Updated: October 19, 2021 | Contains affiliate links

How to Configure Google Drive for Desktop (Google Backup & Sync)

Google Drive and Google Photos are arguably two very popular Google cloud products. Because of its generous free storage space and beautiful interfaces, these products have millions of users worldwide. However, along with all these free services, Google has created a small program called Google Backup and Sync which allows you to backup files from your computer to your Google Drive and Google Photo cloud storage spaces.

Since July 19, 2021, Google has replaced Google Backup & Sync with it’s revamped Google Drive for desktop application. While this article focuses on the former Google Backup & Sync, you will still find a lot of things that will apply for the new Google Drive for Desktop application, since these two applications are very similar.

Google Backup and Sync (replaced by Google Drive for desktop) is like a bridge between your computer and Google’s cloud services, in particular Google Drive and Google Photos. Google keeps making changes to how Google Drive and Google Photos interact with each other and Google Backup and Sync also changes to mirror these changes. In this article we explore how Google Backup & Sync works with Google Drive and Google Photos.

Google Drive for Desktop (Google Backup & Synch) backups up your computer files and media to Google Drive and Google Photos
Diagram showing how Google Backup & Sync works

Understand Google Drive

Google Drive is Google’s product for storage space in the cloud.  Comes with 15Gb for free and then more space can be purchased for a price.  Google Drive can be accessed via a web browser at drive.google.com or via the Google Drive phone app.

Google Drive is one of the first of Google’s cloud services, where the company offers 15Gb of free storage space to anybody with a Google Account. A lot more generous than Microsoft’s 5Gb free space offered through OneDrive, Google Drive has become a favorite with many users. You can obviously purchase more storage when you exceed your free allotted space, but 15Gb will suffice for most users as most use Google Drive to backup files that they want to share across devices.

Understand Google Photos

Google Photos is Google’s product and beautiful interface for storing and viewing your photos. With unlimited storage, for high resolution photos (up to 16 MP), Google Photos is a great application for viewing and searching for your many photos.  Google Photos also, can be accessed via a web browser at photos.google.com or via the Google Photos phone app.

Google Drive and Google Photos are cloud applications, which means you can only access them through a web browser or a phone app.

When it comes from accessing these Google services from your computer, you can only access them through a web browser.  There is not computer program (not anymore) called Google Drive or Google Photos.

In addition to Google Drive, Google has made Google Photos offer unlimited storage space for all photos under 16MP (megapixels). Yes there are some restrictions on file formats, but essentially you get free storage of your photos and a very beautiful and useful interface for viewing and searching for your photos.

However, Google provides a way to store files from your computer unto both Google Drive and Google Photos.  For this purpose you can install Google Backup & Sync computer program that can automatically upload files to your storage space from Google.

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Understand Google Drive for Desktop (Google Backup & Sync)

Google Drive for Desktop (Google Backup & Sync) is a program for your computer, Windows or Mac.  It is a simple program that focuses on getting files from your computer to your storage areas in Google Drive and Google Photos. It is a nifty little program that can perform a backup service and save important files and media to your Google Drive storage space.

Unlike Google Drive, which synchronizes only one folder on your computer with My Drive in the cloud, Google Backup & Sync allows you to pick other folders from your computer to be backed up.  This is pretty cools since, for example you don’t want to make a copy of your Pictures folder and place it in the Google Drive folder…that would create two copies of your photos and take up lots of space.

Configure Google Drive for desktop (Google Backup & Sync)

Now that we understand how these 3 Google products relate to each other, let’s configure Google Backup & Synch (Google Drive for desktop) on my computer.  In my case, I only want to backup my EXPORT folder which contains all my selected photos.

  1. Click Choose Folders and choose the folder (or folders I want backed up)
  2. Chose what files I want backed up.  In my case I only pick photos & videos.  You can also choose all files if you’re backing up documents for example.  Other file types count against your storage space. These folders will show up in Google Drive/Computer/My Laptop/10-EXPORT.  They don’t show up in Google Drive/My Drive (which is reserved as a synchronized folder with the Google Drive folder on my computer).
  3. Since I also want my photos to be uploaded to Google Photos I choose that I want the free unlimited high-resolution storage.  This is awesome as for sharing purposes, 16 megapixel photos are more than enough.
  4. The Removing Items section is important.  Google Backup & Sync also synchronizes devices, so you can delete one file on one device and it will be deleted on all other devices.  In my case I don’t want any other device to affect my computer photo collection…so I choose either “Ask me before removing everywhere” or “Never remove both copies”.
  5. I also want my photos to appear in Google Photos.  So, I check the “Upload newly added photos and videos to Google Photos”. Even though it doesn’t show on the diagram, I keep this checkbox checked.  This is especially the case since Google has separated Google Drive and Google Photos.

Google Drive for Desktop Configuration
Google Drive for Desktop Configuration

Once configured, Google Drive for Desktop (Google Backup & Sync), works nicely.  The only trouble is to be able to configure the program.

I found that right after installing the program and starting it for the first time, I have to quickly uncheck all the default folder (Desktop, Pictures and Documents). Google Backup & Sync takes a long time (especially on large folders) to compute the size of these folders, and the program becomes very unresponsive.

Read More: How to use Google Backup & Sync to share your best photos

Can you Understand the Google Ecosystem?

The simplest way I found to understand these 3 Google products is to think of Google Photos and Google Drive purely as cloud products, or mobile applications. This means that they are not for my computer, but only to be accessed through a web browser or through a mobile device.

Google Drive for Desktop (Google Backup & Sync) on the other hand is designed for my computer entirely.  It allows me to get files from my computer to these “cloud” applications, so I can access them from my mobile device or web browser.

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If you do a lot of image editing like I do, I recommend using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC via the annual Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Lightroom has best photo editing capabilities even though it has a steeper learning curve. Adobe Lightroom is my favorite for image editing.

I recommend Backblaze Personal Cloud Backup for affordable & reliable unlimited cloud backup. I have been using Backblaze for backing up all pictures & videos for more than 5 years now. All my invaluable digital memories are safe and secure. This is the best solution especially if you have a large quantity of media files.

Use a reliable & affordable external hard drive for backing up everything on your computer. It is absolutely essential for keeping all your memories backed up and safe.

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