File sharing is a key features of any modern cloud service. That includes Google Drive, the most popular cloud storage option of all. While most storage providers work similarly when it comes to sharing files, it can take time to learn for those new to cloud storage. In this article, we’ll help you wrap your head around the basics of sharing files with Google Drive.

We’ll cover sharing Google Drive folders and individual files, as well as the advantages of using it to share them, including collaborating using its excellent office suite, Google Docs. We’ll look at a few weaknesses, such as questionable security.

For those who have more questions about how Google Drive works, we have an article devoted to the subject. There’s also our full Google Drive review.

What is Google Drive?

Google Drive is a cloud storage service. Its primary goal is to let you store files on remote servers instead of your computer’s hard drive. Doing so saves hard drive space, lets you sync files between devices and share files without having to deal with bothersome email attachments.

A basic Google Drive account is free and gives you 15GB of storage. While shared with Google Photos and Gmail, that’s one of the most generous free cloud storage plans available. If you need more file space, Google Drive offers 100GB for $1.99 per month and 1TB for $9.99 per month.

15GB
  • Free plan
  • 15 GB Storage
100GB
  • Annual Discount: 16%
  • 100 GB Storage
1TB
  • Annual Discount: 17%
  • 1000 GB Storage
2TB
  • 2000 GB Storage
10TB
  • 10000 GB Storage
20TB
  • 20000 GB Storage
30TB
  • 30000 GB Storage

In the coming months, the service is going to be rebranded as Google One and its 1TB plan will be doubled to 2TB at no extra cost. That should vault it into position to be one of the best deals in cloud storage, up there with pCloud and Sync.com.

In addition to file storage, Google Drive can be used to sync files across devices and, key to this article, share files with others.

Google Drive File Uploading

Before you can share a file with Google Drive, you need to upload it to a Google server. The company’s servers are located around the world, though most are in the U.S. This allows for faster data access in general, as well as faster file uploads.

To upload files to Google Drive, you can either move files into your Google Drive sync folder or upload them using the Google Drive web application or smartphone app.

Rather than upload individual files, you can upload folders. Any type of file up to 20TB can be uploaded, which is a huge cap by cloud standards. The only exceptions are Google Docs, Slides and Sheets files. Docs and Slides have a 50MB limit and Slides have a 100MB limit.

Google Drive File Sharing

Once uploaded, you can start sharing your folders and files with friends, family, colleagues and clients. You can do so from the Google Drive sync folder in your file system or the web interface.

Google Drive Sync Folder Sharing

To share content in your sync folder, right-click on it and hover your mouse cursor over “Google Drive.” There will be three options: “share,” “view on web” and “copy link to clipboard.”

The third option, “copy link to clipboard,” is the easiest way to share a file. It generates a URL link pointing to your file that can be pasted into Slack forums, social media, spreadsheets or anywhere else.

Select “share” for more precise control.

When you use “share,” rather than generating a link, a share-settings windows will open. Option are available to input email addresses to send links to and set permissions. Permissions include “can organize, add and edit” and “can view only.”

You’ll notice an “advanced” link near the bottom of the settings window. Use it to alter permissions for specific individuals. There’s a toggle to prevent editors from adding new people, too.

Google Drive Web Interface Sharing

Similar share options are available from the Google Drive web interface. Right-click on any folder or file online and you can either retrieve a “shareable link” or select “share” for more advanced controls.

As with sharing from the sync folder, generating a link is simpler, but can be dangerous. Links can be used by anybody who gains access to them. Using the “share” option to input email addresses and set permissions provides a measure of security.

If you’re sharing Google Docs, Slides or Sheets files, you can give users permissions to view-only, edit or comment on files. Comments let others leave comments in the margins of Google files, which is a feature we use frequently at Cloudwards.net to produce content. Edit privileges also let others leave suggestions for edits that can be approved or not.

Up to 100 people can comment on and edit a shared Google document at the same time. More than that can view it, but it’s easier to distribute a universal link than input 100 email addresses.

Advanced share settings let you automatically post links to Facebook, Google+, Gmail and Twitter to increase your audience.

Google Drive Shared with Me

Google Drive allows others to share folders and files with you. To help manage those, the web interface includes a special “shared with me” view to see what content is available to you.

The list includes both the file shared and the name of the person who shared it with you.

Unfortunately, there’s no similar view to audit what content you’ve shared with others. That makes it easy to lose track of links. The best you can do is scan the list of files in the “my drive” view and look for the “link” icon beside an object, which indicates it’s been shared.

That can be time-consuming and it’s easy to overlook files. Hopefully, Google will consider a feature addition to fix the oversight.

Google Drive Sharing Weaknesses

Google Drive makes it easy to distribute files, but, in addition to a view to audit share files, there are troubling misses with how Google Drive goes about file sharing.

The biggest weakness is that Google doesn’t let you set passwords or expiry dates for links. Link passwords ensure that only those with a password can use a link to view or download shared content. Without them, anybody who obtains the link can view it.

Link expiry dates set a timer on how long a file link is good for. Expiry dates provide a reasonable solution to how easy it is to lose track of what links you’ve created and the problems that come with that.

Most cloud storage providers miss on those counts, too. The few exceptions are mentioned in our best cloud storage for file sharing article. The best of the bunch is Sync.com, which lets you set passwords, expiry dates and download limits.

Sync.com encrypts file sharing, too, using private, end-to-end encryption. That is another matter, though.

The takeaway is that, while great for file sharing and one of the best cloud storage tools for collaboration, Google Drive is far from perfect.

As a final word of caution, the Google Drive terms and conditions agreement grants the company leeway to scan stored and shared content. There are many reasons for that, including targeted marketing, but there’s one reason in particular that’s pertinent to this article: copyrighted material.

If you’re planning on storing torrented movies in your Google Drive account and sharing them with others, reconsider your plan. The system uses hash matching to detect pirated content and may not permit the share if it flags something suspect.

While we don’t advocate piracy, if you were going to store torrented files, you’d be better off with a zero-knowledge cloud storage provider. Sync.com, pCloud and Tresorit are the best bets, with MEGA a distant fourth.

Final Thoughts

Without file sharing, Google Drive wouldn’t be as compelling a cloud storage solution as it is. That’s because file sharing is behind what Google Drive does best, which is collaboration.

Co-authoring Google Docs, sharing presentations and distributing spreadsheets are all vital elements of the Google Drive experience. For the most part, file sharing with Google Drive is straightforward and this article should have put you on the right path.

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Of course, nobody’s perfect. If you’re still feeling lost and need advice, let us know in the comments below and we’ll be more than happy to share our knowledge. Don’t forget to sign up for your 15GB of free Google Drive storage to start sharing files or give our best cloud storage for sharing review a read for more options. Thanks for reading.

23 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide On How To Share Files on Google Drive”

  1. I have parts of my biography that I cannot attach how I was able in the past. I have two parts of the biography finished. The Part VI Biography has creaaated for me a great deal of consternation when I try to attach it. What is the most expedicious avenue that I should take to overcome this problem?
    I used the email vector.

  2. I’ve tried to share a large file of pic’s w/gf & she can only view, etc one pic at a time – not nice. How can I share these so that she’s able to see, view, edit, comment as I am. (seeing all the pic’s in the folder & easily moving between them) Thanks

  3. Trying to download 100s of large video files from a friends Shared folder. Google drive attempts to zip them up and then complains that it is too large to create. The only way I’ve been able to do this is to individually download them. This is an incredibly slow process, please advise.

    1. Cloudwards.net - Chief Editor

      Nope, you’re pretty much stuck there, sorry. Next time maybe consider using a different service? Off the top of my head, I’d say MEGA and Sync are your best bet.

  4. I want more storage, but hesitate to purchase it when at only 15GB I can’t download, view, or share the files with any reasonable system intact. Yes, zip files download, but limitations are not specified. When zips open the files are sketchy at best, a many files don’t download for unknown reasons, The directories are all gone which leaves a massive wad of unsorted files that take forever to reorganize (just to find out what is missing). Question—If I invest any $$ into an ever-changing online storage system that lets me down at 15GB would I be Insane to actually pay $$ for 1 or 2 TB without documented file management, documented share system, and a without a reliable upload-download system that won’t loose, distort, or otherwise compromise what may amount to many years of my life’s investments? Not yet I think

  5. I’m just setting up my Google Drive and have three folders in the root directory. When, in the web interface, as a trial, I give permission to view but not edit only one of the folders to one specific person only, she can see any of the three of my files and copy, delete, etc. Nothing I do is able to change this behavior. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Cloudwards.net - Chief Editor

      That’s weird. Have you tried maybe going to the sharing settings of the other two files and seeing whether she’s on there? That could fix it.

  6. When I “add” a “shared with me” file to my own Drive, the activity log for the file says that I “moved” it, even if I access the file info from “shared with me.” Did I really move it away from the owner’s storage? If so, what will happen if/when I remove it from my drive? I want to be very clear on the expected result before I do this, because the file contains massive information about the owners business that could not be recovered if I accidentally delete the file.

    1. Cloudwards.net - Chief Editor

      Generally you can’t just remove a file from somebody else’s cloud. That said, to be extra safe, just duplicate the file and move the copy.

      1. I want to own some ‘shared with me’ files. How do I do that? I have done it in the past but forgotten. That way if the person who shared them in the first place decides to delete them, I am at a loss. If I own them I won’t have to worry about that situation happening. Thank you!

        1. Cloudwards.net - Chief Editor

          You don’t need to own them, just copy them into your own drive and you’re good to go 🙂

  7. In Explorer, when I drag and drop a file into my G-drive and then right-click and go to Drive File Stream, it shows the file is available Online Only (Available Offline is not checked). Is the file being deleted from the local drive when I move it into the Google File Stream drive?

    1. Cloudwards.net - Chief Editor

      No, it’s not. You’re basically copying the file into the cloud.

  8. I tried to share just 1 folder in my drive to my wife to test with link. she is now able to see all the folders and files in my drive. Can or how do i allow just the one folder in drive to be seen by other users without seeing everything in my drive.

  9. I just created an email account with G-suite because my student email is expiring soon. I want to transfer ownership of my files to the new account, but keep getting the message that it’s not possible because my new email is “not a gmail” – even though it is? It doesnt end in “@gmail.com” but it is a g-suite email…

    1. Cloudwards.net - Chief Editor

      Changing ownership is rife with issues, if not this it’ll be something else. You’re best off simply copying all the files from your old Drive to a new one. You may have to download it to your own system first. Good luck!

  10. I have 50 individual photo files in my ipad Google Drive that I want to put into one sharable folder. Ipad doesn’t have a mouse so no right click anything. The 50 images are art related so wishing to send one file folder. How to please?

    1. Cloudwards.net - Chief Editor

      A google search of “how to use Google Drive on an iPad” gave me a bunch of results with some pretty good guides. Try that and let us know how you got along.

  11. Great article! My question: If I want a person from Odesk to do work on a file (Office 365 files) but not be able to download the files onto their own laptop or PC, does google drive provide that safety. If I send them a link to their gmail account to my google drive, can that person then download the files (Microsoft 365 powerpoint, word, PDF and excel) onto their own pc, or are the files safe and the person from Odesk can only edit the files while on my google drive site and won’t be able to download the files onto their computer? If Google drive won’t work do you have any recommendations?

    1. Cloudwards.net - Chief Editor

      No, Google Drive won’t work, and nothing else springs to mind, TBH. Generally speaking, edit permission also means download permission. Good luck finding a way around your issue.

  12. Scenario: There are 2 G-suites with domains attached. G1 is all locked down so that anyone accessing any files, even view only, require a personalised login. Those who need editing rights have them for the appropriate folders etc.

    G2 is attached to a public-facing website and includes files such as public gallery images and newsletters. The member area is accessed via a single login but no secure documents are stored here. Only one or two people have editing rights to this.

    Question: Is it possible to have a link on the website to the G1 “general members” files (read only) without having to use the share link option?

    1. Cloudwards.net - Chief Editor

      That sounds like a scenario Google’s support has the answer to. Please ask them, but do post the answer here, thank you!

  13. I have a problem.
    I have 100G on my gdrive, and I have shared one folder with another person.
    I have 70G free, and the person I’m sharing with can not see all 70G. They see just couple of gigs.

    why? whats the point? is there any fix, settings or workarround?

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