How to prevent Google Drive backup from taking up precious space on your local drive

If your local drive doesn't have space to sync your entire Google Drive, here's how you can make Google's new Backup and Sync client do a backup only or sync specific Drive folders.

Image: Jack Wallen

I've been burned by this before--installed the Google Drive sync client du jour, only to watch it gobble up precious space on the local drive. If you happen to have a desktop or laptop with ample space, that's not a problem. However, if you're working with, say a MacBook Pro with limited space, allowing Google Drive to sync 30+ GB of data to your drive could be a deal breaker. This can be problematic, when you really only need to sync specific folders from your local machine to your Google Drive. How do you manage that?

Actually it's pretty easy. With the new Google Drive Backup and Sync client, you get the choice, during installation, of syncing your entire Drive folder, part of your drive folder, or none of your Drive folder to the local machine. With that in check, you can then set Backup and Sync to only back from specific folders to your Google Drive. Even better, the Backup and Sync client offers easy access to its features from the desktop.

I'm going to show you how you can set up Google Backup and Sync such that you're not wasting precious drive space on your local machine. I'll be demonstrating on a MacBook Pro, running High Sierra.

SEE: Cloud computing policy (Tech Pro Research)

Installation and selecting what to sync from Drive

The installation of Backup and Sync is simple. Download the installer file from the download page. When the file downloads, double-click on it to mount the installer. Once the installer is mounted, you can then double-click on the Backup and Sync icon to run the actual installer. When the installation completes, you will be required to sign into your Google Account.

Upon successful authentication to your Google Account, you will then be presented with the configuration options. In this screen (Figure A), make sure to uncheck Sync my Drive to this computer.

Figure A

Figure A

Disabling the syncing of Drive to the local device.

What if, however, there are certain folders on Google Drive you do want to sync? If that's the case, leave Sync my Drive to this computer checked and then check Sync only these folders. When you select this option, you will then be able to select which folders on Google Drive you want to sync (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

Selecting only certain folders in Drive to sync to your local machine.

Configuring what to backup to Drive

Now comes the moment where we get to instruct Backup and Sync what to back up to Google Drive. You'll find a section with the auto-generated name for your computer (in my case My MacBook Pro). In that section (Figure C), choose the folders you want to backup with your Drive account.

Figure C

Figure C

Selecting what to sync to Drive.

If your folder isn't listed in the viewing box, click the CHOOSE FOLDER button and then (once Finder opens) select the folders you want to add. In this same window, you can choose the photo and video upload size as well as the default behavior for removing items. Click OK and the settings will be in place and the backup will start.

SEE: Special report: The cloud v. data center decision (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Finding your sync'd folders on Drive

If you open up your Google Drive account, you should see a new tab labeled Computers. Click on that tab to reveal the newly created folder, backed up from your local drive (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D

Selecting what to sync to Drive.

The one caveat to this is the sync is one-way only (hence backup). If you add files to the directory on Google Drive, they will not sync to your local drive. In order to get a two-way sync, you will have to then click on the Backup and Sync icon on your MacBook top panel, click on the three vertical dots, click Preferences, click on the Google Drive tab, click to enable Sync My Drive to this computer, click Sync only these folders, and then select the folder(s) you want to actually sync between your local drive and Google Drive.

Easy backup solution

Even if you don't use Google Drive Backup and Sync to sync your entire Drive to a local machine, it still makes for an outstanding (and very easy to use) backup solution that won't cost you a penny and works seamlessly with your Google Drive account.

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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....