[SOLVED] Preventing "orphaned" files - How would you handle it?

Consider a user profile page that allows the user to update their picture. As a UI requirement, the updated profile picture gets saved only when the user explicitly hits the Save button.

Now, if the user changes their mind and hits Cancel instead of Save, the uploaded image is already in Bubble’s storage. To practice good housekeeping, the uploaded image should be deleted, and the previous profile image should be restored. That should be possible with a workflow on the Cancel button.

However, what if there’s a network disruption, or the user simply terminates their session or visits another page without clicking Cancel? That would result in an “orphaned” file in Bubble’s storage - i.e. an image not associated with the User and not “attached” to anything.

Seems this could get out of hand quickly without a good file-handling strategy in place - especially considering there will be a similar UI for images associated with other “Things” in the DB. What’s the best way to handle (or prevent) such a situation and keep Bubble storage nice and tidy?

Am I going about things the wrong way or overlooking something? Am I making this harder than it needs to be? I’d be curious to know how others handle this type of thing.


The best way I’ve found currently is to clear all orphaned files in a 24-hour cycle with a request to an API in a ‘loop’ with Delete File.


Alternatively you can use states to temporarily store the image/changed info, then when they click the Save button it will actually save it to the DB. States will get lost on page refresh, so you won’t have orphaned files.


Many plugins write their data directly to Bubble and create a file that becomes orphaned. Bubble has to create an action that will give a list of linked and unlinked files imo.


Thanks, @JohnMark. A scheduled clean-up workflow did occur to me, but it wasn’t clear how to construct the filter. What search constraints could be used which would identify only orphaned files and not an image that was uploaded for the home page banner, for instance?

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You need to create a LIST “ALL Files” field containing all file types. During the cleaning process have erased those that have not been assigned.

Thanks for the reply, Reece. I’m actually using that approach now. However, using Bubble’s native file uploader, the file itself is added to Bubble storage as soon as it’s “selected”. It’s only the URL (or a Bubble reference of some kind) that gets added to the DB when the Save occurs to associate it with the intended object (User in this case).

As such, using custom states doesn’t really address the issue.

Am I overlooking something?


Ah I see, are you autobinding the image to a data type?

Otherwise, I don’t think you are overlooking anything

No auto-binding is used. I wonder, though, if I need to somehow leverage that and/or the “attached to” functionality in order to easily identify orphaned files.

That’s the part I’m struggling with. It’s not clear to me how do identify “unassigned” files. Perhaps I need to leverage the “attached to” functionality to make identifying unassigned files easier.

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Hey @JohnMark, thanks’s for your input, and sorry for being so dense, but I think I’m missing something fundamental. I don’t even understand how to list ANY files that aren’t associated with someThing in the DB. And there’s only one file-related action that I can see in the workflow tab, and that’s to delete an uploaded file. How exactly would one create a list of files that aren’t “in the DB”? :confused:

Hi @sudsy,

You mentionned

During this process, you save the image name in the File LIST. Later, run the cleaning process. You have to create a new data type with no privacy (like ADMIN).

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Ohhhh, ok, gotcha. Thanks!

Of course, the original issue remains - i.e. if there’s a network disruption or if the user abandons the page, an orphaned file will result.

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I think I’ve got a workable solution!

Instead of doing so when the “save” button is clicked, use the “input has changed” action on an uploader element (file or image) to immediately flag the file as orphaned upon upload (add it to an “orphaned files” list). Then, during the “save” operation AFTER the “Thing” has been created, remove the file from that list.

This should eliminate the need for a “master list” of ALL files, and it should improve the performance of the garbage collection operation, since the list will be MUCH smaller - i.e. only the [relatively few] files that have been orphaned.

I’ll be testing this out, but does anyone see any reason why this wouldn’t work?


Yes that way sounds good.

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Just a quick follow-up… I got this wired up and working, and I think it’s going to serve my purpose. Even with large uploads, the “input changed” event doesn’t fire until the upload is complete, which is a good thing. :+1: Being able to flag the file immediately on upload makes the difference. (I guess I overlooked the obvious initially.)

Also, I think I might create the “Orphaned Files” list on the user instead of as a global. That way, I could at least display a list of “abandoned files” somewhere in the user’s account settings - just in case the garbage collection misses a few. I can’t seen any downside to doing so right now, but lots of testing to do.

Thanks for the helpful input, @JohnMark and @help.

Now off to create “replace image” functionality! :slightly_smiling_face:


Hi @shot ,

Can you help me out with this. I’m trying to do the same.

I’ve managed to save the url of the file every time a user changes the image when input has changed. But currently it is saving the url of all files not just orphaned files. How do I determine that eg. 4 out 5 files are orphaned because the the user has decided to stick with the last file? How do I also delete the registry of orphaned files once the files have been deleted from the File manager?


I think this would be the solution,

Hi @mangooly,

That seems like the right approach, since you can’t delete a file without knowing its URL.

Technically, a file is considered “orphaned” only if you don’t have a reference to it - i.e. you didn’t store its URL somewhere. Since you’re storing the URL of each uploaded file, you shouldn’t have any orphaned files. Rather, it seems the issue you’re facing is how to delete any previously uploaded files - i.e. all those before the final “keeper” is saved. It seems there are a number of approaches that could be taken. One might be…

When a file is uploaded, “flag” it somehow immediately upon upload. For instance, you could add it to a special table in the DB. Then, when the “thing” with which the uploaded file is associated is saved, do 2 things:

  1. Remove the flag from the file to keep.
  2. Run the Delete a list of things workflow action on the uploaded files you wish not to keep.

Alternatively, you could not worry about clean-up at the time the thing is saved, and instead do just number 1 above and also have a clean-up workflow which runs whenever a user logs in. That workflow would delete any “flagged” files.

You could also create an API workflow as you referenced in your last post. Or you could use some combination of all 3 approaches.

Sounds like you’re on the right track though.

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Hi @sudsy,

Thanks for the help, really detailed explanation. Ok, no I understand what it means when a file is considered “orphaned”. Great!

I have one problem though. Currently I’m saving the file url’s onto a list in another data type with other info. I understand that if I want to make this work I have to save the file names in some other data type (Eg. Files) to be able to flag the files. Is this correct? I understand you can’t flag an item on a list, because you can’t add other attributes. Is this correct?