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How to Back Up to Google Drive: Protecting Your Data in 2023

Google Drive is one of the easiest cloud services to use, which makes it a good choice for cloud newbies looking to back up their data. This guide will show you how to back up to Google Drive so you never lose your data again.

Aleksandar Kochovski
By Aleksandar Kochovski (Editor)
— Last Updated: 2023-05-17T11:59:31+00:00

With more than a billion users, Google Drive is the biggest cloud storage service on the planet. In fact, whenever you create a personal Google account, a Drive account is automatically created for you. Because of that, you probably already have an account with the cloud service, and you might want to take advantage of that by saving your backup to Google Drive.

Key Takeaways:

  • If you’re not keen on getting a dedicated online backup app, using Google Drive to back up your computer is easy to do.
  • Although uploading to Google Drive is as simple as dragging and dropping files into the Google Drive website, we don’t recommend moving files manually.
  • You can automate the backup process by letting Google Drive sync your existing folders to the cloud. Every change you make to the folders you sync will be reflected in the cloud versions of the folders as well.

Cloud storage services aren’t created with hard drive backups in mind; that’s what online backup services are for. However, there are ways to do a Google Drive backup of your computer’s hard drive.

You can also use Google Drive to back up Android, in case you’re switching phones and want to keep all your data (Google Photos can help with that, too). However, this Google Drive backup guide will focus on creating backups and restoring Google Drive files to your computer.

There are several ways to do this, but the most reliable way is to use the Google Drive for Desktop app. This lets you use your Drive folder to back up any files you choose, but it will take additional steps to back up your entire computer. Read on to find out how to back up your hard drive to the cloud using Google Drive.

  • 02/07/2022

    Google replaced the Backup and Sync app with Google Drive for Desktop. The guide has been updated to reflect that change.

  • Drive will do a decent job of backing up your files, while keeping them readily accessible. However, a true online backup solution, like IDrive, will give you many more options to customize your backup.

  • Yes, every Android phone lets you back up your apps, settings and data to Drive, so when you get a new phone you have all your stuff there without having to download it manually.

  • Google Drive for Desktop replaced Backup and Sync as the default app for Drive. It’s functionally the same thing with a few added features, like the virtual drive, as well as simplified settings.

How to Back Up to Google Drive: The Drag-and-Drop Method

Sometimes the best thing for productivity is to have all of your important files and folders in one place. If you need quick access to those files, you can back up your data to the “My Drive” folder. To do that, you have to install the Google Drive for Desktop app on your computer. This will create a “My Drive” folder, which you can use to back up data.

To back up files to Drive, simply copy them to your “My Drive” folder. You can also do the same via the Google Drive website. Just log in with your Google account and open Drive. Next, drag and drop whatever files and folders you need to back up. It really is that easy, but it comes with some drawbacks.

google drive website
It doesn’t get any easier than dragging and dropping to upload, but that method isn’t perfect.

Problems With the Drag-and-Drop Method

One problem is that syncing files this way doesn’t preserve your folder structure, and you can easily forget to copy some files or folders. Another downside of using the “My Drive” folder to back up your files is that you create a copy of each file, so if you want to back up your hard drive, you’re going to need twice the space that your data already takes up.

If you choose this method to back your data up, you will need to reupload files manually every time you edit them. You will also need to manually upload any new files you create, plus it’s easy to forget which ones you’ve already uploaded (read our guide on how to upload to Google Drive).

Using Google’s Virtual Drive

A virtual drive solves many of the issues that sync folders have. A virtual drive attaches to your computer just like a hardware drive would but uses your cloud storage instead. In Windows Explorer, it will look similar to Local Disk (C:), as you can see in the image below. Files you upload to this virtual drive don’t take up any additional hard drive space.

google drive virtual drive
A virtual drive can solve the issue of data duplication that sync folders have.

If you want to, you can just drag and drop files into the drive to upload them, but the inconvenience of manually uploading still remains. 

The next way to back up files remedies these issues, so keep reading to find out the best way to automatically back up files with Google Drive. Of course, a better option would be to use a dedicated backup service instead, like Backblaze backup.

Back Up Your Computer to Google Drive Automatically

Google Drive for Desktop gives you several options during installation, which you can change anytime you like. One of these choices is which computer folders to back up to Drive. This option creates a continuous link between your computer and the cloud, plus you don’t have to create two copies of every file.

If you’ve ever used a backup service like IDrive, the next step will be familiar (and if you haven’t, you can read our IDrive review). Like IDrive, Drive will automatically find folders to back up, such as “desktop,” “documents” and “pictures.” From this menu, you can also click the “choose folder” button to back up any folder you like.

The most useful thing about this method is that you can back up an entire partition. This means that if you have a separate partition (those “local drive” folders on your computer) with all your important files, you can just select it with the “choose folder” option, and it will keep your folder trees as they are. Here’s how to do this step by step.

  1. Open the “Preferences” Menu

    You’ll find Google Drive’s app in the taskbar. Click on the app’s icon and then click the gear icon in the top-right corner. You should see the “preferences” menu there.

    backup Google drive step 1
  2. Add Folders You Want to Back Up

    You’ll be greeted with Google’s “preferences” menu. Make sure you’re on the “my computer” tab and click on “add folder.”

    backup google drive step 2
  3. Select Folders to Back Up

    Once you click on the big blue button, you’ll get a pop-up window that lets you choose a folder to back up.

    backup google drive step 3
  4. Choose a Backup Method

    Next you need to choose whether to sync all your files to the cloud, or just your photos and videos. The option “sync with Google Drive” will upload everything, while the “back up to Google Photos” option will only back up the photos and videos the software detects in that folder.

    backup google drive step 4
  5. Save Your Settings

    Finally, just click “save” to start the backup process.

    backup google drive step 5

Can Google Drive Automatically Back Up?

One of the biggest benefits of the automatic backup method is that every file you create or work on is automatically updated as you go. This means you can work as you always do, without having to change your habits or folder structure. The automatic backup method also helps save space because the files don’t get duplicated to your “My Drive” folder.

However, Google Drive’s free plan is only 15GB, so to back up more than that you will need to upgrade to a paid storage plan. If you’re on a tight budget, Carbonite is a backup service that offers unlimited storage at a very low price (read our full Carbonite review).

Google Drive Automatic Backup Settings

If you use Drive to back up your computer, you may have to change some network settings. Backing up many files means lots of data is being transferred to the cloud continuously and slowing down your connection. By default, Drive doesn’t limit your bandwidth. This is the best option if you have an unlimited data plan and you only care about fast uploads.

How to Limit Bandwidth With Google Drive Data Backup

There will be situations where you need to limit the bandwidth that Google Drive uses. To do this, go into the “preferences” menu and click the gear icon in the top-right corner. This is the “settings” menu that houses options for startup behavior and bandwidth management. Clicking the “download rate” or “upload rate” buttons will let you throttle Drive’s bandwidth.

google drive backup settings
Google Drive lets you set a limit to how fast it uploads or downloads data.

How to Adjust Google Photos Backup Options

The “settings” menu also hosts settings for Google Photos backups. You will see the option to upload photos in “storage saver” mode or “original quality.”

“Original quality” means your photos are uploaded as they are, and “storage saver” means they are uploaded as compressed files. You can also choose to upload screenshots and camera RAW files.

google photos backup settings
You can find quality settings for Google Photos uploads in the “settings” menu.

How to Restore a Backup From Google Drive Storage

Restoring your backed-up Drive files is very easy and simple. Because your data is stored in the cloud, it’s always available to download via the Google Drive website. If you’ve deleted the files from your Drive, you can still try to restore them using data recovery software.

How Do I Access My Google Drive Backup?

Google Drive Website

The easiest way to access your Drive files is via the Drive website. Its interface is easy to use. If you want to download a file or folder from the website, just right-click on the file or folder and select “download.”

However, Drive doesn’t let you download all of your data at once. Luckily, Google has a service called Google Takeout that does just that. You can download all of the data Google has on you using Google Takeout, and that includes your Google Drive files.

Backup and Sync App

The next way to download your Google Drive backup is with the Backup and Sync desktop app. You can choose to sync the backup folders on your Google account, and they will be downloaded to your Drive folder.

There are also Google Drive apps for iPhone and Android that let you access your Drive files. These apps can back up text messages to Google Drive, plus they can automatically back up photos to Drive. If you’re on Android, you can back up your entire phone, including settings and apps.

Final Thoughts

To recap, there are several methods for using Drive to back up your data. All of them have some advantages and drawbacks, but if you follow this Google Drive backup guide, you shouldn’t have any trouble.

The first method is to drag and drop files into the “My Drive” folder or the Google Drive website. This method will create duplicates of your Drive files, plus you have to back up your data manually (we have a guide on how to remove Google Photos duplicates in case you need it).

A much better way to back up your files to Drive is to use the Google Drive for Desktop app to select which folders to back up to the cloud. You can set up Google to automatically sync existing folders on your computer, which lets you work on files and have them continuously uploaded to the cloud.

We hope this Google Drive backup guide was helpful to you. If you have any questions about using Drive to back up your data, feel free to drop a comment below. Also, check out our guides on how to transfer ownership of a Google Drive folder or move files from Google Drive to Google Photos if that’s something you need to do. Thank you for reading.

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