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Can't download a file from Google Drive? Here's how to fix that

If your browser is suddenly refusing to download files from Google Drive, there's likely a very simple reason.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Person using a laptop at home
Westend61/Getty Images

Have you ever gone to download a file from Google Drive, only to be prevented from doing so? Every so often I'll make a change to my browser privacy settings, only to find it can no longer download the files I need. It's frustrating because I know it's going to happen when I make the change; I just forget how sensitive Google Drive is to such issues.

You'd think, by now, I'd have learned my lesson. And yet, it happened to me again today. Out of nowhere, I go to download a file from Drive (forgetting I made a change to my browser's privacy settings yesterday) and, lo and behold, Drive refuses to allow me to download the file (a file I created, nonetheless). 

Also: How to find files faster in Google Drive

What's the problem? Cookies.

Argh! It's always cookies.

How to fix the Google Drive download issue

How do you fix the problem? It's easy. I'll demonstrate on a Chromium-based browser, which is based on Chrome, because Chrome is the most widely-used browser on the planet. 

Also: How to automatically convert Google Drive uploads into to Docs format

If you use a browser that is not based on Chrome, the basic idea will apply and you shouldn't have any problem translating the fix to your browser of choice.


In order to solve this issue, the only things you'll need are a valid Google account and a Chrome-based browser (such as Sidekick, Opera, Vivaldi, and Edge). That's it. Let's fix this problem.

1. Open your browser

The first thing to do is open your browser of choice. Of course, if you're reading this, your browser is already open -- so you're already one step ahead of the game.

2. Open Settings

Click the three-dot menu button in the upper right corner and select Settings from the resulting menu.

The Sidekick menu.

Accessing Settings from within a Chromium-based browser.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Go to Privacy & Security

Chances are, if you suddenly can't download files from Google Drive, something was changed in your Privacy & Security settings. For me, I configured my browser to block third-party cookies. 

Also: How to organize your Google Drive with these 5 tips 

If you did the same thing, you can (and should) keep blocking those third-party cookies. However, what you need to do is add an exception for Google Drive.

The Privacy & Security section of Sidekick's Settings window.

You should block third-party cookies on your browser, even if it causes problems like this.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Add an exception for Google Drive

Under Customized behaviors, click Add. In the resulting popup, type drive.google.com in the Site field, click the checkbox for Including third-party cookies on this site, and click Add. Once you've taken care of that, close the Settings tab.

The Add a site popup for Sidekick's third-party cookie blocking.

Adding an exception to the third-party cookie blocking policy.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

If you find any other sites that are not behaving as expected (after you've set your browser to block third-party cookies), add an exception for that address and it should go back to functioning as normal. 

Also: How to disconnect apps from Google Drive

Although this can be a hassle, it's better to block third-party cookies and make exceptions as needed in order to better protect your privacy.

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