Techsplaining 101: Find files shared with you in Google Drive

Welcome to Techsplaining 101, Miami University’s top tech tips series. Today, we’re here to talk about your Google Drive – specifically, how to find files that have been shared with you by other people at Miami. When people leave Miami, including graduating students and departing faculty or staff members, their files will be removed with their accounts. But what do you do if you need a notes document owned by someone who has departed Miami, or your students have shared coursework with you that you need to retain?

In this helpful article, we will discuss various methods for finding files that have been shared with you. We will also provide instructions on what to do once you’ve found that file.

Let’s get started.

Your Google Drive at a glance

Your Google Drive contains many kinds of files. This includes files that have been created in Google tools (like Sheets, Docs, or Slides), and it also includes files that have been uploaded to the drive for safekeeping and project organization (like PDFs, spreadsheets created in other programs, or images).

At Miami, you have access to several spaces in your Drive: “My Drive,” “Shared drives,” and “Shared with me” are the main places to save and upload files. Today, we’ll mostly be talking about “Shared with me” files.

“Shared with Me” files

How do you find files that have been shared with you?

Click on the icon that looks like two silhouettes in the left-hand side of your Google Drive. Files and folders that have been shared with you are organized here. This is distinct from Shared drives, which are Drives that have no specific owner but are used for specific projects, organizations, or teams. These “shared with me” files are owned by a specific person, but you have been granted access.

In the “shared with me” section, you can filter these files in several different ways. You can filter by specific file types (like Docs, Sheets, PDFs, or images); you can also filter for files owned by a specific person; and, finally, you can filter by when a file was last changed or modified.

Now, as you can imagine, this list can get kind of long! You can drill down into the files by creating even more advanced searches.

Advanced searching 101

At the top of the screen, you can type in the search bar to look for specific files. Click on the icon at the far right of the search bar to enter Advanced search.

For example, if you know that the file is in your “Shared with me” folder, you can check that box under “location.” You can also select bespoke locations for each search.

You can also find documents that contain an exact word or phrase by putting quotation marks around the phrase. Input any phrase that you know to appear in a document or title, such as “class roster for English 111”, and the search will return all documents that you have access to that contain that exact phrase.

Search for a specific person

The Advanced search of your Google Drive will also allow you to search for documents owned by a specific person. If you are searching for files owned by someone you know has left the university, you can input their name in the search box here.

Then, you can find the files that this person created that you have been given access to.

Two more advanced searching techniques….

Now, let’s take a look at two more searching techniques that you may use. For these, you’ll return to your My Drive.

Files that are not owned by you that live in a folder you do own

When you are in the “Advanced search” of your Google Drive, you can search for all files that are “not owned by me” but that are located in your My Drive. This will give you a list of files that someone else owns, but were created in a folder you shared with that person.

If you have shared a folder that you have created, your collaborators can create documents in this folder. Please be aware that these files will not show up in your “Shared with me” list!

For instance, if you are an instructor of English 111, you may create a Google Drive folder for your students in a particular class, and have them turn in assignments by placing files in this folder. They own those files, and they haven’t changed the sharing settings at all.

You know that some of your students will be graduating soon, which means their files will be removed from that folder you created. But you may want to keep some of that data! What happens when you want to find those files?

Well, we already know that these files don’t show up in your “Shared with me” list. Where are they? Click into the Advanced Search in your My Drive and select “not owned by me” under Owner. This will give you the list of files that are in your My Drive (because you created the folder) but that you don’t own (because someone else put them in there).

Unorganized Search

Another method for finding impacted files is by navigating to the search bar at the top of your Drive and typing:


in the search bar. Hit enter.

The files that come up here are files that you created but were saved in a folder you did not own, and the folder has been removed. They can also be considered “orphaned” files. These are files that you own that you saved in someone else’s Drive – and that Drive has gone away.

Essentially, in tech-speak, that file no longer has a directory. The path to the file no longer exists, so you can’t find it by navigating in your Drive. The only way to find them is to use the is:unorganized method.

After you find the file…

After searching for and finding the files you need to save, the next step is a decision point: You need to decide whether you need to save that file in your own Drive.

If you do need that file, you have a couple options. You can make a copy of the file to store in your own Drive. Right click on the file and choose “Make a copy.”

When you do, that copy will automatically be organized into your top-level My Drive, so we recommend you click “Show file location” in the popup at the bottom left of your Drive. This way, you can immediately organize the file into a location that makes sense for you.

Instead of making a copy, you can also download the file to your computer. Right click on the file and choose “Download.” This will place the file into your “Downloads” folder on your computer. From here, you can choose to re-upload it to your Miami Google Drive, or simply keep it on your computer. It’s up to you!


Previously, it was announced that files shared with you by former Miami students would be removed from your Drive on February 8. Upon receiving feedback from key stakeholders across the University, we have decided to extend that deadline to allow faculty and staff more time to identify files they need to retain.

That new deadline is Wednesday, March 6, 2024.

As Miami works to address storage constraints, we have many Google Drive accounts that will be removed in April 2024 as the Lifetime Email service is decommissioned. If you have access to a file that someone else created, and that person is no longer affiliated with Miami, you will no longer have access after the new deadline of March 6. Remember: If you discover that a file you need has been removed after March 6, you still have until April 8 to contact the owner and ask them to transfer it to you.

Thank you for your patience as we navigate together the new storage constraints being placed on us by Google.

Follow along for more

What's better than a helpful article about all the ways you can find files shared with you in your Google Drive? A video, of course!

We put together a visual walkthrough of the above content, if that's more your speed. Check it out here:

For information about our Google Workspace and how it’s changing in 2024, please visit the IT Services website.