A Beginner’s Guide to Google Drive

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Google Drive is a vastly popular cloud storage solution that allows users to save their important files to the cloud and access them from mobile devices and computers. It’s powerful yet intuitive to use, and the app comes preloaded on almost every Android device.
Those who already have a Google account for services like Gmail and YouTube can use Drive without registering for another account. However, if you haven’t used any cloud storage services before, the various aspects of Google Drive can seem a bit overwhelming to you.
To learn more about Google Drive and its features, consider taking a look at the following beginner’s guide. There’s a lot to go through, but feel free to check out the contents below to skip to the section that matters the most to you.

Introduction to Google Drive

Google Drive is Google’s cloud storage solution for consumers. It lets you store documents and media on Google’s servers and access them from smartphones, tablets, and computers over an internet connection. If you are running low on local storage space, Drive is the way to go.
Before we walk you through all the essential features of Google Drive and show you how to use them, let’s discuss the basics first. Obviously, you must have a Google account to use the service, and you probably have one. In case you don’t, signing up for an account is a matter of a few steps. It’s free of charge, and you also get access to other Google services, including Gmail, Photos, Contacts, Play Store, YouTube, etc.
Besides the official Android/iOS app, you can access Drive from a web browser by visiting drive.google.com. Plus, you can view your Drive files on your PC with the “Google Drive for desktop” app. To get it, simply head over to Drive’s website, click the cog (Settings) icon at the top-right corner, and select Get Drive for desktop. You can then follow the on-screen prompts to install and set it up on your PC.

Pricing

Google One Subscription Plans

Google provides 15 GB of free storage space to every user who signs up for a free Google account, but it’s shared between three of its services: Drive, Gmail, and Photos.
While it’s more than enough for most users, the company does offer the option to add more storage space for a monthly or annual Google One subscription plan. The subscription also includes additional benefits like discounts in the Google Store and access to Google Experts.
It’s worth mentioning that the media synced to Google Photos will count towards your Drive storage limit starting from June 1, 2021. If you find yourself using Photos on your Android/iOS device regularly, upgrading to a Google One plan might be a compelling reason. Furthermore, you get to share your Drive storage capacity with an extra family member.

Supported file types

Aside from storage space, it’s also crucial for users to know what file types Google Drive supports. Thankfully, the cloud storage service supports various file types, including JPEG, PNG, MP3, AAC, MOV, AVI, ZIP, RAR, Microsoft Office files (e.g., DOC, PPT, XLS), Adobe files (e.g., PDF, PSD, AI, DXF), and more. Click here to check out the complete list of files you can store in Google Drive.
Though there are restrictions on file sizes, they probably won’t cause any issues for most people. Here are the maximum sizes for the following types of files in Drive:

  • Documents: Up to 1.02 million characters. Converting a text document to Google Docs format can only be up to 50 MB.
  • Presentations: If you convert a presentation to Google Slides format, it can be up to 100 MB.
  • Spreadsheets: Spreadsheets converted to or created in Google Sheets can have up to 5 million cells (or 18,278 columns).
  • Other files: You can upload up to 5 TB of other types of files.

Now that you know the basics of Google’s cloud storage service, check out the following sections in this guide to learn using Google Drive.

Upload and download Google Drive files

There are multiple ways you can access your files on Google Drive, but you need to upload them first via the mobile, computer, or web client. Let’s begin with Drive’s web client, which offers two straightforward methods to upload files.

Web

The first method is pretty simple. All you need to do is find the file you want to upload from your local storage on your PC, drag it to the browser window with the Drive tab opened, and then drop it. You can also do the same for folders and multiple files at once. The upload will start immediately, and you will see a small progress bar at the bottom of the web client.
The second method is also easy. Simply click the New button on the left pane of the webpage, followed by choosing either File upload or Folder upload from the drop-down menu. You can then select the files and folder you would like to upload to your Drive from the File Explorer window.
Downloading files from Google Drive couldn’t have been simpler. Just right-click a file or folder and click the Download option in the contextual menu.

PC

Another way you can upload your files is to use the “Google Drive for desktop” app on your computer. It’s as simple as dragging and dropping the files into the “Drive” folder in File Explorer. The process is basically the same as moving files from one folder to another for those wondering. However, it may take a few minutes to several hours for the files to sync, depending on your internet connection.
When you want to transfer a file or folder from the cloud to your local storage, go back to the Drive folder and copy it just like any other file or folder on your computer. Again, the transfer speeds will vary depending on your download speeds.

Mobile

Uploading files to Google Drive from an Android or iOS device is also effortless. Just open the Drive app, tap the + button in the lower-right corner, select Upload, and choose the file(s) you want to sync to the cloud. You can also quickly upload files from a Gallery or File Manager app by selecting them, tapping the Share icon, then the Save to Drive option.
If you are on an unmetered internet connection, you can access the uploaded documents and media directly from the Drive app on your Android or iOS device. When you want to download a file, simply tap the three-dot action () icon next to it, then select Download in the following menu.

Manage and delete Google Drive files

Managing files on Google Drive is as easy as organizing local files on your computer or mobile. You can choose to keep all your files in the main “My Drive” section or sort them into individual folders.
On Drive’s web client, you can create a folder by clicking the New button and then selecting the Folder option. Once you do that, you can drag and drop the files from the “My Drive” section to their respective folders.
If you have “Google Drive for desktop” installed on your Windows PC, go to the Drive folder from File Explorer, right-click the empty space, and create a new folder as it’s typically done. The process of moving cloud-synced files to the folders remains unchanged.
Those using Drive on their Android or iOS devices can tap the + button and select the Folder option to create a new folder. After that, tap the three-dot action () icon next to a file, select Move in the following menu, and choose the newly created folder as the file’s new location.

Deleting files from Drive

If you are running low on cloud storage space or want to get rid of a file or folder from your Google Drive, all you have to do is right-click it and select the Remove option. Pressing the Delete key on your keyboard also works on the web client. If you are on your mobile device, tap the action icon next to the file and choose Remove.
It’s worth noting that the storage space on Drive won’t free up until you go to the “Trash” section in the Drive web client or mobile app and manually empty it. Usually, files in Trash are automatically deleted after 30 days, so keep that in mind in case you mistakenly delete an important file/folder.

Share files on Google Drive

One of the key features of Google Drive is that users can share their cloud files with others in a few seconds, whether it’s just a text document or a large media file. To share a Drive file or folder from the web client, select it and click the Get link icon above in the menu bar. You can then share the generated link with anyone you want over any platform.
Google also allows you to put certain restrictions on what others can do with the shared link. By default, it sets the option to Restricted, which means only the people or group you add upon request can see the file or folder. Changing it to “Anyone with the link” does exactly what it says. Since Google’s office productivity tools like Docs and Sheets have Drive integration, you can also give viewing and editing permissions to the documents and spreadsheets you create.
To share a Drive file or folder from your phone, tap the action icon next to it and select Manage people and links. The generated link to the file or folder will get copied automatically, so you can switch to your preferred messaging/social media platform and share it with your family or friend. Or, you can keep the permission to Restricted and add people manually by sending the link to their email addresses.

Use Google Drive’s integration with various apps

Google Drive has deep integration with the company’s other services, including Gmail, Google Drawings, Google Forms, and the office productivity tools like Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. If you didn’t know, these services are free alternatives to Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, each having its own website and app.
Aside from being immensely rich with useful features, the three services also auto-save your documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in Google Drive as you create them. To do that, click the New button in the Drive web client (tap the + icon if you are on the mobile app), and then select between Docs, Sheets, and Slides. No matter what you choose, you always have the option to access your documents from Google Drive on your mobile or computer.
The Drive integration in Gmail is undoubtedly the best implementation of the cloud storage service. When composing a mail from the web, you can click the Drive icon in the toolbar to share larger files as links instead of sharing them as attachments. You can do the same on mobile by tapping the Attach (paperclip) icon in the menu bar and selecting the Insert from Drive option.
Saving files from Gmail to Drive is also possible. Simply hover over the document or media file in the mail and click the Drive icon. You can do the same thing on your phone. However, just like Google Photos, files on Gmail also count toward your Drive storage limit.

Use Google Drive offline

Google Drive requires an active internet connection so that you can access your cloud-synced files on your preferred devices. However, the service also offers an offline mode that lets you view your files in situations where you can’t use Wi-Fi or cellular data.
You can even view and edit the files you created in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides offline. The changes you make will auto-synchronize to the cloud version of the files once your device reestablishes a connection to the web.
You have to turn on offline mode on the devices you use individually. On the web client, click the cog icon at the top to go to the Settings menu, and then tick the box next to the “Offline” feature. You also need to download the Google Docs Offline extension to view and edit your documents, assuming you use the Google Chrome browser on your PC. Bear in mind that other web browsers won’t work.
On the Drive mobile app, tap the action icon next to a file and toggle the slider ON next to the “Available offline” option to make it available offline. You can also select multiple files and repeat the following steps to enable offline mode for them at once.

Wrapping up

That’s pretty much everything you need to know about Google Drive and its various features. If you are looking for more guides on Google’s other apps and services, check out our “How to” section. Consider following us on Google News to stay updated with more guides like this.

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