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Google Drive FAQ for administrators

Below are common questions about managing Google Drive for a team of G Suite users.

Looking instead for a Google Drive feature overview?


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

Yes. Google Drive is a place to store and access all your files, while Google 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 Google Drive. Like Docs editors, My Maps can be used with or without Google Drive.

Are the files I store in Google Drive secure?

With Google Drive, your data is always backed up on the web, 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 Google Drive

My organization uses SSO. Will this affect our users' access to Google Drive?

Google Drive supports SSO (Single Sign-On). Once SSO users install Google Drive for Mac/PC and try to authenticate with G Suite, Google Drive will redirect users to enter their SSO password online. After this, no special steps are required to use Google Drive.

Is 2-step verification supported with Google Drive?

2-step verification is supported with Google Drive on the web. On mobile devices, users will need to use an application-specific password to configure the application.

Are Google Drive files available offline?

Files in your local Google Drive folder that weren't created with Google Docs editors or Google My Maps, (such as PDFs, Word documents, and Excel spreadsheets), are always accessible when you’re offline. To see your cloud-based Docs, Sheets, and Slides when you’re offline, you can enable offline access to Google Docs editors for Chrome browser users. My Maps are not available offline.

You can also work offline when using apps for your Android device or iPhone or iPad.

What happens to my Google Drive files if I lose access to my Google account?

Files not created with Google Docs editors or Google My Maps still exist on your computer, as usual. Future changes to the local files will no longer sync, because your computer won't be able to authenticate with Google Drive.

However, because Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides files are just pointers to web resources, a valid user name and password is required to access them.

What if I don't install Google Drive for Mac/PC?

If you choose to not install the Google Drive for Mac/PC sync client, local files don't automatically sync to all your Google Drive devices. However, Google Drive on the web is still a place to access your online Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, online Google My Maps, plus any files you manually upload to Google Drive. You can also still access your Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, My Maps, and uploaded files via mobile apps.

As the administrator, you can disable the Google Drive for Mac/PC sync client across your organization. See step 3 of Install Google Drive for Mac/PC to learn how. However, note that doing this will not keep users from downloading their files from Google Drive on the web.

Can I disable Google Drive in my domain but keep Docs, Sheets, and Slides?

You can disable some components of the Google Drive service, but you can't disable Drive and keep the Google Docs editors. If you turn off the Google Drive service, this disables all components of the service, as well as Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. 

See User settings to learn about options that can be enabled or disabled.

Syncing and searching files

How does Google Drive sync files?

Google Drive for Mac/PC is the sync client. When you install Google Drive for Mac/PC, it creates a folder on your computer named Google Drive. Anything you put in this folder is synchronized with Google Drive on the web, and also becomes available on all your Google Drive devices.

Google Drive provides bi-directional sync, so changes you make online are reflected on all your devices, and vice-versa.

Which file systems does Google Drive for Mac/PC support?

Google Drive for Mac/PC supports only HFS+ (on OS X) and NTFS (on Windows). There is currently no support for network volumes (e.g. SMB or NFS) or other file systems such as FAT32.

How are Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and My Maps stored on my computer?

Synced Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides are stored on your computer as files that are essentially pointers to the web documents, as are synced Google My Maps. These small "pointer files" have Google extensions (such as .gdoc, .gsheet, and .gslides), and do not count toward your storage quota. If you open these files on your computer, the Docs, Sheets, Slides, and My Maps open up in your default web browser, where you can edit them online as usual.

To open Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides when you're offline, enable offline access to Google Docs editors for Chrome browser users. Google My Maps are not available offline.
Are synced files removed from my computer and stored online exclusively?

No. Your local files will remain in your Google Drive folder on your computer, and a synced copy is also stored online. The exceptions are files created by the Google Docs editors and Google My Maps, which are just pointers on your computer to the web resources, as described above.

Will using Google Drive take all of my internet bandwidth?

By default, Google Drive for Mac/PC doesn't throttle bandwidth, but you can change the amount of bandwidth that Drive can use to sync your files. You can also pause syncing at any given time if Drive is consuming too much of your Internet connection.

See Sync files and folders to learn how to limit bandwidth and pause syncing.

If a file is in multiple Google Drive folders on the web, where is it downloaded?

Google Drive downloads the file in each location on your local machine, but only one version counts against your storage quota.

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


What are the Google 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 the type of your account:

G Suite Basic 30 GB

G Suite Enterprise
G Suite Business
G Suite for Education

Unlimited storage
(1 TB if 4 or fewer users)
Google Apps Free edition (legacy)
Individual consumer accounts
15 GB

If needed, you can purchase additional storage.

Content created with Google Docs editors or My Maps doesn't count toward storage quotas. To learn more, see "Items that count toward storage" in See your storage limit.

The maximum individual file size that you can upload or sync in Google Drive is 5 TB. Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides have different size limits.

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

Google Drive storage is for users and Google 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.

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

No, files that have been shared with you in Google Drive never count toward your storage limit, even if you move them to My Drive and sync them. (Files you sync do take up space on your hard drive.)

To learn more, see "Items that count toward storage" in See your storage limit.

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

You can sync all items in your Google Drive on the web or, if you don't have sufficient storage on your computer, you can choose to sync only a subset of folders in your Google Drive. See Choose what syncs to your computer 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 Google Drive, but they'll receive a warning and won't be able to add additional files until they are under quota or have their quota increased.


Next steps: Set up Google Drive for your team

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