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Overcoming conflicted Google accounts

Rob Clarke

Rob is the co-founder and CEO of Learning Architects. He supports leaders and organisations to thrive in the future through coaching, development, technology and learning design. He is a Ministry of Education accredited PLD facilitator. He is also a Dad and volunteers as Special Officer - Education for the United Nations Association of NZ.

For more information please visit: or get in touch via +64 21 590 572

Keyboard Conflict

When moving your organisation to a cloud-based system such as Google Apps for Work or Google Apps for Education (GAFE), it is important to be aware that there are a number of common pitfalls.

These usually occur when people try to help their organisation to ‘go Google’ using personal accounts for staff. While this might sound like a smart and easy way to help your organisation move to Google, it can cause issues down the track. Overcoming conflicted Google accounts is the process to undertake when you face this situation.

Here is an overview of some of each of the various ways in which this can occur and the solutions to consider if you find your organisation in this situation:

Trialling Google with personal accounts

  • This area can cause problems down the track – ie. the more you and your staff use these personal Google accounts, the more complex it might be to transition work documents when you eventually decide to move to an organisational Google account. Here are the three cases to be aware of:
    1. Case #1 – using one personal Google account for many users – this is the simplest case to overcome as it means only one account to transition to your GAFE or GAW account later on. The down side to this approach is that you miss out on the many collaborative advantages to every person having a Google account.
    2. Case #2 – using many personal Google accounts for many users – this gets more complex because when new users enter the organisation, there won’t be a consistent email naming structure, plus you can’t establish groups and other benefits of having an organisational Google account.
    3. Case #3 – using many personal Google accounts for many users, using your organisation domain name – this method causes the most difficult transition because it results in what is called a ‘conflicted account’ when you create a new user in your Google Apps system. The conflict effectively ‘confuses’ Google at the point the user is created in the organisational account and initiates a process every user has to overcome.

    Fortunately there is a clear process to overcome this – read more below about dealing with conflicted accounts…

A conflicting account exists if a user created a personal Google Account with the same email address as a GAFE or GAW account managed by your organisation. It is most common when someone signs up for a Google service prior to your organisation ‘going Google’. This short movie describes this issue:

One of the catches with this is that the administrator of the organisational account doesn’t take part in this process. This is a disadvantage – especially when you are potentially dealing with new and/or non-technical users who ‘just want it to work’!
If the user has added her organization-managed address as an alternate email address (or email alias) in her personal Google Account, the alias is removed from the personal accounts and the user sees this notification of change the next time she signs in.

If you’ve already created the user’s Google account, the next time that user signs in, he’ll be asked to change his account. For example, if [email protected] has a conflicting account with your organization, Rob would see these options when he signs in:

All conflicting accounts must be resolved. If a user chooses the last option, the user’s account is automatically renamed to the temporary name that Google provides. The user is also prompted with these same options at sign-in time, until deciding on and selecting a permanent solution.

In all cases, the data in the user’s personal accounts remains safe and accessible to him/her.

Google Drive Original Button

A wider and possibly more critical issue is that if users have been creating documents and using calendars/etc., then they will need to move their files into their new Google Apps account. The easiest solution for file transfer is to use a tool called Cloud Gopher which is a brilliant tool for moving data between Google accounts. With literally a couple of clicks you can transfer your files (mail, calendars, contacts, files, etc.) from one Google account to another.

In addition to this, if you have set up a personal Gmail account as part of dealing with the conflict, then you’ll want to be able to separate your  personal Gmail account from your work G Suite account. A great way to do this is to create another user using multiple users within Google Chrome, then to move all files into one folder that is shared with the new Google Apps account. Remember not to delete the old gmail account – just ignore it.Follow this article for a description of how to create multiple users and how they work…

Contact Learning Architects if you want help overcoming this in your organisation.


  1. Google Support – how a conflicting account is created
  2. Google Support – resolve conflicting accounts help article
  3. Youtube – explanation of conflicting accounts

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