Use File Provider with Drive for desktop

Introduced by Apple in macOS 12.1, File Provider provides native support for accessing cloud-based file systems like Google Drive. Users who stream files will notice slight differences from the previous experience provided by Drive for desktop.

There is no change to how you interact with folders you have elected to mirror to Google Drive or backup to Google Photos. Read more about the differences between mirroring and streaming.

Confirm if you're using File Provider

If you received a notification from Drive for desktop with a “Learn more” link that brought you here, you are using the feature. To confirm:

  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.”

Why am I being asked to enable Google Drive?

Using this macOS feature requires your explicit permission. To give permissions:

  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 now?

To find streaming files:

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

Like before, 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. 
  • QuickLook previews only work for downloaded files (files without a cloud icon).
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