How to customize the synced folders in your Google Drive desktop app

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I am an experienced Google Drive user. I use the service daily for the majority of my writing needs. In my decade with Drive, I had a case where I lost almost all my work (thanks to a third-party sync tool gone bad). Since then, I’ve been diligent about backing up Google Drive. For this I depend on rclone to back up specific directories in Google Drive to an external drive connected to my System76 Thelio, running Pop!_OS.

This master backup also retrieves specific folders from other machines I’ve synced to Drive, which are supported through the Google Drive Desktop app. What I don’t do is sync everything from Google Drive to my desktop. Why? First, there is no Google Drive desktop client for Linux. Second, my MacBook Pro M1 is limited in storage space, so syncing all content from my Google Drive account wouldn’t be really safe. Also, I prefer accessing these files from the web browser when working on my laptop.

Also: Why is Google Photos stealing all my online storage space?

However, there are some folders on my MacBook Pro (such as Documents) that I want to sync with Google Drive. You can also configure the Google Drive Desktop app to sync specific folders with Drive and I’ll show you how.

The only things you’ll need are a Google Drive account and the Google Drive Desktop app installed on your machine (which can be Windows or macOS – I’ll demonstrate with macOS).

Let’s start.

Added a new folder for synchronization

1. Go to settings

The Google Drive desktop client should already be running on your system. You should see an icon in your top bar (Figure 1).

The Google Drive desktop client top bar icon in macOS Monterey.

The Google Drive Desktop Client icon as it appears on macOS Monterey.

Image: Jack Wallen

Click this icon, then click the gear icon in the pop-up window (Figure 2).

The Google Drive desktop client top bar context menu.

The Google Drive Desktop Client pop-up window gives you access to the Settings window.

Image: Jack Wallen

You should then see another context menu (picture 3).

Access the Settings window from the Google Drive desktop client's icon menu.

The gear icon context menu in the Google Drive desktop client.

Image: Jack Wallen

In this menu, click on Preferences.

2. Add a new folder

In the new window (Figure 4), Click on Add Folder.

The Google Drive desktop client Settings window.

Added new folder for Google Drive desktop client to sync with Drive.

Image: Jack Wallen

This will open the Finder selector (Figure 5).

The macOS Finger Picker window.

Location of the folder to add to synchronization.

Image: Jack Wallen

Locate and select the new folder you want to sync with Drive and click Open. You will be taken to the Google Drive Desktop Client Preferences window, where you will see the new folder listed.

Once added, the client will automatically upload files and subdirectories to the newly added folder. Depending on the number of files (and the size of those files), the initial sync may take some time.

Locating these files in Drive

After these added folders are synced with Google Drive, you might be surprised that they are not in the root directory of Drive. Instead, you’ll find a list in the left sidebar called Computers. Expand that entry and you should see the computers you’ve set up to sync folders with Drive (Figure 6).

Newly added synced folders as they appear in Google Drive.

The list of computers in Google Drive.

Image: Jack Wallen

Congratulations, you have configured the Google Drive desktop client to sync added folders from your desktop or laptop to your Drive account.

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