Working with remote and in-office colleagues? Learn how to thrive in hybrid work environments.

What are shared drives?

Shared drives are special folders in Google Drive that you can use to store, search, and access files with a team. Shared drive files belong to the team instead of an individual. Even if members leave, the files stay in the shared drive so your team can keep sharing information and work anywhere, from any device.

Organize and share individual and team content with Google Drive

Key features of shared drives

  • Files and folders persist after someone leaves

    Your organization owns the files in a shared drive, not an individual. When someone leaves and an admin deletes their account, files they added or created in shared drives remain.

  • Flexible sharing

    Access to files and folders in shared drives is granted in two ways: 1) adding a user or group as a member of the shared drive, and 2) members sharing files and folders with non-members.

    1. Easy, consistent sharing for members. All members of a shared drive see the same content so you don’t have to spend time addressing sharing requests. You can add a group as a member of a shared drive. Then when a user is added to the group, Google Groups automatically adds them to all the shared drives that include that group. Members are assigned access levels, which control what they can do with files and the shared drive.
    2. Tailored sharing for non-members. If allowed, members of a shared drive can share individual files and folders with non-members. This option lets you share only what a non-member needs access to, without sharing everything in the shared drive.
  • External people can work in your shared drives (if allowed by your organization)

    You can add people outside of your organization to a shared drive, as long as they have an email address associated with a Google Account. Any work an external person contributes (for example, edits to, creating, or uploading a file) in a shared drive created by someone in your organization is transferred to and owned by your organization.

  • Sync shared drives to your desktop

    You can access your shared drives on your computer using Google Drive for desktop.

Compare shared drives with My Drive


My Drive

Shared drives

Who can add files?

The person who owns My Drive.

Any member with Contributor access or higher.

Who owns files and folders?

The individual who created the file or folder.

The team.

Can I move files and folders?

Yes, you can move files and folders around in My Drive.

  • If you have Contributor access or higher, you can move files from My Drive to a shared drive.
  • If you have Content manager access or higher, you can move files and folders within a shared drive.
  • If you have Manager access, you can move files out of a shared drive or between shared drives.
  • If you want to move folders from My Drive to a shared drive, contact your administrator.

Can I sync files to my computer?

Yes, using Google Drive for desktop.

For details, see What can you do with Drive for desktop.

Yes, using Google Drive for desktop.

How does sharing work?

People might see different files in a folder, depending on their access to individual files.

All members of the shared drive see all files.

How long do files I delete stay in Trash?

Files and folders in Trash are deleted forever after 30 days. You can also delete files in Trash by selecting Delete Forever.

Each shared drive has its own Trash.

  • Members with Content manager access and above can move files to Trash.
  • Files and folders in Trash are deleted forever after 30 days.
  • Members with Manager access can permanently delete files before 30 days.

Can I restore files?

Yes, if you’re an owner of the file.

Yes, if you have at least Contributor access.

Common uses for shared drives

  • Projects—For people involved in the same project.
  • Events—For people working for a defined period on a specific event or deliverable.
  • Templates—For files that people can copy and reuse.
  • Company-wide files—For files everyone needs access to, such as training files.
  • Sensitive files—For highly sensitive files, where you can add extra security to limit access.

Shared drives best practices

1. Put collaborative or reference files in shared drives - avoid data loss

Use shared drives for content intended for organization-wide or team use, such as project plans, research results, or team meeting notes. Keep personal and private files, such as one-on-one meeting notes, performance assessments, and career development plans, in My Drive.

This approach helps keep your personal content private, and helps your organization avoid data loss. Because your organization owns files in shared drives, rather than a specific individual, those files persist if the individual leaves your organization.

If you’re concerned about members deleting files from a shared drive, make sure they have Contributor, Commenter, or Viewer access only. These members can’t delete files.

2. Give each shared drive a clear focus or purpose

Create a shared drive for each project. If the files are for a variety of projects, create multiple shared drives. This approach also helps you define member access based on that purpose.

For example:

  • If the shared drive is an active space for collaboration—Give members Content manager access or Contributor access so they can update content. Content managers can move files and folders within a shared drive or move files to the trash (but they can't delete files permanently).
  • If the shared drive is a repository for a completed project or final content—Give members Commenter or Viewer access so content can’t be changed. You might also want to change the shared drive name to indicate its status, such as [Archive] or [Reference].

Avoid adding too many members. As the number of projects and teams increases, managing content in a single shared drive can be difficult. If a shared drive becomes hard to use because too many files or folders are added, consider reorganizing the content into several new shared drives representing individual projects and functional (or cross-functional) teams.

When there’s disagreement about organization, there may be too many projects and teams using the shared drive. You might reorganize the shared drive into 2–3 new ones:

  • One shared drive solely containing the “shared” content, representing a cross-functional project team
  • One (or more) shared drives for the specific content for each of the functional teams

3. Use Google Groups for membership

Groups can make shared drive membership easier to manage, because when someone is added to a group, they get membership to the shared drives the group is a member of. This approach has 2 main benefits:

  1. New group members get the same access to files and folders in shared drives as existing group members. You don’t have to worry about if they have access or not.
  2. It increases your shared drive membership capacity. If you add shared drive members individually, you can add only 600 people. Using groups, you can add up to 100 groups and up to 50,000 people.

4. Share content responsibly

For people or groups who need access to all the files and folders in a shared drive, add them as members with the appropriate access level. If possible, give collaborators Manager or Content manager access so they aren’t limited in how they work together in the shared drive.

  • Support collaborators on Google Drive for desktop–If your collaborators use Google Drive for desktop to access non-Google files (such as an Adobe PDF or Microsoft Office file), give them Content manager access. Note: Members with Contributor access can still make edits offline on their desktop and then upload updated versions without Drive for desktop. See Switch to a different version of your file.
  • Use separate shared drives to control access–In some cases, you might want to have more than one shared drive for the same project if you have distinct groups of collaborators with different access needs. For example, if you’re working on a project with an external agency. Create a shared drive for internal team members and a separate shared drive for internal and external collaborators. This way, you can prevent external members from accessing internal-only content.
  • Use file sharing for limited access–If someone needs access to only a certain file or folder in a shared drive, you can share only that item rather than making them a member. Only Managers can share folders in shared drives.

5. Organize folders shared drives with access in mind

Shared drives are designed for easy, flexible access management. When you create a shared drive with folders in it, aim to have each user’s access level be appropriate for every folder in the shared drive. If you can’t, consider reorganizing some folders into their own shared drives.

6. Use naming conventions

To help people find shared drives and avoid naming conflicts in shared drives, agree on organization-wide naming conventions. For example:

  • Your company has sales divisions in different regions and you create a shared drive for each sales region. To differentiate the shared drives, prefix them with the region or an abbreviation of the region.
  • You can indicate status by adding a prefix, such as [Archive] to a project that’s no longer active or [In Progress] to a project that’s active.
  • To distinguish between shared drives that are shared externally and internally, add the prefix [External] or [Internal].

Related topics

Was this helpful?
How can we improve it?
Get help from Small Business Advisors

Want to receive one-on-one guidance and tailored recommendations on how to make the most out of your Business Profile? Try booking an appointment with Small Business Advisors.

Important: This service cannot troubleshoot issues, including Business Profile verification or suspension, or Google Ads billing.

Clear search
Close search
Google apps
Main menu
Search Help Center