Set Up and Use Google Drive on Your Mac

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

Setting up Google Drive on your Mac gives you free cloud-based storage you can access from other your other Macs, PCs, iOS, and Android devices.

With Google Drive, you can store and share data among your various devices and allow friends and coworkers to access information you designate for sharing.

After you install Google Drive on your Mac, it 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, which you can access from any supported device.

The information in this article applies to Macs running macOS Catalina (10.15) through OS X Yosemite (10.10).

Google Drive Backup & Sync preferences on macOS

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.

Additionally, it provides an optional backup and sync option for your computer's files, photos, and other data you specify.

Google Drive Free Storage and Google One Plans

You get 15 GB of free storage space with Google Drive, but the storage is shared by Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos. If that amount isn't sufficient, you can purchase more space from Google One, starting at 100GB for $1.99 per month up to 30 TB for $299.99 per month.

How to Install Google Drive

If you haven't installed Google Drive in the past:

  1. Launch your web browser and go to the Google Drive download page.

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

    Download Google Backup and Sync
  3. Read and agree to the terms of service Click Agree and download to start the download of Google Drive for your Mac.

    Google drive download screen on Mac

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

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

  5. 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 set it 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. Click Open on the warning that appears to caution Google Drive is an application you downloaded from the internet.

    Warning screen on Mac about opening apps from internet
  3. Click Get Started on the Welcome to Backup and Sync window.

    Google Drive welcome screen
  4. Sign in to your Google account. If you already have a Google account, enter your email address and click the Next button. If you don't have a Google account, create one now.

    Google log in screen
  5. Enter your password and click Sign In.

    Password screen for Google
  6. On the message about choosing folders for continuous backup to Google Drive, select GOT IT.

  7. Place a check mark next to the files you want to sync and back up to Google Drive and click Next. View the other options and choose the ones you want to use. You can modify these preferences at any time.

    Sync options for Google drive
  8. Click Got It to sync files from My Drive to a folder on your computer.

    Sync Files screen for Google Drive
  9. Click Start in the next screen to add a Google Drive folder to your Mac home folder.

    Installing google Drive on a mac

The installer finishes by adding a menu bar item and creating the Google Drive folder under your home directory.

Using Google Drive on Your Mac

The heart of working with Google Drive is the Google Drive folder, where you can store items you want 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. Use the Menu bar item to 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 displays recent documents you added or updated and tells you if the syncing to the cloud is complete.

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 to open a drop-down menu.

  2. Click on the vertical ellipsis in the top right corner to display a menu that includes access to help, Google Drive preferences, feedback for Google, and to quit the Google Drive app.

  3. 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 are automatically synced to the cloud. The default is to have everything in the folder automatically synced, but if you prefer, you can specify only certain folders to 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 remain on your Mac but are no longer 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, which is handy if you're using a slow connection or one that has data rate caps. 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

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 with 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.

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.