Upgrade Google Drive to Google Backup and Sync on Apple Mac

Google Drive was great, but its replacement, Google Backup adn Sync is even better. Here is how to install it on the Apple Mac

If you use Google Drive on a Mac, here’s how to upgrade it to Google Backup and Sync. There are new features in the updated app that make the online storage even more useful than before.

Online storage is not simply useful, it is essential for many people and it is great to have files and backups in online storage. If anything happens to the Mac, you can still access your files online using a web browser.

That is only part of it and syncing files and folders between different computers makes them available no matter which computer you work on. Unlike iCloud, Google Drive runs on macOS and Windows, so you can sync between operating systems, such as between PCs and Macs. Not everyone needs this, but some do.

Google Drive has been on the Mac for years and it has been doing a good job of syncing the Google Drive folder on the Mac with the same folder on other computers and online. Now it has been replaced by a more powerful laternative called Backup adn Sync. This does everything Drive did and a whole lot more.

Download Backup and Sync

Open Safari and go to google.com/drive/download then click the button to download it.

Install Backup and Sync

Open the .dmg file and drag the app to the Applications folder. Hang on a minute, what if you already have Google Drive on your Mac? This is an obvious scenario and it is nice to see that Backup and Sync copes well with it.

After dragging Backup and Sync to the Applications folder and starting it, it deleted Google Drive and replaced the app with an alias to start Backup and Sync. The alias is probably there for compatibility in case you or an app tries to run Google Drive.

Install Google Backup and Sync on the Apple Mac

Configure Backup and Sync preferences

A new cloud icon is added to the menu bar and on its first run it prompts you to open the preferences. They can be opened at any time by clicking the menu bar icon and then clicking the three dots in the panel that is displayed.

Open Google Backup and Sync preferences

Same old Google Drive

Open the preferences and there is a sidebar with three sections - your computer, Google Drive and Settings. I will cover the second item first because there is little to say about it. It works just like Google Drive did. It syncs the Google Drive folder in your home folder with your online Google Drive storage.

All files and folders or just some of them can be synced, just like before. There are no changes here.

My MacBook Pro

Your computer is the first item in the sidebar and selecting it enables you to choose what is backed up or synced outside of the Google Drive folder on the Mac's disk.

Google Backup and Sync preferences

It is similar to the way macOS can store the Desktop, Documents and Photos library in iCloud. However, there is a key difference.

With Google Backup and Sync, files are stored both online and offline. It basically extends Google Drive beyond the Google Drive folder and you can sync Desktop, Documents, Pictures, and any folder on the disk by clicking CHOOSE FOLDER and selecting it.

The folders you choose to back up are available in a web browser under Computers in the sidebar. Each computer has its own entry and you can browse the folders and files copied from that computer.

Google Drive in a browser showing the computers backed up

The Google Drive folder is synced across computers, but these extra folders are not. A backup is stored online, but the app will not try to make Desktop and Documents folders from different computers the same. It wouldn’t make sense on a utility that runs on both PC and Mac for example.

Deleting files using Backup and Sync

The Google Drive folder syncs as usual, so if you delete a file on one computer, it is deleted on another.

The extra folders you select to backup, such as Desktop and Documents, are treated in a different way. There are options in settings to:

  • Remove items everywhere
  • Don’t remove items everywhere
  • Ask before removing items everywhere

Options for deleting files in Google Backup and Sync

If you select the Ask option and delete a file, a message pops up asking if you want to restore or remove the file. If you accidentally deleted it, Restore will put it back by copying it from your online storage. If you meant to delete it, Remove will also delete it from your online storage too.

If you ignore the message or select Don’t remove items everywhere, it is deleted only in the place you delete it from. So if you delete a file on the Mac, it is not deleted online. It remains as a backup.

I find it best to select the Remove items everywhere option because on the Mac you can recover deleted files from the Trash and online you can recover files from Google Drive Bin.

Back up your photos

There is an option to backup your photos and videos and these can be stored at full resolution or high resolution. The difference is that high resolution is free and unlimited. Google will let you store a gazillion photos and videos online for nothing!

Photo storage options on Google Drive

High resolution means photos up to 16 megapixels and HD video. Anything bigger, such as 4K video or 24MP images will be resized. This is not much of a limitation and most people take photos less than 16MP and only shoot HD video.

Apple will charge you to store your photos and videos, but Google will not, even if you are on the free Google storage plan. That is worth thinking about.

What are the drawbacks?

The one thing that will prevent you from using Google Backup and Sync to the full is the amount of online storage you have. Google generously provides 15GB for free (and a few extra GB can be earned), but to back up Desktop, Documents and Pictures will require at least the 100GB storage plan ($19.99 a year), and most likely the 1TB plan ($99.99 a year).

Extending Google’s syncing ability to any folder and storing all your files online is an alternative to an an online backup service. It is not a full backup and it does not copy apps, settings, macOS system files and so on, but you can clone the Mac’s disk every so often using something like SuperDuper! and use Google for your files.

 

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