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How to customize the folders synced in your Google Drive desktop app

Jack Wallen shows you how to add folders to the Google Drive desktop app for remote syncing to your Google Drive account.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer

I'm a Google Drive power user. I use the service daily for the majority of my writing needs. During my decade with Drive, I have had one instance where I lost nearly all of my work (thanks to a third-party sync tool that went awry). Since then, I've been diligent about backing up Google Drive. For that, I depend on rclone to backup specific directories in Google Drive to an external drive attached to my System76 Thelio, running Pop!_OS

That primary backup also picks up specific folders from other machines I have synced to Drive, which is taken care of via the Google Drive Desktop app. What I do not do is sync the entire contents of Google Drive to my desktop. Why? First off, there is no Google Drive Desktop Client for Linux. Second, my MacBook Pro M1 is limited in storage space, so syncing the entire contents of my Google Drive account wouldn't exactly be prudent. On top of this, I prefer to access those files from the web browser when working on my laptop. 

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However, there are certain folders on my MacBook Pro (such as Documents) that I do want to keep in sync with Google Drive. You too can configure the Google Drive Desktop app to sync specific folders to Drive and I'm going to show you how.

The only things you'll need are a Google Drive account and the Google Drive Desktop app installed on your machine (which can be either Windows or macOS -- I'll be demonstrating with macOS).

Let's get started.

Adding a new folder for syncing

1. Access Settings

The Google Drive Desktop Client should already be running on your system. You should see an icon in your top bar (Figure 1).

The Google Drive Desktop Client topbar icon in macOS Monterey.

The Google Drive Desktop Client icon as seen on macOS Monterey.

Image: Jack Wallen

Click that icon and then click the gear icon in the popup window (Figure 2).

The Google Drive Desktop Client topbar popup menu.

The Google Drive Desktop Client popup window gives you access to the Settings window.

Image: Jack Wallen

You should then see another popup menu (Figure 3).

Accessing the Settings window from the Google Drive Desktop Client icon menu.

The gear icon popup menu in the Google Drive Desktop Client.

Image: Jack Wallen

From that menu, click Preferences.

2. Add a new folder

In the new window (Figure 4), click Add folder.

The Google Drive Desktop Client Settings window.

Adding a new folder for the Google Drive Desktop Client to sync to Drive.

Image: Jack Wallen

This will open the Finder picker (Figure 5). 

The macOS Finger picker window.

Locating the folder to be added to the sync.

Image: Jack Wallen

Locate and select the new folder you want to sync with Drive and click Open. You'll be taken back to the Google Drive Desktop Client Preferences window, where you'll see the new folder listed. 

Once added, the client will automatically upload the files and sub-directories within the newly-added folder. Depending on how many files (and the size of those files), the initial sync could take some time. 

Locating those files in Drive

Once those added folders have synced with Google Drive, you might be surprised that they won't be found in the root directory of Drive. Instead, you'll find a listing in the left sidebar called Computers. Expand that entry and you should see the computers you've configured to sync folders to Drive (Figure 6).

The newly-added synced folders as seen in Google Drive.

The Computers listing in Google Drive.

Image: Jack Wallen

Congratulations, you've configured the Google Drive Desktop Client to sync added folders from your desktop or laptop machine to your Drive account.

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