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How to keep the Google Drive desktop client from using up your hard drive space

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I’ve taken a great effort to configure the Google Drive desktop client on my machines. I should now provide you access to that knowledge so you won’t run into the same storage issues I did.

I’ll assume you already have the Google Drive Desktop Client set up on either macOS or Windows (Google, make a Linux client official immediately! and connect your Google Drive account to it. You shouldn’t have any trouble getting the desktop client up and running and connected to Google Drive because the installation is relatively straightforward for both systems.

After taking care of that, let’s look at ways to prevent a storage nightmare.

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Mirroring versus streaming

For the Google Drive client to secure your storage space, you must comprehend this crucial idea. Google provides two separate client sync options, including:

Stream files: Unless you open a file or make it accessible offline, all files are saved in the Google Drive cloud. A virtual disc in your local store will be used to store all files that are either opened or made accessible offline.

Mirror files: All of the offline-accessible files are kept in both local storage and Google Drive.

I’m sure you are aware of what transpired with the earlier installation by this time. By mirroring the data, I was able to link Google Drive (through the desktop client) to my MacBook and sync all of the contents of my Drive account to local storage. You can bet that took up all of the space on my drive, as I paid for 2 TB of Google Drive storage. If you do that, the operating system will bog down.

I have to perform the following to correct that.


Particularly if you work on numerous shared folders that you don’t need to retain on your computer, Drive File Stream is a practical method to free up space on your PC.

You can download the files you require locally from Drive File Stream so you can work on them while you’re not connected. Unless you specifically install and sync the folders and files you have to access offline, the content is still available but doesn’t consume local storage space.

When editing an offline file, Drive File Stream will sync the changes once your computer is connected to the internet. This allows you to make changes to the file while it is offline.

Drive File Stream appears to be a superior option to Backup and Sync in theory, but wait—the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Let me forewarn you about the potential drawbacks of using Drive File Stream.

Drive stream file limitations

  • Anyone using a PC has practically unlimited access to Google Drive.
  • Users can sync certain folders to the PC via Backup & Sync and OneDrive, respectively. Consequently, you can exclude a folder containing private or sensitive data. 
  • Drive File Stream is unable to make this happen.
  • Other PC folders, like Documents and Desktop, cannot be synced with Drive File Stream. You must still upload files manually to Google Drive using the outdated procedure.
  • There is no interaction with Google Photos. To manage or download photographs, you must use Google Photos online.

How to set up the streaming Google Drive client

Be aware that the Google Drive client does by default select the stream option before I continue. But for some reason, when I had my initial installation, I decided to use the mirror option. I started by uninstalling the Google Drive client from my MacBook Pro because I’m so anxious about my files and folders on Google Drive. I double-checked to make sure all of my directories and files were secure on Google Drive after uninstalling the app. They were. Whew.

  • When you choose to stream files, they are kept on an interchangeable virtual drive. 
  • The files are saved under /Users/USERNAME/My Drive, nevertheless, if you choose the mirror option (where USERNAME is your macOS username). 
  • Delete the My Drive directory after you’ve removed the Google Drive client and made sure all of your directories and files are still present on your Google Drive cloud account. 
  • Once you’ve done that, the space that Google Drive used should be freed up, and you may return to a drive that is easier to manage.
  • Reinstall the Google Drive client on your computer, and then make sure it is set to stream files rather than mirror them. Here’s how to accomplish that.

Open preferences,

Click the gear icon in the box that appears after selecting the Google Drive desktop client icon from the macOS top bar (Figure 1).

Accessing the Google Drive desktop client options is shown in Figure 1.

To access the next popup menu, select Preferences (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The Preferences option is accessible from the popup menu of the Google Drive desktop client.

Select the Stream menu item.

Click the Google Drive tab in the left sidebar of the ensuing window (Figure 3).

Figure 3: On a macOS computer, the Google Drive Desktop Client preferences box

When you do, you should see a listing of the stream and mirror options (Figure 4).

The Google Drive Desktop Client Preferences window’s Stream and Mirror options

Figure 4 shows the two synchronization choices the Google Drive desktop client has.

Be sure to choose a stream. If not, choose it, and the Drive client should handle the next steps.

This is the only way to stop the Google Disk Desktop Client from using valuable hard drive space on your system. Enjoy your newfound storage room.

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