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Google currently offers two ways to maintain and access your files.

What are the differences?


Drive File Stream

Backup and Sync

Access files in My Drive

Access files in Team Drives

Stream files on demand

Sync only selected folders in My Drive

Sync only individual files in My Drive

Use native applications like MS Word and Photoshop

Sync other folders, such as Documents or Desktop

One way to describe the difference is that with File Stream, the "home" for your files is always your Google drive, and you generally need Internet access to view and work with the file.  With Backup & Sync, you could set the "home" for your files as the computer, and when you were done editing a file it would sync it back (make a copy) to Google drive.

A reason that you may want to use File Stream is to alleviate drive space issues on your device.  Here is a screen shot from Backup & Sync that illustrates that potential issue; note where it reads "Sync everything in My Drive (107.3 GB)" followed by "Sync only these folders (20 GB selected)".  In other words, this user has more than 5 times as much data stored on Google Drive compared to what is actually synced from the computer. We often see all folders being synced, and this can lead to running out of space on the computer.

Step-by-step Guide

To install File Stream, just go to Self Service, log in, and search for file stream.  Click Install to begin the installation process. (If you cannot find it or it says "Re-install", it may already be on the device and you can skip to the next step.)

After the installation has completed, go to Launchpad (or Spotlight Search) to locate and launch the program.

When you first start File Stream, it should ask you to log in to your Google account.

After logging in, you may see a message as follows:

File Stream in Finder

Note a change in how File Stream appears in the Finder.  Backup & Sync will show a shortcut to the Google Drive folder.  File Stream shows the shortcut to your files under the Devices heading - essentially treating it as an external drive (because that is, in fact, what it is).

Backup & Sync

File Stream

File Stream Configuration

There is very little to configure with File Stream.  One option that maybe of interest is the ability to set folders or files to be available offline.

Set "available offline" option

To set a folder or file to be available offline (meaning that a copy of it is saved locally to the computer) follow these steps:

  1. Right click on the folder or file.

  2. Choose Drive File Stream option

  3. Choose Available offline

Folders or files set to be available offline will have the green checkmark indicator next to them (as shown below); items that exist only in the cloud (Google Drive) will have a little cloud icon.

How does this actually work in practice?  If you are not connected to the Internet, you'll still see the File Stream link in Finder.  You will very likely see a list of all your files, but if they are set for online only access, you will not be able to open them.  If they are set to be available offline, then you will be able to open and work with the files, and the next time you are connected to the Internet they will sync back to Google Drive.  In theory you could set everything to be available offline, but if you currently or could potentially have drive space limitations, that is not a good option.  This set-up forces thoughtful selection of which folders or files will be available offline.

Local folders and File Stream

Another difference between Backup & Sync and File Stream is that Backup & Sync allowed you to choose local folders (such as Desktop or Photos) for syncing, whereas File Stream does not.  

There is no work-around for that.  Our advice would be to create similar folders on Google Drive and get in the habit of moving any locally stored files over to the Google Drive cloud storage.  For example, make a folder in Google Drive called Desktop-Google.

The best option is to not save anything to those local folders.  The reality is that if you are in the habit of doing so you may not be able to break that habit overnight, so all we can do is offer suggestions and work-arounds.

Cleaning up Backup & Sync

After installing File Stream, your Google Drive folder will remain available on the computer.  However, it will no longer by syncing back to Google Drive.  It can be removed, but it is important to verify that there is nothing remaining in that folder that does not now show up in your File Stream drive.  Building tech staff can assist with the process of verifying that your data is intact and that you can safely remove the Google Drive folder.

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