Google Drive: This is the strong desktop client – files can be conveniently streamed instead of being mirrored unnecessarily – GWB

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With Google Drive any files can be uploaded to the cloud, permanently secured and organized according to the usual structures for many years. Thanks to the relatively young new desktop client Google Drive for desktop the folder structure between cloud and desktop can be synchronized very easily. Thanks to the File Stream you get full access without the need to have the data stored on the computer.


google drive new logo 2020

Google Drive is a powerful platform, with roots stretching back to 2006, when Google acquired the online word processor Writely (yes, this blog existed back then, too) and the first thing that could be stored was something like files in the cloud. Today it is a very core product that several Google apps are connected to and used by them for file management, but Google Drive is also used in WhatsApp backup, Android backup and some other popular apps.

Normally, users fill and organize the Google Drive directly in the browser or via the Android app. The tried-and-tested folder principle can be used for organization: Files are stored in folders that can be nested to any depth. This not only gives users the organizational options they are accustomed to, but also creates compatibility with synchronization, which has not yet been fully exploited.

That changes with the “Google Drive for Desktop” client, because it ensures deep integration of the Google Drive files into the Windows or Mac desktop or their file manager. All folders and files are accessed as if they were stored locally, but are actually streamed or cached only when needed.

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Google Drive streams files
The great strength of Google Drive for desktop is the “Google Drive File Stream”. This has been known to Workspace users for a long time and is only now being introduced for all private users. This is the possibility of only transferring files when they are needed by the user – they are streamed, so to speak. The highlight of this is that, at best, the user does not even notice this.

The entire Google Drive content is integrated in Windows Explorer (also in Mac) as if the data were directly available. However, these are only shadow copies, which are listed but not saved to local storage. As soon as a file is needed, it will be downloaded and opened in the background. If the files are smaller, this can happen so quickly in the background that the difference is hardly noticeable. If the content of the file is changed, the change is automatically saved in the cloud and the downloaded copy is deleted again.

Google Drive does a really good job in this implementation, which is absolutely not comparable to the Google Drive Uploader or Backup and Sync of the time. Backup and Sync relied on the ability to sync selected Google Drive folders with a local Drive folder. However, this meant that all data had to be stored locally on the computer. In practice, you therefore need twice the storage space. A very bad implementation that was finally replaced.

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But Google Drive for desktop not only brings the file stream, but also changes the integration. Instead of a selected folder as before, there is now a separate virtual drive. By default, this is given the appropriate letter G, but can also be exchanged for any other unassigned letter. It is finally a real “G Drive” in the truest sense of the word, which also works exactly as you would expect.

Everything seems much more convenient than before and suddenly you can access files that are not stored on the computer. Previously, this was only possible if the file had already been downloaded to the computer. So anyone who stored hundreds of gigabytes in Google Drive and wanted full access could only do so after a long download orgy and a heavily loaded local storage.


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But as convenient as all this is, there is also a disadvantage: the files are not stored locally on the computer, they are only available in the cloud. If there is no Internet access, you cannot access your files – similar to a network drive that is currently unavailable. This is of course the typical danger of the cloud, which, however, could very quickly be forgotten due to the close connection to Windows Explorer and thus become even more explosive.

Make files available offline
But Google Drive for desktop has a solution for that too: You can make any file available offline via the context menu. If you select this option, the file will be downloaded, permanently saved to local storage, and still synced with changes. An icon always shows you the status of the file. The cloud means the local file has been synced to the cloud and the green tick means the file is available offline.

Just try the new app out. For Backup and Sync users, it’s a change at the beginning, but it’s easy to make and after a short time you don’t want to go back. For me it’s the Google Drive desktop application that I would have loved to use over the years and I think a lot of users feel the same way.

Incidentally, Google Photos is also to be integrated into this client in the future, but even a good year after the start of the app there is still nothing to be seen.

» Google Drive: This is how you can organize files faster – three new key combinations have been rolled out


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