Drive FAQ for admins

Below are common questions about managing Google Drive for an organization or team.

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Is Google Drive different than Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides?

Yes. Drive is a place to store and access all your files, while Docs, Sheets, and Slides are types of web-based documents, as are Forms and Drawings. The suite of Google's web-based editors is referred to as Google Docs editors.

Similarly, Google My Maps are also web-based documents that you can create or share in Drive. Like Docs editors, My Maps can be used with or without Drive.

Are the files I store in Drive secure?

With Drive, your data is always backed up or stored in the cloud, so no matter what happens to your devices, your files are safe. You get the same business-grade data protection and security advantages that you get with G Suite, as described in G Suite security and privacy.

Accessing Drive files

With Drive File Stream, are Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and My Maps stored on my computer?

No. Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and My Maps are found on your computer as files that are essentially just pointers to web documents. These small "pointer files" have Google extensions (such as .gdoc, .gsheet, and .gslides). If you open these files on your computer, they open in your browser where you can edit them online as usual.

Are Drive files available offline?

For cloud-based Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms, you can enable offline access to Docs editors. My Maps aren't available offline.

With Backup and Sync, local files are always available offline. For example, PDFs, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and other files in your Google Drive folder that weren't created with Docs editors are available offline.

With Drive File Stream, you can make selected Drive files available for offline use.

Where is the Drive File Stream cache?

If you need to blacklist the Drive File Stream cache from virus or backup software, exclude this directory:

  • Windows: %LOCALAPPDATA%\Google\DriveFS
  • Mac: ~/Library/Application Support/Google/DriveFS

You can optionally customize the cache location.

Warning: Be cautious about clearing the Drive File Stream cache to try to fix general problems. Files are moved here before they're uploaded. If you clear the cache before an upload is complete, that file will be lost.
What happens to my Drive files if I lose access to my Google Account?

With Backup and Sync, local files (those not created with Docs editors or My Maps) still exist on your computer, as usual. Future changes to the local files will no longer sync as your computer won't be able to authenticate with Drive. Because Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms are stored in the cloud, you need your user name and password to access them.

With Drive File Stream, you need a valid Google Account to access all Drive files.

Can I disable Drive but keep Docs, Sheets, and Slides?

No. If you turn off the Drive service, this disables Docs editors as well as all Drive components (Drive on the web, Drive mobile apps, and Drive sync applications). 

Can I keep Drive but disable Docs editors?

Turning on Drive also turns on Docs editors. If you have the G Suite Essentials edition, you can turn off the ability to create new Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

Which parts of files in Drive are searchable?
  • G Suite for Government: Drive search includes search over file titles, in addition to the operators listed here.
  • All other editions of G Suite: Drive search includes full search over all file content, in addition to the operators listed here.

Folder limits in Google Drive

How many items can I have directly in a folder?

Any single folder in Drive which is not in a shared drive can have a maximum of 500,000 items placed within it. This limit does not apply to the root folder of 'My Drive'.

Items which are counted toward this limit are: 

  • Folders
  • Files
    • Any file you can store in Drive counts toward the limit.
    • Ownership of the file does not matter.
  • Shortcuts 
    • A shortcut counts as a single item within a folder, even if the item it points to is not within that folder.

Example 1

This example shows how items are counted: Folder A counts as having 4 items and Folder B as having 2 items:

  • My Drive (root)
    • Folder A (four items directly in this folder: Doc 1, Doc 2, Doc 3, Folder B)
      • Doc 1
      • Doc 2
      • Doc 3
      • Folder B (two items directly in this folder: Doc 4, Doc 5)
        • Doc 4
        • Doc 5

Example 2

This example shows that items placed directly in a folder count towards the 500,000 item limit, but items placed in child folders do not count towards the 500,000 limit for the parent folder.

  • My Drive (root)
    • Folder C has 300,000 items directly placed in it
      • Folder D has 400,000 items directly placed in it
      • Folder E has 200,000 items directly placed it it

This example is permitted because there are fewer than 500,000 items in a single folder. Also note that in this example, Folder D and Folder E are each counted as 1 item toward the limit for Folder C.

Syncing files

How does Google Drive sync files?

This depends on whether you use Drive File Stream or Backup and Sync. To compare these options, see Choose a sync solution.

Are synced files removed from my computer and stored online exclusively?

If you use Drive File Stream, your Drive files are moved to the cloud, freeing up disk space and eliminating the network bandwidth needed to keep all your files synced from your computer to the cloud. You can stream Drive files on demand, or make them available for offline access.

If you use Backup and Sync, your local files will remain in your Drive folder on your computer, and a synced copy is also stored online. You can also configure Backup and Sync to delete local files and keep them safe in the cloud.

Will syncing files use much internet bandwidth?

With Drive File Stream, files are stored in the cloud and don’t need to sync with online versions, saving network bandwidth. Files that are cached for offline access will sync back to the cloud when you’re online.

Backup and Sync doesn't throttle bandwidth by default, but you can choose to limit your bandwidth settings. You can also pause syncing at any time if Drive is consuming too much of your Internet connection.

See Back up & sync files with Google Drive to learn how to limit bandwidth.

Can I control which sync application is used in my organization?

Yes. As the administrator, you can turn on or off Drive File Stream, Backup and Sync, both, or neither. See Turn on sync for your organization to learn more.

Can I use Drive File Stream and Backup and Sync at the same time?

Yes, if both applications are allowed in your organization. Learn what happens if you allow both applications.

Which file systems are supported by Backup and Sync?

Backup and Sync supports APFS, HFS+, and FAT (on OS X), and ReFS, NTFS, and FAT (on Windows). There is currently no support for network volumes (e.g. SMB or NFS).

What happens when I delete a file in Drive File Stream?

Files deleted from Drive File Stream will be purged from the system trash after 30 days.

Which file systems are supported by File Stream?

The Drive File Stream content cache supports connected APFS, HFS+, or NTFS file systems. File Stream currently doesn’t support network volumes (for example, SMB or NFS).

File Stream creates a virtual Drive, which appears as a FAT file system.

Note: FAT has some file size limitations. For example, the largest possible file for a FAT32 drive is 4GB (minus 2 bytes).

What are the File Stream cache limitations?
  • You can’t upload a folder larger than the available storage in the partition where the cache folder is located.
  • File stream will show a limited Drive quota (even for unlimited accounts), according to the available space in the local drive where the cache is located.
If I need to upload a big set of data to Google Drive, should I use Backup and Sync, or File Stream?

We recommend that you use Backup and Sync, as File Stream cache and FAT limitations might cause errors. In any case, please always keep a copy of the original (use copy/paste, not cut/paste), as we can’t recover files that never made it to the cloud.

Why can't I upload Google Docs and Sheets files directly to shared drives or sync with other backup clients?
When using Drive File Stream and Backup and Sync, you'll find .gdoc and .gsheet files listed on your local machine. These can't be backed up by other clients, such as Dropbox or OneDrive, because they are shortcut files pointing to specific files hosted in Google's cloud. These shortcut files are not available for uploading or copying with other sync tools.

Furthermore, if you try to drag a .gdoc or .gsheet file from your desktop into a shared drive in your browser, you will see the error message "Can’t duplicate filename.gdoc.” Instead, to add a file to a shared drive, use a web browser and follow these instructions.


What are the Drive storage and file size limits?

Drive storage is shared between Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos. The amount of free storage for each user depends on your type of account:

  • G Suite Basic
30 GB
  • G Suite Business
  • G Suite for Education
  • G Suite Enterprise for Education
Unlimited storage
(1 TB if 4 or fewer users)
  • Legacy free edition of G Suite
  • Individual personal accounts
15 GB
  • Essentials

No free storage quotas
Pooled storage limits

If needed, you can purchase additional storage.

Content created with My Maps doesn't count toward storage quotas.

Individual users can only upload 750 GB each day between My Drive and all shared drives. Users who reach the 750-GB limit or upload a file larger than 750 GB cannot upload additional files that day. Uploads that are in progress will complete. The maximum individual file size that you can upload or synchronize is 5 TB.

What is the difference between Google Drive storage and Google Cloud Storage

Drive storage is for users and Cloud Storage is for developers.

Do multiple revisions of a file count against my storage limit?

Multiple revisions of a file are available online, but only the latest version is available on your computer. The online revisions are not counted toward your storage quota unless you’ve explicitly decided to keep older revisions.

If a file is in multiple Drive folders on the web, does it count against my quota multiple times?

No. Only one version counts against your storage quota.

Do files that have been shared with me count toward my storage quota?

No. Files that have been shared with you in Drive never count toward your storage limit, even if you move them to My Drive.

See what uses your storage space.

What if I use more storage online than I have available on my computer?

With Drive File Stream, this is no problem. Your files are stored exclusively online unless you make them available for offline access.

With Backup and Sync, if you don't have enough storage on your computer you can choose to sync only a subset of folders in Drive. See Back up & sync files with Google Drive to learn more.

What happens if a user is over their quota or a storage license is removed?

The user can still access any files already in Drive, but they'll receive a warning and won't be able to add additional files until they're under quota or have their quota increased.


Next steps: Set up Drive for your team

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