Workaround to stop “Free up space” on your Google Photos app

Workaround at the end of this post!

This is going to be a post with a completely different topic and details which is related to the Google Pixel smartphone and its backup into Google Photos. More specific the process of “Free up space” at the Photos app on the Google Pixel smartphone, which deletes the local files which had been uploaded to the cloud in full quality to save space on the smartphone itself.

Google Knowledgebase on save space on your device

Google community thread

From a backup perspective, I personally think, it is not a good idea to have just one copy of your files. Even if they are save to the cloud and just rely on a stable connection to view the files.

That is how the files are accessed afterwards. The uploaded files are being deleted locally and if viewed they will meta point to the cloud version. While on airplane mode or without connection you cannot view them.

Downloading them to your device afterwards will alter the quality as well.

So, I hit the option of “Free up space” on my smartphone cause it kept telling me to save space, and I was expecting to get some kind of overview what it will save, like how many videos, photos or something like this. But it immediately started to delete files which had been backup up successfully.

In a panic I put my phone into airplane mode and kept it like that. Started searching online for a solution on how to stop the process and even started a online support ticket with the Google Photos helpdesk ( really supportive and nice person! Kudos! ). And I was told there is no possibility to stop the process at all.

While my smartphone was in airplane mode I started the support ticket, copied all my files ( twice ), logged into my Google account on my desktop to remotely logout my Google Pixel smartphone, created a Google takeout to download all files as well and changed my password.

Device Remote Logout

Google Takeout / download your files

It seems that the process of “Free up space” ran into some kind of timeout while the smartphone was on airplane mode. Cause after I disabled it to let the process finish no more files were deleted.

I cannot tell if this is a fix or something, but for anyone who is desperately looking to stop this process from deleting files on your smartphone it might be a solution. I was looking on the internet for an option and found none so this might be helpful to try.

I was told the situation should go like this:

  • Put smartphone in airplane mode
  • Copy files by USB to your local drive
  • Disable airplane mode
  • Wait for the “Free up space” to finish
  • Copy the files back to the smartphone using USB

My workaround ( after having all files backup locally ):

  • Put smartphone in airplane mode
  • Remotely logout your account on your smartphone
  • Change account password ( should do it anyway every couple of weeks )
  • Wait! As it seems the process will run into a timeout
    • My device was offline for around 6 hours
  • Disable airplane mode and review the storage on your device and the “Free up space” option to change

I do not promise nor can validate this to be a solution, but it helped me and I want to share it with everyone who is looking for a possible answer on this.

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