any more photos to your Google Photos but you will be able to access what is already there. That may be acceptable but there’s a catch. You also won’t be able to send or receive any new emails to your Google (gmail) address. Why? Because the Google storage allotment is shared by Google Photos, Gmail, and Google Drive.

If you choose #3, go to Google One to see the prices for bigger storage allotments. The current (November 2021) prices are:

  • 15GB = Free
  • 100GB = $1.99/mo or $19.99/yr
  • 200GB = $2.99/mo or $29.99/yr
  • 2Terrabytes = $9.99/mo or $99.99/yr

How many GB do you need for photos and videos?

People always ask, how many photos can I fit into 1Gigabyte? Well, it depends on several factors, your camera, how many videos you take, whether you use Original size or Storage saver. A rough estimate is between 500 and 1,000 photos per Gigabyte. If you know how many photos and how many videos you have, and you know their average file size, here’s a calculator you can use to find out how many Gibabytes you need.

To get a number directly from Google Photos, I uploaded 7200 photos and videos to a fresh account (Alice) after June 1 using Storage Saver size. Her storage shows 9.66 GB used by Google Photos (which works out to 750 photos/GB). If I had used Original size, I believe it would have taken at least twice the storage.

What happens if I stop paying?

Let’s say you filled up your 15GB of free storage so you started paying $2/mo for the 100 GB. You kept adding photos, email, and Drive files and are now using 40GB of storage. If you stop paying then your account’s storage allotment reverts to the 15GB Free plan. You are now 25GB over your allotment. You will not be able to add any more photos, send or receive emails, or add new Drive files. You will get warnings from Google telling you to either delete content until you are within your allotment, or pay for more storage. If you ignore them and do nothing, Google will keep bugging you but they won’t delete any of your content until you have ignored them for 2 years, after 2 years they may delete your content or even delete your account. See the official help page for Managing your Google Storage.

What is Google One?

If you pay for storage from Google, that makes you a premium “member” of Google One. When you are a premium member, you get additional perks like one-on-one support via phone call, chat, or email. Google One members will also see premium editing features in Google Photos like Dynamic, HDR, and Portrait. If you don’t pay for storage, you are still part of Google One, but you’re on the Free plan. You still visit One.Google.com to see storage statistics for your account.

But wait – I thought Google Photos was free and unlimited?!

Google Photos used to be free and unlimited but that all changed on June 1, 2021. For more detail, see the article I wrote before the June 1 change to Google Photos storage plans: Google Photos free unlimited storage is ending – here’s everything you need to know. Any more questions, you can use the comments below.