IT Connect
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File Ownership and Preserving Data

Please note: As of 8/25/21, the creation of new UW Google accounts with Shared UW NetIDs and new Google Shared Drives has been disabled. Additional changes to UW Google are likely. For more detail and regular updates, see UW Google Changes Project.

On This Page

UW Google Drive, a part of UW G Suite, is a powerful tool for storing and sharing files, and collaborating on work. However, the frequent sharing of UW Google Drive files can also create confusion over file ownership. This page offers some tips for avoiding file loss in this modern file sharing environment.

Please note: If you are UW Medicine workforce member or clinical student, please be aware that UW G Suite, including UW Google Drive, is not HIPAA compatible and should not be used for PHI.  For more information on this policy, please contact

Records Management: What Files Should You Keep?

When saving and storing files, it is important to keep in mind that the UW must maintain compliance with state and federal laws and regulations relating to the preservation and destruction of information created and received by the UW.

It is the general policy of the UW to:

  • Create only the records it needs
  • Retain records according to legally approved records retention schedules
  • Maintain active and inactive records in appropriate storage equipment and locations
  • Discard records when no longer required
  • Preserve records of historical significance
  • Identify and protect vital records

This policy applies as well to files that have been shared with you. Among the files that others share with you may be records that are subject to records retention requirements and should be preserved or deleted according to a legally approved records retention schedule. These records may also be responsive to an audit, public records request or litigation and as such must be maintained until the matter is resolved.

If you have specific questions about Records Management at UW, please contact Records Management Services.

If you have specific questions about Records Management at UW Medicine, please contact UW Medicine Records Management Services (RMS).

File Ownership: Yours or Shared with You?

Not all files you see in your UW Google Drive are owned by you.  Many will be shared with you, and appear to be your files, but are actually owned by another individual at the UW.  That’s fine for collaboration, but when an owner of a file is no longer a student or employee of the UW, their files will be deleted 20 days after their departure date from the UW.

If you depend on those files, it’s important to preserve them before your collaborator departs the UW.  To do so, follow the process below.

Please note: This process should be followed for each individual who has already departed the UW and as a regular offboarding task when an individual is preparing to depart the UW.

Finding Shared Files

Watch a video overview and/or follow the steps further down the page.

To find files you do not own in your UW Google Drive, click on Shared with me in the left column of UW Google Drive.  Every file you see in this list is a file that is owned by someone else.  As a result, every file listed can disappear without warning when the owner departs the UW.

Finding Files Owned by a Specific Person

Using Google Drive’s search box at the top of the screen, you can find files owned by a specific person.  This can be useful if you know an individual is leaving the UW soon but owns files you depend on.  To find all files owned by a specific person:

  1. Log in to your UW Google Drive.
  2. On the right side of the Google Drive search box, click the down arrow.
  3. In the search options screen that pops up, click the down arrow next to Owner and choose Specific person.
  4. In the box that appears next to Specific person, enter the email address of the owner you’d like to search for, e.g.

This will show you every file that is shared with you but owned by the individual you specified.

How to Keep Shared Files

UW Google Drive offers several different methods for preserving files shared with you.

Copy or download a file

  • You can right-click on a file shared with you and choose Make a copy to create a copy that you own that will be stored in your personal UW Google Drive.
  • You can right-click on a file shared with you and choose Download to download a copy of the file to your device.
  • You can select multiple files at a time by selecting a file, holding down Shift, then using your mouse to select a number of consecutive files.
  • You can also select a file then hold down Ctrl and select specific files out of a list files.
  • You can also select a file and hit Ctrl + A to select all the files on the list.

Please note: The sharing settings and version history of copied files do not transfer.

Download a folder

  • You cannot right-click on a folder shared with you and choose Make a copy; instead, you’ll have to open the folder and select the files to copy or download.
  • You can, however, right-click on a folder shared with you and choose Download to download a copy of the folder to your device.
  • The ZIP file created when you download a folder will maintain the folder structure of the downloaded Google Drive folder, i.e. all subfolders and files with reflect the folder structure on Google Drive.
  • Google files (e.g. Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc.) will be downloaded in Microsoft Office file formats, e.g. Google Doc file -> Microsoft Word file, Google Sheet file -> Microsoft Excel file.

Use UW Google Shared Drive

UW Google Shared Drive (formerly “Team Drive”) offers the best collaboration space for UW Google Drive. With UW Google Shared Drive, files are “owned” by the Shared Drive and the members of the Shared Drive, instead of an individual. Storing files in a Shared Drive ensures that the team is responsible for the data rather than each individual being responsible for their own documents, and helps to ensure files critical to team work and collaboration are not deleted when an individual separates from the UW.

Click here to learn more about UW Google Shared Drive.

Last reviewed November 11, 2020