7 Tips & Tricks To Get The Most Out Of Google Drive

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Google Drive is a great service, but installing the application and synchronizing some files is just the first step. These tricks will help you take advantage of Google Drive, both on the desktop and on the web – whether you’re looking to easily synchronize other folders with your Drive or take advantage of the features only available on the website.

Many of these tricks will also work with Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive, and any other service that provides a magic folder that automatically synchronizes your files over the Internet. Google’s Drive integration with third-party web apps is a unique feature, though.

Use The Send To Menu

You can add Google Drive to the Windows Send To menu and easily send files to your drive from anywhere on your computer.

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The Send To menu actually shows the contents of a special folder, and you can add your own shortcuts. To open the folder, launch Windows Explorer, copy the following text, and paste it into the address bar:

%APPDATA%/Microsoft/Windows/SendTo

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Right-click the Google Drive folder in your favorites, hold down the right mouse button, and drag and drop it to your Send To folder. When a menu appears, select “Copy Here.”

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If you click and drag with the left mouse button, Windows will move the shortcut from your favorites instead of copying it.

Encrypt Sensitive Files

Cloud storage services like Google Drive are a great way to keep copies of important documents, even if your house burns down or all your hardware fails. Still, putting this sensitive data under someone else’s control can be a concern. Before you upload important documents, consider encrypting them with a password. If your account is compromised, no one will be able to view the files without your password – Google themselves can’t even view the encrypted data.

We’ve covered a variety of ways to encrypt files, but one of the easiest is to create an encrypted archive. Be sure to use a program with strong encryption support. 7-Zip is a good, free option – when creating your archive,create a .7z file (just like a ZIP file) with AES-256 encryption.

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Be sure to choose a strong password that you can remember – if you forget the password, you’ll lose access to your files.

BoxCryptor also supports Google Drive. It will create a secure, encrypted drive letter that you can drop files in. The files sync over Google Drive, but you’ll need BoxCryptor and your password to access them.

Setting up two-step authentication is another good way to boost the security of your entire Google account, including your Drive.

Move User Folders

You can move your user data folders, including the Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos, and Downloads folders by right-clicking them and using the options on the Location tab. Move a folder to your online drive to synchronize it between your computers.

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Do this on each computer you use and you’ll have the same files in your Documents, Downloads, and other folders on all your computers.

Customize Windows Libraries

You don’t have to move folders to easily save files onto your online drive — use the Windows libraries folders instead. From a library folder, click the “locations” link at the top of the window.

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You can add folders from Google Drive to a library and even set it as your default save location. When you open the library in Windows Explorer, you’ll see files from all included folders. When you move or save a file to the library, Windows will place it in the default save location.

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Empty The Trash

Files in the trash (and previous versions of files) take up storage space. After deleting files, you’ll have to empty the online drive trash to reclaim your storage space.

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You can only clear the trash from the Google Drive web page. It’s a bit hidden – click the “More” link in the sidebar and you’ll see the Trash option.

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Restore Previous Versions

Google Drive stores the previous versions of files for 30 days or 100 revisions – whichever comes first. You can’t view these from your desktop, though — you’ll have to visit the website, right-click a file and select “Manage Revisions.”

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These previous revisions take up storage space, just like files in your Trash do – you can delete previous versions from here if they’re taking up too much space.

Installing Apps

Google Drive isn’t just a folder that synchronizes across your computers – Google clearly envisions it as a web-based hard drive for web apps. The Chrome Web Store contains a category for Google Drive apps.

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You can launch files in web apps directly from Google Drive. The web app can also save files directly back to your drive. The service provides a much-needed location where you can store your files, instead of scattering them across multiple web apps.

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Do you have any other tricks to share? Be sure to leave a comment and let us know about them.

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31 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Johann

I do wish sites would stop advocating the moving of My Documents to cloud-storage locations. There’s lots of shitty apps out there that write transient data to this folder which is just being shuttled back and forth to the cloud for no reason whatsoever should you do this.

If there’s data in My Documents you want/need backed up, save it to a more ‘secure’ location. Hell, change default save paths to that new location in your applications if you really want all data backed up there.

Peter

Indeed. The whole ‘my’ thing has been a source of amusement and derision on this side of the screen ever since it appeared in MS OSs. I have always used separate drives for documents and the OS. This machine has 5 drives, partitioned to enable a variety of functions, plus I have a NAS and a 1TB Seagate portable and an array of USB/’thumb’ drives. It’s expensive but gives me a flexible approach to data protection and portability.

Chris Hoffman

That’s a really good point. On the other hands, lots of apps write data there that you might want to synchronize — for example, various games appear to use My Documents for their save files on my system. Some people might want to sync that.

Personally, I don’t do that — I think including it in the library folder is a better option. But some people might want to, so it’s a neat trick I included.

Reply

45f8035ca9ce54c53678df029ccfdd90

Hey, I really like Google Drive. It works for what I’m doing. Good article. Thanks for the tips!

Reply

Mrclose

Some nice tips and just to let you know .. You don’t have to open IE to use that shortcut to the ‘send’ folder.

Just click start and paste it into ‘Run”.

Chris Hoffman

Yup, indeed — thanks for pointing that out. I tried to give the least confusing steps, although using the search box in the Start menu is more efficient.

Dan

He didn’t say IE, he said Windows Explorer

Reply

Peter

True Crypt is a much better way of encrypting, as I can testify; I have broken encryption on the odd password protected file of mine when I forgot the password, using Advanced Zip Password Recovery. True Crypt foxed the Brazilian secret services, who turned to the FBI andk (IIRC) the CIA. The result was failure. There is no substitution Strong encryption with a very strong password. I occasionally lodge my confidential stuff in the cloud using TC. However, there is a much better way to carry crucial data and that is to put the encrypted files on a USB drive. Granted it’s not suitable for online sharing.

Chris Hoffman

Truecrypt is a bit more involved and might be overkill if you just want additional protection on a few files, like me.

The method here should theoretically be good, though — some programs use really weak ZIP encryption, but 7-zip’s AES-256 encryption should be fine if you use a strong passphrase.

As far as the FBI and CIA.. well, if they get involved, you can be forced to give up your passphrase anyway.

Truecrypt may definitely be ideal for people looking for really strong encryption, though.

Peter

I don’t know so much about overkill. It’s become so routine for me that I find it easy…. ….and the FBI/CIA really can take a running jump back to their side of the pond. I protect my personal and my research data which have nothing to do with them. True the British security services can force me to give up my password on pain of punishment, but not the Feebs and co. They have to ask our security services nicely.

Chris Hoffman

True enough. I suppose it partly depends on what you store.

I just want a bit of extra security on mildly sensitive financial stuff, like bank statements. I don’t really care if the government wants to see them — in fact, I only keep them in case the government decides to do an audit.

Reply

Tad

Until they add a better way to sync and back up folders without moving them into the Drive folder I’ll stick with Cubby/SugarSync.

Chris Hoffman

That’s definitely a big weakness. Symlinks should theoretically work, although they’re more of a pain to set up — that said, I looked it up and Google Drive doesn’t support them. Lame.

I suppose you should move the originals to Google Drive and set up symlinks pointing there — but why bother when you can use SugarSync or a similar service?

Chris Hoffman

I don’t think it’s dramatically worse than competing services. In fact, in some ways it’s significantly better — Apple reserves the right to delete “objectionable” content at any time, while Microsoft has really harsh anti-copyright-infringment policies (Google and Dropbox just say they’ll comply with the DMCA).

I do think it’s legitimate to worry about the ToS, but Google isn’t alone here: http://www.theverge.com/2012/4/25/2973849/google-drive-terms-privacy-data-skydrive-dropbox-icloud

If you’re worried, your best bet is to use an encrypted service. Or provide your own encryption, like with a truecrypt volume that Peter recommended above.

Reply

Kshitij Verma

After the data tracking policies (whatever you call ‘em) I don’t trust these guys at all.
Happy with dropbox instead.

Chris Hoffman

Dropbox’s privacy agreement is actually more vague, as the article I linked above points out.

Still, it’s true — Google uses your data to target ads at you, while Dropbox doesn’t (I suppose this is another reason Dropbox is more expensive.)

If you’re worried about that, definitely use a competitor (or at least encrypt your data).

Reply

Nelsyv

You can make google drive portable if you use winRAR. Make an SFX archive that saves registry temp folder in same folder and put in the googledrivesync.exe and googledrivesync64.dll from your Programfiles(x86)\Google\Drive. A bit confusing, but you should be able to figure it out.

Chris Hoffman

Oh wow, that is a very interesting trick. I’ll have to try it out sometime. Thanks!

Mohamed Rabie

Hey, can you help me with this please. I need to put google drive on my USB. any ideas?!!

Chris Hoffman

I don’t think this is possible, sorry — Google would have to make it work properly.

Reply

Dr J Johnson

Simple question: how do I transfer a file (eg: pdf or html page) from an on-line URL into Google Drive? This will mean copying the file(s)/folder(s) so I can still see them even if the original version is no longer available.

Chris Hoffman

You should be able to just save the page in your browser (either click the File menu in your browser and select Save As or right-click the page and Save As) and save it to the C:\Users\YOURNAME\Google Drive folder on your computer.

In general though, it’s better to save PDF copies — if you just save an HTML page, it may look different in the future. I recommend you use some sort of Print to PDF feature and save the resulting PDF to Google Drive.

For example, if your’e using Chrome, right-click the page, select Print, click the Change button in the Destination section and select Save to PDF. Save the PDF to the Google Drive folder I mentioned above.

If your browser doesn’t have built-in Save to PDF features, you may want to try a PDF printer. I’ve used CutePDF Writer (free) in the past: http://www.cutepdf.com/products/cutepdf/Writer.asp

Dr J Johnson

I was trying to be concise, but here’s the bit I should probably have included in the question: ‘…without copying it to my HD, and then copying it again as an upload’.

In other words, a simple on-line — copy to —-> Google Drive. may be a single file, or web-page and associated folder(s).

I really cannot see how this can be done, but it would make Google Drive so much more useful, and efficient without ‘double-handling’ all the files/folders.

Thanks for your help so far, any ideas on how to copy without troubling my own Hard Drive?

Michael Bordach

@DrJ Drive doesn’t (yet) offer direct URL upload. For a workaround you may have a look at IFTTT. This service provides a ‘Google Drive Channel’ which supports an action ‘Upload Files from URL’.

Reply

tdhorlando

Using Google Drive is essentially a no brainer – with a single Google account. But many people have more than one account (e.g. a personal account and one for work – and hundreds of other use cases). It would be nice to know how it works – or doesn’t work – when you frequently log in to and store documents on – multiple Google accounts.

Chris Hoffman

Works fine if you’re accessing it via a web browser, but using the desktop client you’d have to disconnect your account repeatedly. If you really want more free space, I’d just use multiple desktop clients (google drive, dropbox, skydrive, etc)

Reply

Wayne

Hi Chris How does one prevent legitimate viewers from actually downloading the uploaded files and images from Google Drive to their computer?
The ”Prevent viewers from Downloading” available in the drop down menu does not prevent someone from right clicking on say an .jpg image and saving to their hard drive. I want people to be able to view the documents and photos but not to be able to grab a copy for themselves.
Hopefully you will know how to solve this problem for me and for others.
Thank you and kind regards
Wayne

Chris Hoffman

Hi Wayne,

Unfortunately, you can’t really — if they can see the image, it’s already downloaded to their computer, so they can save it. If they have access to the file, they can download it.

Some services might offer features like “disable right click” that will prevent users from doing a right-click + copy, but that just makes the process more inconvenient — if the image is on their screen, they can even take a screenshot and grab it. So unfortunately, you can’t control this. The only way to really prevent it is to prevent people from viewing the file.

Reply

mundo

How can I copy entire folders from Google Drive to a Google Sites document folder?

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