Google Drive is arguably the most popular cloud storage service out there. The service is provided by default on all Android devices, and Google offers a generous 15GB of storage to start. Similar to Dropbox and OneDrive, Google Drive offers a tool called Backup and Sync for Windows and Mac. For G Suite (now Google Workplace) users, the search giant provides the Drive File Stream app.
The Backup & Sync app seamlessly replicates your computer’s folders to your Google Drive, and vice versa. The problem with the method is that the folders you sync with the Backup & Sync app stay offline on the device. This means that it will consume the storage on your PC or Mac. Drive File Stream aims to solve the problem.
Drive File Stream does things differently by letting you access your computer’s file browser instead of locally downloading your content. In a way, it works like a NAS, partially if not completely.
Drive Stream was previously limited to only G Suite accounts. Google also wants to extend these features to classic Drive accounts. Anyone with a Google Account can set up and use File Drive Stream on Windows or Mac.
2nd step: Open the downloaded file and follow the usual setup process.
Step 3: Sign in using your Google Account credentials and you’re good to go.
From now on, you will see the Google Drive File Stream drive in Windows File Manager. Unlike Backup & Sync, there is no way to sync the selected folders on the device. Drive File Stream will mirror your entire Google Drive account in the file manager.
Features of Drive File Stream
- Drive File Stream is a convenient way to save space on your computer, especially if you are working on lots of shared folders that you don’t need to keep on your computer.
- Drive File Stream lets you download locally the content you need to work on when you’re offline. This means that the content remains accessible but does not take up local storage space, unless you specifically download and sync the folders and files that you need to access offline.
- When working with files offline, you can make changes to the file and Drive File Stream syncs the changes after your computer is connected to the internet connection.
In theory, Drive File Stream looks like a winning solution over Backup and Sync, but wait, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Let me warn you about some of the downsides of using Drive File Stream.
Limitations of Drive File Stream
- Most of your Google Drive is accessible to anyone using the PC. Backup & Sync and OneDrive allow users to sync selected folders with PC. You can therefore exclude a folder containing files or sensitive information. This is not possible with Drive File Stream.
- You cannot sync other PC folders such as Documents or Desktop with Drive File Stream. You must use the old method of manually uploading content to Google Drive.
- There is no Google Photos integration. You will have to rely on Google Photos Web to manage / upload photos.
Customize Drive File Stream
Google offers a lot of customization options in Drive File Stream.
By default, the File Drive Stream application is represented by a letter G in the file manager. You can change it to X or another alphabetical letter from the Settings app.
Press the up arrow on the Windows taskbar and click the Drive File Stream icon. Tap Settings in the top right corner and go to Preferences.
You will notice the Default Drive Letter option. Tap on it and change the name of the letter.
If you are working on a small data plan, you might want to pause Drive syncing in the background. Open the Drive File Stream app and select Settings> Pause syncing to temporarily stop the syncing process.
Users can also limit download rate and bandwidth usage from Network settings option in app preferences.
My brief experience with Drive File Stream
As a OneDrive user, I have always missed functions equivalent to Files On Demand on Google Drive. Drive File Stream bridges the crucial gap for me. I can now view the entire Google Drive folder in the file manager and completely avoid the web interface.
After using Drive File Stream and comparing it to Backup & Sync, I don’t think I can go back to using the old Google Drive sync methods on PC. I guess after the first few tests with personal Gmail users, Google will combine the two tools and come up with something on par with OneDrive and Dropbox.
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Use Google Drive like a pro
Drive File Stream is the must have utility for power users. If you want to get the most out of the Google Drive experience, try it on Windows or Mac. Set up Drive File Stream and share your opinions in the comments section below.
If you want to learn more about the current backup and sync tool, read the article below.
Last updated Oct 21, 2020
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