Linux Productivity

How to Access Your Google Drive Account on Ubuntu

Lori Kaufman 05-03-2018

Google Drive provides 15GB of storage space for free, making it a good option for backing up and syncing files. Accessing your Google Drive account on Windows and macOS is easy, but using Google Drive on Ubuntu is different.


It’s not hard to access your Google Drive files in Ubuntu Linux, you just have to know how to do it. Here’s how to do this using Gnome Online Accounts.

Install Gnome Online Accounts

The System Settings in Ubuntu includes an Online Accounts section, but that’s not the one we’re going to use. We’re going to install Gnome Online Accounts into the Gnome Control Center.

Accessing online accounts in Ubuntu

To install the Gnome Online Accounts package, press Ctrl + Alt + T to open a Terminal window. Then, type the following command and press Enter.

sudo apt install gnome-online-accounts

Open Gnome Online Accounts

Once you’ve installed Gnome Online Accounts, type the following to open it.

gnome-control-center online-accounts

You can also open Gnome Online Accounts using the Unity Launcher. Click the Search button at the top of the Unity Launcher bar and start typing “gnome control center”.

Click the Settings icon that displays under Applications.

Adding Gnome Control to Ubuntu

Then, click Online Accounts in the Personal section on the All Settings dialog box.


Unity Launcher online accounts

Add Your Google Drive Account

On the Online Accounts dialog box, click Add an online account.

Add an online account button in Ubuntu

Click Google on the Add Account dialog box.


Adding a Google Drive account to Ubuntu

Enter the Gmail address for the Google Drive account you want to access and click Next. Enter your password when prompted and click Next again.

Signing into Google Drive on Ubuntu

Click Allow to let the file manager, Nautilus, access your Google account.


Allow Gnome to access Google Drive

Make sure the Files slider button is on. Close the Online Accounts dialog box.

Enabling file access in Google Drive on ubuntu

Mount Your Google Drive in Nautilus

Now you can access your Google Drive account directly in Nautilus. Your account is mounted in Nautilus and shown with your Gmail address in the left pane. Click on your email address to access the files in your account.

Mounting Google Drive in Nautilus

You can add as many Google Drive accounts as you want. To add another, open Gnome Online Accounts again and follow the steps in the “Add Your Google Drive Account” section above. Each account is listed separately in the sidebar in Nautilus.

Adding a second Google Drive to Nautilus

You can also mount your Google Drive folder from the Unity Launcher. Hover your mouse over a mounted drive icon on the Unity Launcher bar to see which Google account is mounted to that icon. Nautilus opens directly to that mounted Google account.

Mounted Google Drive in Unity Launcher

Work With Google Drive Files in Ubuntu

Unlike Windows or macOS, your Google Drive files are not downloaded and stored locally in Ubuntu. You must have an active internet connection to access your account.

To add local files to your Google Drive account, copy the files to your mounted Google Drive folder in Nautilus. To work with files from your Google Drive account offline, copy the files from your mounted account to a folder on your hard drive.

You can also work directly on files in the mounted Google Drive folder. As you change files, those files are immediately synced back to your account online. But this method is slower than working with the files directly on your hard drive.

If you have a lot of work to do on files in your Google Drive account, it’s more efficient and productive to copy them to a folder on your local hard drive first. When you’re finished working on the files, copy them back to your Google Drive account, replacing the original files.

Show Thumbnails for Google Drive Files

By default, Nautilus does not load file previews or thumbnails from mounted remote accounts. But, you can change this. In Nautilus, go to Edit > Preferences.

Showing Google Drive thumbnails in ubuntu

On the Files Preferences dialog box, click the Preview tab. Then, change the option for Show thumbnails to Always under Files.

Nautilus also does not show the number of items in remote folders by default. To see this number for folders in your Google Drive account, select Always in the Count number of items dropdown list under Folders.

Google Drive files preferences in Ubuntu

Unmount a Google Drive Account

To unmount a Google Drive account, click the eject icon to the right of your Gmail address in Nautilus.

Unmounting Google Drive in Nautilus

You can also unmount a Google Drive folder on the Unity Launcher. Right-click on the mounted drive icon for the account you want to unmount. Then, select Unmount.

The icon for that Google account stays locked to the Unity Launcher, unless you select Unlock from Launcher from the right-click menu. Leaving the mounted folder icons locked to the Unity Launcher bar makes it easier to mount each Google account again.

Unmount Google Drive in Unity Launcher

Alternatives to Google Drive on Ubuntu

Google Drive is not the only cloud storage option for Ubuntu. Here are some other options.


Dropbox is a good option because the Dropbox client for Ubuntu works similarly to the Dropbox client on Windows. The files are synced and stored in a folder on your hard drive and you can choose which folders in your Dropbox account to sync. When you install Dropbox in Ubuntu, you get an indicator on the top panel that provides access to Dropbox features.

Dropbox on ubuntu


Mega provides 50GB of storage for free and their MEGAsync tool provides easy syncing between your computer and your Mega account. There’s also a Nautilus extension on the MEGAsync download page that integrates your Mega account into the file manager in Ubuntu.

You can get an additional 20GB of space by installing MEGAsync and 15GB by installing the mobile app.

Mega cloud storage on Ubuntu

Additional Cloud Storage Solutions

Other mainstream cloud storage services, like Box and OneDrive, don’t offer Linux clients. You can access OneDrive in a browser and manually download and upload files. Ubuntu used to have Ubuntu One, but that doesn’t exist anymore. But there are several other cloud solutions 10 Cloud Solutions You Should Be Using on Linux Some mainstream cloud storage options don't offer a decent Linux client. But you're not out of luck. Many popular services do work under Linux. You can even roll out your own cloud solution! Read More you can use on Linux.

Google Drive on Ubuntu: Basic but Useful

When working with Google Drive files in Ubuntu, you don’t have a nice indicator like Dropbox Dropbox vs. Google Drive vs. OneDrive: Which Cloud Storage Is Best for You? Have you changed the way you think about cloud storage? The popular options of Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive have been joined by others. We help you answer which cloud storage service should you use. Read More . And you don’t have extra features like sharing files. But you can easily access and sync files in your Google Drive account. If that’s the main thing you want to do, you’re all set.

Related topics: Google Drive, Ubuntu.

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  1. Gunasekar
    August 31, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    How to access the shared folders?

  2. John Smith
    April 22, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Too much nonsense and additional packages to install.
    Simples way.
    Add the PPA
    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:alessandro-strada/ppa
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install google-drive-ocamlfuse

    Mount the drive.
    mkdir -p ~/google-drive
    google-drive-ocamlfuse ~/google-drive

    You will be walked through the authentication.
    Read the documentation for additional features on github's page for the software.

  3. Don
    March 15, 2018 at 2:25 am

    Would not complete for me always fails at authentication with an alert box saying either a time out or that the credential could not be added to the keyring.

    Have you got any ideas how to get past that?
    Ubuntu 16.04.4 LTS 64-bit
    Intel® Core™ i7-2630QM CPU @ 2.00GHz × 8

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  15. Tsreb
    March 6, 2018 at 4:46 am

    Actually you can also install Grive2 which will sync your cloud drive to desktop GOOGLE folder. The only negative is that you have to perform a manual sync (though a simple 4 line script can be written and executed to do it). just do a search on Grive2 and there should be instructions on installation

    I actually for awhile switched to Manjaro because the AUR had Grive/Grive Indicator which was the Google Drive sync with autosync.

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  20. Heimen Stoffels
    March 5, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    You can also install Polo File Manager, which lets you add Google Drive and OneDrive accounts. Which is also convenient as that way you don't have to access OneDrive in a browser.

    • Matt
      March 6, 2018 at 3:31 pm

      This is a useful tip but what I have found to be much easier is just make Google my homepage, log in and use the Google apps button to access not just drive but photos and Google play music. All you need is a browser a d a internet connection. Easy peasy lemon squeezey.