How to get the most out of Google Drive

Google Drive is an incredibly powerful tool for storing and organizing all types of data. And best of all, it’s available for free to anyone with a Google account (at least for starters). Plus, because Drive stores all your files in the cloud, it offers some key advantages over storing everything locally on your phone or PC. Drive also works on virtually any device with an internet connection, making it easy to use at home, school, the office, and everywhere in between.

However, if you’re new to Drive, there are a few important basics you should know before you transfer all your data and files. So here’s a quick rundown of the key things about Google’s popular cloud storage service.

storage and prices

Every Google Drive user gets 15GB of free storage. However, any data you have stored in Google Photos also counts towards this limit. So if you use that to backup your pictures, you might not have much space left for documents and files. However, you can increase your storage space in Drive with a Google One subscription, which starts at $1.99 per month (or $20 per year) for 100GB of storage and goes up to $9.99 for 2TB of storage (or $100 per year) is sufficient.

By default, all Google Driver users get 15GB of free storage. But if you want more, you'll have to pay for a Google One subscription.

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For most people, 100GB is more than enough to store important files, work documents, and family photos. However, if you plan on using Drive as a way to back up all your data, you should probably go with one of the bigger plans. The beauty is that while the $20-a-year basic plan is relatively cheap, there are a number of ways to get additional storage for free, at least temporarily. For example, anyone who buys a new Chromebook gets 100GB of storage in Drive for free for a year, while customers new to Google One might get offers to try the service with a free one-month subscription.

So, before you start uploading all your files, you should figure out how much storage space you need and how much it may (or may not) cost you.

Upload, supporting files and organization

Once you figure out how much storage space you need, you can start uploading or transferring your files to Google Drive. For individual files or data stored locally on your device, you can simply tap the New button and select the option to upload files or folders. On a computer, you can also drag and drop files into your browser window when on the Drive website. Drive supports a variety of file types, including the most popular formats such as .JPGs, .PNGs, .GIFs, .MP3s, and more. For a full list of supported file types, see Google’s official help here.

After you have uploaded all your files, you can manage them as you would locally on your phone or computer. You can create nested folders and drag and drop files from one location to another. And of course, you can search for a specific file or folder by typing in the search box, although it’s important to remember that if you store a lot of files in Drive (especially if your Internet connection is not very fast). So if you can create a common directory with folders for important projects or datasets on day one, you’ll likely save yourself a lot of time and headaches later.

Google Drive lets you upload your files and data by clicking the New button and choosing from a handful of options.

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It’s also important to note that while you can create new Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. directly in Drive on PC, on mobile you’ll need to install both Drive and the productivity program you want to use separately. That’s because while they all work together, they’re considered separate apps.

Another great way to organize your work with Google Drive is to store templates for different projects in Docs. This allows you to start writing a script or creating forms without having to start from scratch each time. You can also save templates for things like bibliographies, which can potentially save students time when trying to cite sources for a research paper.

Alternatively, instead of using dedicated apps, you can share a Google Sheet with roommates to work out the cost of utilities and other shared expenses. And while it wasn’t designed exclusively for that, students have found that you can still use Google Docs to chat with friends when places like schools ban or restrict typical messaging apps. All you have to do is invite people to a blank document and then use real-time collaboration to talk and reply to each other. And when you’re done, you can simply delete the document or keep it for another day.


One of the most powerful features of Google Drive is not only the simple and user-friendly use of cloud storage, but also the range of collaboration tools. Sharing a file or document with another person is as easy as clicking the share button and entering their email address. Alternatively, Drive can generate a link that you can send via text message, social media, or your messaging app of choice. Once someone has access, you can view or edit the file with them in real time.

However, it is important to know who you are sharing your files with and how they are using them. For example, granting editing permission to a teacher or mentor can be very helpful if you’re looking for help with an essay, but less so if you’re just sharing an e-book with a friend. In addition to the file owner, Drive offers three different access levels: Viewer, Commenter and Editor. And if something goes wrong and you ever want to see an older copy of a Google Doc, Sheet, or Slide, you can open the “File” menu and select the “Version History” option.

You can easily share files with others by just clicking the share button and entering someone's email address or generating a shareable link.

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Viewers can only see and read the document, but don’t have the ability to change the content. Commenters can view and express thoughts and questions about the content using Google’s commenting tool, while editors can make changes just like the document owner.

If you want to see files that others have recently sent you, you can click on Google Drive’s Shared with Me tab. And if you have a Google Workspace account through school or work, you can also open the handy activity dashboard by clicking the squiggly icon. (It’s in the top right, next to the blue Share button on a desktop.) Finally, if you want to quickly see what files you’ve shared with others, you can type “to:” in Drive’s search box.

Offline access to files

While Google Drive is primarily intended for managing documents and files stored in the cloud, it supports offline access, which can come in handy when you don’t have a good internet connection. However, there are a few steps you need to take before you can take full advantage of using Google Drive offline.

If you want to access files in Google Drive offline, you need to remember to turn on the setting before you go somewhere without internet access.

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First you need to make some changes to your drive’s settings while connected to the internet before To go offline. On a computer, you need to click the gear icon in the top-right corner of your Google Drive browser tab, click Settings, and then check the box next to the Offline menu option. On mobile, you need to open the Drive app, find a specific file, and then set offline access by enabling the option via the “More” icon (the icon that looks like three vertical dots). Once you’ve done this, you can access, edit, and save any changes you’ve made. And the next time your device connects to the internet, it automatically syncs any changes you made to the offline document with the one stored in the cloud. In the meantime, on a Chromebook, all you have to do is open your Google Drive settings, scroll down, check the box next to the Offline option, and click Done.

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