Drive File Stream's name is changing to Google Drive for desktop. Learn more about the change.

Drive Sync FAQ for admins

Here are common questions for admins who manage Google Drive for an organization, about streaming or syncing Drive files to users' devices.


How does Google Drive sync files?

This depends on whether you use Google Drive for desktop 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 for desktop, 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 for desktop, 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 for desktop, Backup and Sync, both, or neither. See Turn on sync for your organization to learn more.

Can I use Drive for desktop 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 for desktop?

Files deleted from Drive for desktop will be purged from the system trash after 30 days.

Which file systems are supported by Drive for desktop?

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

Drive for desktop 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 Drive for desktop cache limitations?
  • You can’t upload a folder larger than the available storage in the partition where the cache folder is located.
  • Drive for desktop 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 Drive for desktop?

We recommend that you use Backup and Sync, as Drive for desktop 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 for desktop 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.

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