Set up and Use Google Drive on Your Mac

Save, sync and access file on Google Drive from your Mac

Google Drive Backup & Sync preferences on macOS

Setting up Google Drive will give you access to cloud-based storage for Macs, PCs, iOS, and Android devices.

Google Drive allows you to store and share data between your various devices as well as letting friends and coworkers access information you designated for sharing.

Once you install it on your Mac, Google Drive appears to be just another folder. You can copy data to it, organize it with subfolders, and delete items from it. Any item you place in the Google Drive folder is copied to Google’s cloud storage system, allowing you to access the data from any supported device.

Using Google Drive

Google Drive is well integrated with other Google services, including Google Docs, the cloud-based suite of tools that includes Google Docs, a word processor, Google Sheets, an online spreadsheet, and Google Slides, a cloud-based presentation app.

Google Drive offers to convert documents you store in Google Drive to their Google Doc equivalents, but you don't have to make the conversion. You can tell Google to keep its paws off your docs; thankfully, this is the default setting.

There are other cloud-based storage systems you may want to consider, including Apple’s iCloud Drive, Microsoft's OneDrive, and Dropbox. All offer some usable form of cloud-based storage for Mac users. In this article, we're going to concentrate on Google Drive.

Requirements to Set Up Google Drive on Your Mac

  • You'll need a Google account. If you don't yet have one, you can create one at: https://accounts.google.com/SignUp
  • Once you have a Google account, you can create your Google Drive, and download the Mac app that lets you use the cloud-based service.

How to Install Google Drive

The following instructions assume you haven't installed Google Drive in the past.

  1. Launch your web browser, and go to https://drive.google.com, or https://www.google.com/drive/download/, Click the Download link near the top of the web page.

  2. For a personal Drive account, click on the Download button under Backup and Sync.

    Download Google Backup and Sync
  3. Read and agree to the terms of service, then the download of Google Drive for your Mac will begin.

  4. The Google Drive installer is downloaded to your browser's download location, usually your Mac's Downloads folder.

  5. When the download is complete, locate and double-click the installer you downloaded; the file is called InstallBackupAndSync.dmg.

  6. From the installer window that opens, click and drag the Backup and Sync from Google icon to the Applications folder.

    Backup and Sync from Google icon in installer window on macOS

First Time Startup of Google Drive

The first time you start Google Drive, you have to go through a few steps to get it set up. After that, accessing Google drive is simple.

  1. Launch Google Drive or Backup and Sync from Google, located at /Applications.

    Backup and Sync from Google icon in Applications on macOS
  2. A warning appears that cautions Google Drive is an application you downloaded from the internet. Click Open.

  3. The Welcome to Google Drive window opens. Click the Get Started button.

  4. You are asked to sign in to your Google account. If you don't have a Google account, you can create one by clicking the Create Account text, and then follow the onscreen instructions. If you already have a Google account, enter your email address and click the Next button.

  5. Enter your password and click the Sign In button.

  6. The Google Drive installer displays a number of tips about using the app, requiring you to click through the information.

  7. Google Drive will add a special folder on your Mac, aptly named Google Drive, to your home folder. Click the Next button.

  8. You can choose to download Google Drive for your mobile device as well. Click the Next button.

  9. You can designate items in your Google Drive to be shared with others. Click the Next button.

  10. Click the Done button.

The installer finishes by adding a menu bar item, and finally, by creating the Google Drive folder under your home directory. The installer also adds a Google Drive sidebar item to the Finder.

Using Google Drive on Your Mac

The heart of working with Google Drive is the Google Drive folder, where you can store items you wish to save to the Google cloud, as well as share with others you designate. While the Google Drive folder is where you'll spend a great deal of your time, it's the Menu bar item that will let you exercise control over your Google Drive.

Google Drive Menu Bar Item

The menu bar item gives you quick access to the Google Drive folder located on your Mac; it also includes a link to open Google Drive in your browser. It also displays recent documents you have added or updated and tells you if the syncing to the cloud has completed.

Perhaps more important than the status info and drive links in the Google Drive menu bar item is the access to additional settings.

  1. Click on the Google Drive menu bar item; a drop-down menu will appear.

  2. Click on the vertical ellipsis in the top right corner.

  3. This displays a menu that includes access to help, sending feedback to Google, and more importantly, the ability to set Google Drive preferences and to quit the Google Drive app. For now, click on the Preferences item.

    Preferences from Google Backup and Sync menubar item in macOS
  4. The Google Drive Preferences window opens, displaying a three-tab interface.

    • My Mac: Allows you to specify which folders within the Google Drive folder will automatically be synced to the cloud. The default is to have everything in the folder automatically synced, but if you wish, you can specify that only certain folders will be synced.
    • Google Drive: Lets you disconnect the Google Drive folder for your Google account. Once disconnected, the files within your Mac’s Google Drive folder will remain on your Mac, but will no longer be synced with the online data in Google’s cloud. You can reconnect by signing back into your Google account.
    • Settings: Allows you to configure network settings if needed, and control bandwidth, handy if you're using a slow connection, or one that has data rate caps. And finally, you can configure Google Drive to automatically launch when you log in to your Mac, show file sync status and display confirmation messages when removing shared items from Google Drive. The Settings tab is also where you can upgrade your storage to another plan.
    Backup and Sync preferences in macOS
  5. That's all there is to it.

Your Mac now has additional storage available in Google’s cloud to use as you wish. However, one of the best uses of any Cloud-based storage system is to link the storage to multiple devices, for easy access to synced files from all of your devices: Macs, iPads, iPhones, Windows, and Android platforms. So, be sure to install Google Drive on any device you own or have control over.