How To Transfer Ownership In Google Workspace

If you or another employee leaves a project or job, you may need to transfer ownership of your company files to someone else in the company. This is vital for data security practices and compliance with offboarding processes and can occur in a few different ways that admins or employees can manage. 

We’ll break down how employees can transfer ownership and give some quick tips to make the process smoother. We’ll also show how admins can transfer ownership of files to a new ownereither individual files or by transferring all files at once. 

How Employees Can Transfer Ownership

What is it?

In Google Workspace, it’s important to remember the concept of “owners” of documents. Whenever you create a document, you are generally the owner of that file. However, employees are able to transfer ownership of their files and folders to anyone else in their organization, and the new owner doesn’t even have to consent for the transfer to happen. 

Remember, even if a user transfers ownership of a folder, they still own the individual files inside. If they want to fully transfer folder ownership, they’ll need to transfer ownership of all the individual files inside the folder. 

Once they transfer ownership of a file, they can’t transfer ownership again, even back to themselves, and they’ll no longer be able to permanently delete that file from Google Drive. 

Why it matters

It’s important to be careful when transferring ownership because owners have more control over access permissions in documents than other users with lower permission types. For example, if an employee accidentally transfers ownership of a document with sensitive information to the wrong employee, they can’t transfer ownership again, but the new owner will be able to share and set access permissions. 

It’s also important to be aware of ownership when employees are about to leave the company or the organization is about to end a contract with an external third party. You may want to retain the former employee’s work, so you’ll need to transfer ownership of their documents to someone else in your organization.

How Users Can Transfer Ownership

  1. Open Google Drive and click the file or folder that will be transferred.
  2. Click “Share.”
  3. To the right of a person the file has been shared with, click the “Down arrow.”
  4. Click “Transfer ownership.”
  5. Select “Yes.”

After a user makes someone else the file’s owner, they can still edit the document unless the new owner changes their permissions.

How To Transfer Drive Files To A New Owner As An Admin

How to transfer one file

Admins have two options for transferring individual files: the original owner can transfer ownership, or you as an admin can do it. Please note that as an admin, you can only transfer an individual file using Google Drive APIs.

Admins can transfer file ownership from one Google Workspace account to another in the same organization. To transfer ownership of a file in My Drive, users are advised to “create or update the file’s permission with the ‘owner’ role and set the ‘transferOwnership’ query parameter to ‘true.’ When a file is transferred, the previous owner’s role is downgraded to ‘writer.’”

Admins can also use Google Drive APIs to transfer file ownership from one consumer account to another consumer account. However, in this case, the new owner must consent to the transfer before it can take place.

How to transfer all of a user’s files

Admins can also transfer ownership of all of a user’s files. This comes in handy if an employee leaves the company and policy dictates that all their files are transferred to someone new before their account is deleted. However, be aware that the original owner can still edit the document until you delete their account or the new owner changes their permissions. 

  1. Go to your Admin console.
  2. Go to “Apps”> “Google Workspace” >”Drive and Docs.” 
  3. Click “Transfer ownership.”
  4. In the “From user” field, write the current owner’s email address and select the user. 
  5. In the “To user” field, enter the new owner’s email address address and select the user. 
  6. Click “Transfer Files.”

After the transfer is complete, even if the last owners’ accounts are deleted, you can still find the document’s ownership history in the version history or the Drive Audit Log, which is found under Reports in your Admin console: “Reporting” > “Audit” > “Drive.”

Here’s What Employees Should Know About Transferring Ownership

  • Transferring ownership is the process of taking documents owned by your account and giving another account ownership of those documents.
  • Remember, once you’ve transferred ownership of a file, you can’t transfer it again, not even to yourself. You also won’t be able to permanently delete that file in Google Drive. 
  • When you transfer ownership from yourself, you will still be able to edit the file you used to own, unless the new owner changes your permissions. 
  • If you transfer ownership of a folder, after the ownership transfer is complete, you will still own all the individual files inside the folder. You must also transfer ownership of all the individual files if you want their ownership to change.

Transferring document ownership is a vital way to keep sensitive data compliant and secure when employees are leaving the company or changing roles within the company. However, although transferring ownership is important to the offboarding process, companies don’t always have full visibility into access from personal or archived accounts. They can mitigate these risks through the use of a Cloud Document Security tool that provides visibility and control over personal account access to company information. 

For more information on document security in Google Workspace, download the full ebook.

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Bryan Wise
Bryan Wise,
Former VP of IT at GitLab

Incredible companies use Nira