How to make a file available offline with the Google Drive Desktop Client

Making files on Google Drive available offline with the Desktop Client is just a few clicks away. Jack Wallen shows you how it's done.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer

Google Drive generally makes it very easy to work with files offline, especially if you use the Chrome web browser. But if you don't work with Chrome (I prefer Firefox), what can you do? Fortunately, there's always the official Google Drive Desktop Client (which is available for macOS and Windows -- Google, we need a Linux version, stat!) to help you out with that.

But why would you need offline access to files in a world that is constantly and consistently online? There are a couple of reasons. First, you could be heading out for business travel and will need to work with certain files while on the plane. Another reason (at least when using the Google Drive Desktop Client) is to get quick access to those files from a centralized location (more on this in a bit). Mostly, however, it's just about gaining access to certain files when a network connection isn't available. 

Streaming vs. Mirroring

One thing to consider is that you have two options for Google Drive syncing with the desktop client. Those options are:

  • Streaming: All files are stored only on your Google Drive cloud account and are accessed from a virtual drive on your machine. This method consumes very little space on your local drive.
  • Mirroring: All files are stored on both your Google Drive cloud account as well as your local machine, which gives you offline access to all files (without having to take any extra action). This option does consume considerable local storage space (depending on how much data you store in Google Drive).

Most users will go with the streaming option because it takes exponentially less space on a local drive. For those who'd prefer to protect their local storage (especially if you're dealing with a laptop that includes a smaller SSD), there's another way around this which involves making individual files available offline. This method does not require the use of Google Chrome, so users of Firefox, Safari, or Edge can enjoy the feature (so long as you have the Google Drive Desktop Client installed). 

Let's see how it's done. Fear not, for those with less-than-ideal computer skills, the process is very easy. And part of the beauty of this is (so long as you already have the Google Drive Desktop Client installed) that there's zero configuration required. This works out of the box on both macOS and Windows. The one and only caveat to using offline access via Google Drive Desktop Client is that you cannot make .gdocs, .gsheet, or .gslides files available offline (they first must be converted to either MS Office or an open format (such as .odt, .ods, or .odp).

Let me show you how it works.


To make this work, you'll need a Google Drive account and the Google Desktop Client installed on either macOS or Windows. I'll be demonstrating on macOS Monterey.

Mark a file as available offline

1. Open Finder and locate your Google virtual drive

Open the macOS file manager, Finder. In the left navigation, you should see a listing for your Google Drive virtual folder (Figure 1).

The macOS Finder window showing the virtual Google Drive link in the sidebar.

The Google Drive virtual folder is named Google Drive.

Image: Jack Wallen

2. Locate and make the file available

Navigate to your virtual Google Drive and then locate the file you want to make available offline (those files will be found in a sub-folder called My Drive). Once you've found the file in question, right-click it and select Offline Access > Available offline (Figure 2).

The Google Drive Desktop Client right-click menu in macOS Finder.

Marking an .odt file to be available offline.

Image: Jack Wallen

Accessing your offline files

Now that you've made a file available offline, how do you access it? Easy. You can either open it directly from the folder in the virtual Google Drive in Finder or you click the Google Drive Desktop Client icon in your top bar (or System Tray in Windows) and then click Offline files (Figure 3).

The Google Drive Desktop Client popup menu.

Accessing Google Drive offline files from the Google Drive Desktop Client drop-down menu.

Image: Jack Wallen

In the resulting window (Figure 4), click Offline files to reveal all of the files you've made available offline.

The Google Desktop Client offline files manager.

All of your offline files can be accessed from here.

Image: Jack Wallen

And that's all there is to make a file available offline, using the Google Drive Desktop Client. Enjoy that newfound flexibility while working with your Google Docs on your local machine, whether you have an internet connection or not.

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