How to Set Up and Use Google Drive on Your Mac


You don’t have to deal with a subpar Google Drive web app on your Mac

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With cross-platform availability, 15GB of free storage, robust download and upload speeds, and seamless integration with other Google services, Google Drive remains the preferred choice for consumers and small businesses. With Google Workspace plans, it is becoming popular in the business sector. Along with mobile apps on iPhone, iPad, and the most budget-friendly Android phones, Google Drive has feature-rich apps available on the desktop. Here’s how to set up and use Google Drive on Mac.

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Google previously offered two Drive apps on the desktop: Backup and Sync and Google Drive File Stream. In July 2021, the company combined the two apps into a single Drive for Desktop. It packs the best features of existing apps to deliver an ideal Google Drive experience on Mac.


Download and set up Google Drive for desktop

Google Drive is not available on the Mac App Store. You need to download the installation file from the web.

  1. Go to the Google Drive web on your Mac.
  2. Download desktop reader.
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  3. Find the installer file from the Finder application.
  4. Double-click it and follow the on-screen instructions to complete the setup process.

Once you have signed in with your Google account details, the Drive icon will appear in the menu bar. You can also access Google Drive files from the Finder app.

  1. Open Finder on Mac.
  2. Check Google Drive under Pitches in the left sidebar.
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  3. You can check your Drive and other computers from the same menu.

Check Google Drive sync options

There are two ways to sync your Google Drive files on Mac. You can stream files or mirror them on your Mac.

  1. Select Google Drive from the menu bar.
  2. Click it Settings gear and open Preferences.
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  3. To select Google Drive in the sidebar and check the sync options.
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  4. Choose Feed files to store all My Drive files in the cloud. You can choose specific files and folders to make available offline.
  5. Choose Mirror files to store all My Drive files in the cloud and on your Mac. All your files are automatically available offline.

Streaming your Google Drive files lets you check your entire Google Drive library in the Finder without taking up a lot of space on your Mac. You should think twice before selecting mirror files. It downloads all your Drive files on the Mac and consumes huge storage space.

Selectively Download Google Drive Files on Mac

Most users need to stream Google Drive on Mac and download selected files to share or use offline.

  1. Open Google Drive in the Finder.
  2. You’ll see a small cloud icon next to your Drive files and folders.
  3. You can select the relevant files and folders and right-click on them (two-finger click for trackpad users).
  4. To select Available offline from the context menu.
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  5. A green checkmark indicates that your Drive files are ready to use offline.
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  6. Once you are done making changes, right click on the same files and select Online only.
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  7. Google Drive removes downloaded files from your Mac storage and makes them available online only. You will see the same cloud icon next to the file or folder.

Most popular cloud storage services such as Dropbox and OneDrive support Files on Demand. It’s good to see Google Drive offer the same flexibility.

Launch Google Drive at startup on Mac

You need to launch Google Drive at system startup to sync the latest changes and updates. This behavior makes your Google Drive files ready to use upon login only.

  1. Open Google Drive Preferences (see steps above).
  2. To select Settings in the upper right corner.
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  3. Scroll down and activate the checkmark next to it Launch Google Drive at system startup.
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You can also make the same changes from Mac System Settings.

  1. Select the Apple icon in the upper left corner.
  2. Open System Parameters.
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  3. To select General and open Connection elements.
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  4. Click on + under Open at login and select Google Drive from the Applications menu.
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Sync your Mac folders with Google Drive

You can sync local Mac folders with Google Drive and make them accessible on all your devices.

  1. Head toward Google Drive Preferences (check the steps above).
  2. To select Add Folder.
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  3. Select your local Mac folder and click Open.
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  4. You can either sync the folder to Google Drive or back it up to Google Photos. If you select both, Drive backs up media twice in Photos and Drive and uses more of your Google storage.
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You must activate the checkmark next to Backup to Google Photos so you can edit your Mac files using Google Photos’ great editing tools.

Adjust Google Photos upload size

Google Photos downloads Mac files in their original quality. If you want to save space on your Google account, store the photos with a slightly reduced quality.

  1. Open Google Drive settings (see steps above).
  2. Scroll to Google Photos and select Storage Saver under Download size.
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Use Google Drive Keyboard Shortcut on Mac

Google Drive offers a nifty keyboard shortcut to quickly find your files and folders. You can use the Ordered + Option + g keys to open the Google Drive search bar. You can configure the hotkey from Drive settings.

  1. Move towards Google Drive settings (check the steps above).
  2. Scroll to Configure hotkey and assign a new shortcut for Google Drive search.
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Manage your Google Drive files like a pro

If you’re running out of space on Google Drive, subscribe to one of the Google One plans. You can also explore a Google Workspace subscription to get more storage and premium features in productivity apps. Check out our dedicated article to learn all about Google Workspace.