Imagine having all your Google Drive files – from important documents to cherished photos – at your fingertips without the need to open a web browser. Well, now you can do that from the Windows File Explorer. It's like turning your Google Drive account into a new hard drive for your PC.

Google Drive is a powerful cloud platform for storing, sharing, and collaborating on files online. By adding Google Drive to File Explorer, you can manage the cloud files as if they're your local files.

If you use Google Drive on a daily basis, read this guide to add and manage Google Drive to File Explorer in Windows 11.

Adding Google Drive to Windows File Explorer

Adding Google Drive to Windows File Explorer can help you quickly access your cloud files without opening a browser. This means you can get to all of your Google Drive files, including Google Docs, Sheets, and Photos, right from your Windows computer.

To add Google Drive to File Explorer, you have to download and install Google Drive for Desktop app. 

  1. Go to the Google Drive download page and click the 'Download Drive for desktop' button.
  1. Once the setup is downloaded, double-click it to run the installer, and click 'Yes' in the User Account Control prompt.
  1. The Google Drive installer will give you the option to add desktop shortcuts to the Google Drive app and Google's online office suite apps (such as Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides). It's up to you whether or not you want to add shortcuts. Choose both options if you want and click 'Install'.
  1. Once launch the app from the desktop or from the installer.
  1. In the Google Drive app window, click 'Get started'.
  1. On the next page, click 'Sign in'.
  1. This will open the Google sign-in page on your default browser, where you can sign in to your Google Drive account. Enter your login credentials to sign in. If you are already signed in to your Google account in this browser, the process should be quick and easy.
  1. Next, you will asked whether you want to give your consent to allow the newly installed Drive app to access your Drive files. Grant permission by clicking 'Sign in'.
  1. Once you're signed into your account, you'll see a 'Success' message. You can then close the browser.

Setting up the Google Drive Desktop App on Windows 11

After signing in, return to the Google Drive app to set up syncing between your computer and Google Drive.

  1. Now, select the library folders you want to sync from your computer to Google Drive and click 'Next'.
  1. If you have the OneDrive app on your Windows computer, your library folders are probably synced with that cloud drive. If you don't want to sync your libraries with Google Drive as well or want to do it later, you can skip this step by clicking 'Skip'. You can also add additional folders to the sync by clicking 'Add folder' and choosing the folder from your computer.
  1. While the library folders (Documents, Downloads, Desktop, and other custom folders) sync to Google Drive, the Pictures and Videos folders back up to Google Photos. The two services work separately. Google Drive can store any type of file, including photos and videos, but Google Photos can only save photos and videos.
  2. Any changes you make to the files in a selected folder will be automatically synced to Google Drive. However, Google Photos only backs up new files in the selected folders. The app will let you know the difference between Google Drive and Google Photos, click 'Got it' in the message box to continue.
  1. Next, choose the folders you want to back up to Google Photos and click 'Next'. You can also add any other custom folder that contains pictures and videos to the backup. To skip this step, click 'Skip'.
  1. Then, review the folders that will be synced and backed up, then click 'Next'.
  1. After that, click 'Next' again.
  1. Finally, click 'Open Drive' to open the Google Drive folder in the File Explorer.
  1. Now that Google Drive has been successfully added to File Explorer, you can easily access it from File Explorer. You will see a new drive named Google Drive in both File Explorer's 'This PC' section and the left sidebar.

Open this drive to see all of your Google Drive files in File Explorer. You can open, edit, move, or delete files in this drive, and the changes will be applied to your entire library, no matter what device you're using.

It allows you to access all of your Google Drive files from a single location in File Explorer, alongside your other local and network drives. This makes it easier to find and manage your Google Drive files, and to move and copy files between Google Drive and your local computer.

Add Google Drive to Quick Access

If you don't want Google Drive to appear in the sidebar, you can pin it to Quick Access instead. Many Windows users add their favorite and frequently used folders to the Quick Access folder, so adding Google Drive will be more convenient for some users.

To add Google Drive to quick access, right-click the 'Google Drive' in File Explorer, and select 'Pin to Quick access'.

You can also add a specific folder inside your Google Drive to Quick Access for easy access. Open Google Drive in File Explorer and navigate to the folder you want to add to the Quick Access page. Then, right-click the folder and select 'Pin to Quick access'.

Add Google Drive as a Library

Another way to add Google Drive to Windows File Explorer is to create a new library. Adding Google Drive to the Windows library can also make it easier and more efficient to work with your Google Drive files.

  1. In the File Explorer, right-click on 'Google Drive' and select 'Show more options'.
  1. From the classic context menu, click on 'Include in library' and then choose 'Create new library'.

This will create a new library named Google Drive in File Explorer. You can use this library to access all of your Google Drive files.

To delete the Google Drive library, right-click the Google Drive library in File Explorer and choose 'Delete'.

Removing Google Drive from File Explorer

Whenever Google Drive is running, you will find the Google Drive icon in the system tray. Click the upward arrow in the taskbar right corner and you will see the app running there (system tray).

As long as you keep Google Drive in File Explorer, it'll run in the background on your system. If you don't want that, you temporarily quit the Google Drive app.

To temporarily remove Google Drive from the File Explorer, click the 'Google Drive' icon in the system tray. Then, click the cog icon (Settings) and select 'Quit'.

To permanently remove Google Drive from your File Explorer, you must disconnect your Google account from the app. We will see how to do that later.

Copy/Move Files Between Google Drive and PC

You can easily copy or move files between Google Drive and your local computer, just like you would with any other files. It's like having an internal or external hard drive connected to your PC.

You can either copy/cut and paste or drag and drop files from your PC to Google Drive and vice versa.

Adding Google Drive to the library allows you to use all of the features of File Explorer to work with your Google Drive files. You can search for Google Drive files in File Explorer using the search bar, and sort your Google Drive files by date, size, or type, just like you would with any other files in your local drive.

Make Google Drive Files Offline in File Explorer

Easily the best feature on the Google Drive app is the ability to make a folder or file available offline on your Computer. To access Google Drive files without an internet connection and have your changes automatically uploaded to the cloud when you come back online, use the Offline access option in the Google Drive app. Here's how:

  1. Open the Google Drive folder in File Explorer and find the file or folder you want to access offline.
  1. Next, right-click the folder/file and select 'Show more options.
  1. Then, hover over 'Offline access' and select 'Available offline'.

Configure Google Drive Desktop Settings in Windows 11

Once you have installed Google Drive and it appears in File Explorer, you can adjust various settings to ensure that you have access to the files you need. To get the most out of it, you need to know how to configure the app's settings to your liking.

You can access the Google Drive settings from the desktop or taskbar at any time. To do this, double-click the 'Google Drive' shortcut on the desktop or click the up arrow in the taskbar corner to open the system tray, and then click the ‘Google Drive’ icon.

In the small Google Drive status window, click the cog icon (Settings) and select ‘Preferences’.

Once the Google Drive Preference window opens, you can configure Google Drive's settings.

Managing Folders in the Google Drive App 

In addition to the folders selected during app setup, you can add any other computer folders you want to sync to Google Drive or back up to Google Photos.

To do this, in the Google Drive Preference window, go to the ‘My Laptop’ or ‘My Computer’ tab (the name may vary depending on your computer), and click the ‘Add folder’ button.

Next, choose the folder you want to sync or back up from your computer and click ‘Select Folder’.

Next, choose whether you want to sync the folder with Google Drive or back up the folder to Google Photos and click ‘Done’. You can also choose to do both by selecting both options.

Then, click ‘Save’ to save the changes.

If you are constantly making changes to or editing the photos in a folder that you have already backed up to Google Photos, you can sync the folder Drive to preserve both the original and edited versions of your photos. You can also do this and vice versa, changing the synced folder to back up to Google Photos instead.

To do this, click on the folder in the Google Drive Preference window.

Then, change the option for the folder and click 'Done'.

To remove a folder that you synced or backed up from your computer in the Google Drive app, go to the 'My Laptop' or 'My PC' tab in the app, and click on the folder you want to remove.

Now, uncheck both the 'Sync with Google Drive' and 'Back up to Google Photos' options and click 'Done'.

In the prompt box, click 'Stop syncing' or 'Stop backing up'.

Changing Sync Settings in the Google Drive Desktop App

Google Drive offers two sync methods each with unique features. To change the sync settings, open the Google Driver Preferences window, go to the 'Google Drive' tab, and choose between the 'Stream files' or 'Mirror files' sync option.

Stream files. This sync method allows you to access your files in Google Drive without downloading them to your computer. You can open, edit, and share files directly from Google Drive. When you make changes to a file, the changes are automatically saved to Google Drive.

Even if you have 500GB of data in your Google Drive, it will not take up any space on your computer. However, you can still keep any file or folder that you need for offline use on your PC. If you want to avoid using up your PC's storage with all your Drive files, enable this method.

Mirror files. This sync method keeps your Drive files on both your cloud storage and your computer. Any changes you make to the folder and files on your computer will be automatically reflected in Google Drive, and vice versa.

This method is ideal for when you don't always have internet access to download needed files from Drive. All of the files will be available for offline use anytime, but they can take up local storage space depending on the size of the cloud data.

If you select the 'Mirror files' option, you can specify where you want to store the Drive files on your computer or use the default location. To do this, click the 'Change folder location' option, select the folder, and then click 'Confirm location'.

Adding Another Account to Google Drive Desktop app

The Google Drive app allows you to add multiple accounts to the app and have the files from all the accounts quickly available to you right from the File Explorer.

To add another account to the app, click the profile icon in the Google Drive Preference window and select ' Add another account'.

Then, sign in to the other account and grant permission to access the account.

Now, both Google Drives will be available in your File Explorer.

Once added, both accounts will be available on the Google Drive app. To change the settings of a particular account, click the profile icon and select the account you want to configure.

To remove an account from the Google Drive Desktop app, click the 'Settings' icon in the Google Drive app. If you have added multiple accounts to the app, first switch to the account profile you want to remove, then click the 'Settings' icon.

Then, click the 'Disconnect account' option next to the account.

Changing Other Google Drive Desktop App Settings

To change Google Drive app settings such as startup settings, streaming location, bandwidth, upload size, and more, click the 'Settings' icon in the Google Drive Preferences window.

To assign a drive letter to your Google Drive folder on your computer other than the one assigned, click the drop-down under 'Drive letter', and select a drive letter for your Google Drive drive. This setting allows you to stream Google Drive files to a virtual drive on your computer so that you can access them without having to download them.

To stream Drive files to a specific folder, choose 'Folder', and click 'Change'. Then, select the folder from your PC.

By default, Google Drive launches when you log in to your computer. But if you want that, uncheck the 'Launch Google Drive when you login to your computer' option.

Similarly, you can change photo upload quality and size, download and upload speed, proxy settings, and more here in Settings.

Finally, once you have made changes to the settings, click the 'Save' button at the bottom right corner to save your changes.

So in summary, integrating Google Drive with File Explorer gives Windows users a powerful way to seamlessly access their cloud files. You can manage Drive like any other drive directly from File Explorer. Choose the right sync settings for your needs, add multiple accounts, and configure options in the app's Preferences. Make files available offline when you need them without an internet connection. Whether you're streaming or mirroring files, it's easy to keep your Google Drive organized and in sync from your Windows PC. With these tips, you'll be a pro at using Google Drive from File Explorer in no time!