Use Drive for desktop on macOS

With Drive for desktop on macOS, you can:

  • Access Drive from Finder
  • Sync between local and Cloud files


Give macOS permission to sync files

If you sync certain files, you might need to give macOS permission to access folders and devices. Those folders and devices include: 

  • Desktop, Documents, and Downloads folders
  • Removable and network volumes
  • Your Photos library

Drive for desktop requires permission to: 

  • Access folders or devices you sync with Google Drive or backup to Google Photos
  • Use Real-time presence or a Bluetooth key to sign in

If you don't initially grant approval, and later decide to sync a folder or device, go to "System Preferences" and change your privacy settings. 

  1. On your computer, at the top-left corner, click the Apple Apple menu and then System Settings and then Privacy and Security.
  2. Open Files and Folders or Photos.
  3. Toggle the permission. 

Tip: For changes to take effect, you might need to restart Drive for desktop or your computer. 

Use File Provider to stream Drive files

If you use macOS 12.1 and up with Drive for desktop to stream files, Drive for desktop uses macOS's File Provider technology to provide built-in support for cloud file systems like Drive.

Confirm if you're using File Provider

To confirm you're using File Provider:

  1. Open Drive for desktop.
  2. Click Settings Settings and then Preferences.
  3. At the top right, click Settings Settings.
  4. Under “Google Drive streaming location,” make sure you see a notification that says “Folder location is controlled by macOS.”

Tip: If you received a notification from Drive for desktop with a “Learn more” link that brought you here, you are using File Provider.

Learn why you're asked to enable Google Drive

To enable Google Drive, you must give explicit approval. To approve:

  1. Open Finder.
  2. On the left, under "Locations," click Google Drive.
  3. At the top right, click Enable.

You can also give permissions by clicking OK on the pop-up window. 

If you do not enable Google Drive, you will not be able to stream your files using Google Drive for desktop. 

Where do I find my streaming files with File Provider?

To find streaming files:

  1. Open Finder.
  2. On the left, under "Locations," click Google Drive.

Files are not downloaded until actually used. Files that have not been downloaded yet are marked with a cloud icon.


  • For advanced use cases (e.g. Terminal), you can find your files under ~/Library/CloudStorage. 
  • Items in an application's recent file lists will not open until they are accessed in their new locations through Spotlight search or in Finder. If you have configured applications to explicitly use file paths referencing Drive for desktop’s streaming drive, you will need to manually change these paths to continue accessing them as you did previously. 
  • If you previously had configured your content cache to reside on a secondary volume, your content will be moved to the same volume on which your home directory resides.

How does this functionality differ from what I had before?

  • Files are accessed in a different location, which is controlled by macOS (see above).
  • The link in the Finder sidebar moves from Favorites to Locations, and if you remove it, it can be re-added in Finder preferences.
  • Dragging items in and out of a Google Drive folder will move them instead of copying them, by default. 
  • Spotlight search will only search a subset of your Drive corpus including any downloaded files. To search your full Drive corpus, use the Drive for desktop search tool or the Drive website.
  • When syncing is paused, you can’t download files.
  • Downloaded and locally created files are accessible when Drive for desktop is not running.
  • Caching is limited by available disk space; the OS will automatically remove unpinned files to free up space. Learn about the content cache for streaming files.
  • QuickLook previews only work for downloaded files (files without a cloud icon).
Understand drag & drop behavior while you use File Provider

When you drag and drop a folder or file within Finder, that item moves from its original location to its new location, provided both locations reside on the same disk volume. This remains true even when dragging the item in or out of the Drive for desktop file stream location.

Tip: To copy a file or folder, hold down the Option key  and drag it to another location.

Troubleshoot startup failure with File Provider

Google Drive is unable to start when it encounters a File Provider initialization error. This error is an error from macOS. If you encounter this error:

  1. Update your macOS operating system to the latest version
  2. Restart your computer

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