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

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google drive

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.

google drive

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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how to google drive

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.”

how to google drive

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.

how to google drive

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.

how to get google drive

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.

how to get google drive

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.

how to get google drive

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.

google drive

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

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Comments (32)
  • Hari

    Another cool app-Sharing List Manager, made for Google Drive which extracts all editors and viewers list of Google Drive files.

  • mundo

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

  • 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.

  • 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)

  • 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’.

    • Chris Hoffman

      It looks like the CleanSave extension will do this: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/iplagehfoafmmjppeijnpkohihcllici

      Never used it myself, though.

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.