How to install the Google Drive client ODrive on Ubuntu desktop 18.10

If you need of an open source Google Drive sync client to sync your data between your cloud and desktop, ODrive might be what you need.

How to install the Google Drive client ODrive on Ubuntu Desktop 18.10

It's a shame that Google cannot see to it to create a Drive client for Linux. Considering how heavily they lean on the open source platform, you'd think they'd be willing to create such a tool for the community that serves them well.

All is not lost. There are plenty of options available, for those who prefer an open source solution. The ODrive is an Electron app (not to be confused with the proprietary ODrive service) that can be easily installed (on Linux, macOS, and Windows) and set up to keep your Drive data in perfect sync with your Linux desktop.

SEE: Vendor comparison: Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, and Google Cloud (Tech Pro Research)

I'm going to demonstrate how to install and configure ODrive on Ubuntu Desktop 18.10. The installation requires the use of npm, so there are a few commands to run. Once you've installed everything on Linux, you can then generate an installer for Linux, macOS, or Windows.

What you need

The only things you need to make this work are:

  • A running instance of Ubuntu Desktop.
  • A Google Drive account.
  • A user account with sudo privileges.

With those things within reach, let's make some magic.


The installation isn't quite as simple as you might like, but it's definitely doable. The first thing to do is install the necessary dependencies. Open a terminal window and issue the following command:

sudo apt-get install npm git libgconf-2-4 -y

Once the above command completes, clone the ODrive directory with the command:

git clone

Change into the newly created ODrive directory with the command:

cd ODrive

Install ODrive with the command:

npm install

This command will take about two to five minutes (Depending on your network connection and the speed of your machine). When it completes, start ODrive with the command:

npm start

This will open the set-up window, so you can configure ODrive.

Note: Installing ODrive with the above method, does make it challenging to start the application (other than from the command line). To get around that, you can use npm to build an installer, which makes it easier. To do that, you would issue one of the following commands:

  • To build an rpm installer, issue the command npm run release-linux rpm
  • To build a deb installer, issue the command npm run release-linux deb
  • To build an installer for Windows, issue the command npm run release-windows
  • To build an installer for macOS, issue the command npm run release-mac

You would then change into the ~/ODrive/dist/ folder to locate the newly created installer and install ODrive with a command like:

sudo dpkg -i odrive*.deb

On Ubuntu, that command will error out. To resolve the problem, issue the command:

sudo apt-get install -f

By installing ODrive in this fashion, you'll find a launcher in your desktop menu.


You now have to connect ODrive to your Google Account. Locate and click the ODrive entry in your desktop menu (It'll be listed as OpenDrive). When the application window opens (Figure A), click the Next button.

Figure A

Figure A: The ODrive initial run window.

In the resulting window (Figure B), click the right-pointing arrow to connect ODrive to your Google account.

Figure B

Figure B: Connect your Google Account account to ODrive.

Once you enter your Google Drive credentials, you return to the Settings window, where you can click the Synchronize button to begin the process. Depending on how much data you have on Google Drive, this process can take quite some time.

The caveats

There are two major caveats to ODrive. The first is that you cannot configure where to sync Google Drive to your desktop. The sync folder will be in your user's home directory. The second caveat is that the sync is all or none. ODrive does not allow you to configure what will or will not sync to the desktop. If you require actual configuration options, your best bet would be to turn to Insync (which is not, however, an open source option).

ODrive isn't perfect (and, in some of my test cases, it was fairly unstable), but if you prefer an open source Google Drive sync tool, and you prefer a GUI, this is one possible option.

Also see

Image: Jack Wallen

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....