Google will start deleting unused accounts this week – here's how to save yours

FILE - In this photo illustration, the logos of the applications Street View, Google Earth, Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Hangouts, Google, Gmail, Chrome, Google News, Drive, Google Earth, and Chrome are displayed on the screen of an iPhone on Dec. 14

Google will begin deleting accounts this week that haven’t been logged in to for at least two years, citing security concerns.

The company announced earlier this year that if a Google Account has not been used or signed in to within that time frame, it will delete the account and its contents – including Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet, Calendar, YouTube and Google Photos.

Google said the earliest it will begin deleting accounts is Dec. 1 and that the policy only applies to personal Google Accounts. It will not affect accounts for organizations like schools or businesses.

In a blog post from May, Google said accounts not used for an extended period of time are more likely to be compromised by security threats, like spam, phishing scams and account hijacking.

"This is because forgotten or unattended accounts often rely on old or re-used passwords that may have been compromised, haven't had two-factor authentication set up, and receive fewer security checks by the user," Ruth Kricheli, Google’s vice president of product management, wrote in the post. 

"Our internal analysis shows abandoned accounts are at least 10x less likely than active accounts to have 2-step-verification set up. Meaning, these accounts are often vulnerable, and once an account is compromised, it can be used for anything from identity theft to a vector for unwanted or even malicious content, like spam," Kricheli added.

Google said it’s taking a "phased approach," starting with accounts that were created and never used again. The company said the user would receive multiple notifications over the months leading up to deletion, to both the account email address and the recovery email if one was provided.

Here’s how to keep your Google account active

The easiest way to prevent the Google account from being deleted is to sign in at least once every two years, the company said. 

"If you have signed into your Google Account or any of our services recently, your account is considered active and will not be deleted," Kricheli wrote.

While signed in, activity can include reading or sending an email, using Google Drive, watching a YouTube video, using Google Search, or even downloading an app on the Google Play Store.

"If you have an existing subscription set up through your Google Account, for example to Google One, a news publication or an app, we also consider this account activity and your account will not be impacted," Kricheli added.

What if you forgot the Google account username or password?

Maybe you have an old Google account that you want to save, but have forgotten the password, and now you’re locked out. The company offers some tips to help

For those who can’t remember their password, they may be able to follow steps to recover the account. This includes answering some questions to confirm it's their account, answering the questions as best as they can. If they have trouble, Google suggests trying these tips to complete account recovery steps

Next, reset the password when prompted. Users should choose a strong password that they haven't already used with this account – meeting the password requirements

For those who can’t remember the email address they used to sign in, they can follow these steps. But they’ll need to know a phone number or the recovery email address for the account, as well as the full name on the account. 

From there, they’ll follow the instructions to confirm it’s their account and will find a list of usernames that match the account.

For those whose account was taken over by someone else, follow these steps to recover a hacked or hijacked Google Account or Gmail.

For those who can’t sign in for another reason, they may be able to get additional help here

This story was reported from Cincinnati.