Google Drive gets selective sync

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 15, 2016
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Companies, Google

Google Drive, Google's online storage service and software of the same name received an update recently that introduces selective sync to desktop clients.

If you are heavily invested in the Google ecosystem, you are probably using Google Drive to sync your data across devices as well.

The software is available for desktop and mobile operating systems ensuring that you get access to your data on the devices you own or use.

One of the shortcomings of the desktop client of Google Drive was that it could only be used to sync all data or no data at all.

That's a problem if you store Gigabytes of data online but only want a fraction of the data synced to your devices. Maybe because that is all you require at that point in time, or because storage is limited and not capable of storing all Drive data.

Selective Sync

google drive selective sync

Google Drive syncs all data by default, and that is not going to change even with the new option. This means that you need to enable it before it becomes available.

To enable selective sync in Google Drive do the following:

  1. Right-click on the Google Drive system tray icon and select Menu > Preferences (Menu is indicated by the three dots in the top right corner).
  2. Under Sync options, switch from "Sync everything in My Drive" to "Sync only these folders".
  3. A list of all folders opens on the same screen with all of them selected by default.
  4. Uncheck folders that you don't want synchronized with the desktop computer. You can select root folders but also subfolders which the program will display on the right when available.
  5. Google Drive calculates the new space requirement and displays it next to the "sync only these folders" option at the top. You can use it and the total storage available on the computer to make sure the synced data fits on the storage device.
  6. Hit apply once you have selected one or multiple folders that you don't want to sync.

A notification is displayed next that informs you that the data that is stored in the folder will be removed from the device (if already stored on it), and that it will remain accessible online.

folder removed from computer

Click continue to proceed, or cancel to go back to the drawing board. Please note that Google Drive's preferences window closes automatically if you select continue.

The update rolls out over the coming weeks to desktop clients according to Google. You may get it right away by downloading the latest version of the Google Drive client directly from Google, and installing it over the current version.

Quite a few competing services, OneDrive and Dropbox for instance, have supported selective sync for quite some time, and Google is a bit late to the party. Still, selective sync is a useful feature that should be beneficial to part of Google Drive's userbase.

Google Drive gets selective sync
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Google Drive gets selective sync
Google Drive, Google's online storage service and software of the same name received an update recently that introduces selective sync to desktop clients.
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  1. Anonymous said on April 16, 2016 at 12:46 am

    Trendless thanks for the clarification. I was confused at first as I have been using the old selective sync for a long time now. This improvements are much appreciated, although my days of using “free” services at the cost of important elements of my privacy such as email or some documents in the cloud are soon to be over. I really fear the power this coporations are rising by mining our data and making business by selling them to the best bidder.

  2. trendless said on April 15, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    “All or nothing” isn’t accurate — Google Drive has had so called selective sync for a long time, it was just limited to top-level folders. The change today is that you can drill down into subfolders and select/deselect them individually.

  3. hal9000 said on April 15, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    I have been waiting for this since Google Drive first came out.

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