Google Drive for Desktop

Intro to Drive for Desktop

Google offers a desktop application that allows you to sync your Drive folder structure with your computer. This allows you to save directly to Drive and access already existing files from within desktop applications. Your Drive will appear as if it is an external device connected to your computer. This version of the Drive desktop application does require an internet connection to initially display your Drive folders and files. You can find more information by checking out the official Google Drive for Desktop documentation from Google.

Opening Google file types will open them on your browser. Opening non-Google file types will open in the corresponding default application on your computer.

Download and install Drive for Desktop

You can find the most updated installation links on Google’s official support site:

Drive File Stream Users

If you previously used Drive File Stream for Desktop, uninstall that application before installing Drive for Desktop.

Logging into the app

After you download the application and launch it for the first time, you will be prompted to sign in with a button directing you to sign in with a browser.

If you are already logged in to your Swarthmore account on your browser, you will be prompted to choose an account:

  1. Choose your Swarthmore account

  2. Choose Sign in on the next window

  3. If successful you can close the window

If you are not signed in already, you will be prompted with a Google login page:

  1. Enter your full Swarthmore email address (

  2. You will be redirected to the Swarthmore login page

  3. Sign in using your Swarthmore credentials

  4. Complete your Duo authentication

App Sync Options

Once successfully logged in Drive for Desktop will give you the option to go to the app’s Preferences to choose how you want to sync your Drive. By default, it will be set to Streaming, which we highly recommend. Mirroring will add a copy of all of the files you have access to on your computer. This could cause issues with file space on your computer, so Mirroring is not recommended.

Finding the app on your computer

When running the Drive app will have an icon with the Google Drive symbol on your computer that gives you access to your settings and preferences and shows you recent activity. This icon is found in different places, depending if you are using Windows or Mac.

Find Drive on Windows

When running you can find the Drive icon on the bottom-right of your screen. You may have to click on the upwards carrot ( ^ ) to show hidden icons and it will be in that popup window. Clicking on the icon will bring up the app window and your Settings can be found by clicking the gear icon on the top-right corner, then click Preferences.

When not running you can find the app listed under “G” for Google Drive in the list of apps in your Start Menu. Clicking on the icon will start the app and add the icon to the bottom-right of your taskbar (as described above).

Find Drive on Mac

When the app is running you can find the Drive icon on the top-right of your screen near where your date, time, and battery information is located. Clicking on the icon will bring up the app window and your Settings can be found by clicking the gear icon on the top-right corner, then click “Preferences”.

When the app is not running, you can find the Drive app in your Applications folder in Finder listed as Google Drive. Double-clicking the app icon will start the app and add the icon to the top-right of your screen (as described above).

Drive for Desktop settings

The settings window for the app allows you to streamline the way the app works for you if needed, but we recommend using the default settings. If you would like to make some changes, here are some of the things we highly recommend that you keep:

  • Syncing option set to Stream files

  • Real-time Presence in Microsoft Office - keep checked to see if someone is using a shared file

  • Show Google Drive in Favorites in Finder (Mac) - keep checked to find the folder more easily

  • Show Google Drive in Quick Access in File Explorer (Windows) - keep check to find the folder more easily

  • Launch Google Drive when you login to your computer - keep checked so it is always on for you

  • Proxy settings - keep set to “Auto-detect”

Learn more about the settings and what you can do on Google’s official support page.

To find these settings in your desktop app:

  1. Click on the Drive for Desktop icon (refer to our "find the app" section)

  2. Click the Gear icon on the top-right corner of the popup that appears

  3. Choose Preferences from the drop-down menu

  4. Click the gear icon in the top-right corner of the preferences window

Tips and tricks

Pin the application

In order to make it easier to find the app - pin it! You can pin both the accessible Drive folder and the application. Some system updates close the application or log you out, making the folder disappear. Having the app in an easy-to-find location helps you get it back open and logged in so you can access your files and folders again.

Pin it on Windows

To pin the application, you can right-click it from the app list in your Start menu and choose Pin to Start. To pin the accessible folder, you can right-click on the Drive folder from File Explorer and choose Pin to Quick Access and Pin to Start

  • Pin to Quick Access - adds the Drive to the Quick Access section of your File Explorer

  • Pin to Start - adds the Drive as a tile to the right-hand side of the Start menu

Pin it on Mac

To pin the application, right-click or control-click on the application in the Applications folder in Finder and choose Add to Dock. To pin the accessible folder, you can right-click or control-click the Drive folder on the left-hand list in your Finder and choose Add to Dock.

Saving for offline use

The streaming option for syncing your Drive requires an internet connection, but there may be times when you know you will not have internet access or you aren’t sure. You can choose to have specific files and folders saved for offline use. Any changes you make to these files and folders will be saved locally until the next time your computer connects to the internet, then it will sync automatically to your Drive.

To set up offline access: 

  1. Right-click or control-click (Mac) on the file or folder

  2. Choose Offline access

  3. Choose Available offline

If Available offline is grayed out or not selectable, the file is most likely a Google file type (Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms). Learn more about offline access for Google file types on Google’s official support page.


If you are having trouble connecting to your account for finding your Drive folder Google’s support pages for fixing problem in Drive for Desktop has some great tips for both computers and mobile devices. If you have already tried these troubleshooting tips and are still having trouble you can contact ITS via the ITS Support Portal.

Ways you can contact ITS or find information:

ITS Support Portal:
Phone: x4357 (HELP) or 610-328-8513
Check out our remote resources at
Check our homepage at