We've use Google Apps for Business, more specifically Google Drive extensively at work.

So much so if it went down / our data went missing, we would be stuck.

We've already turned on 2 set authentication on all accounts, but to be doubly sure we want to take regular backups. We're looking at Backupify and a couple of others who offer automated backups.

But I was looking at my "Google Drive" folder (bellow) on my machine (Mac); it seems as if these files are sitting on my machine, but looking at the file sizes, plus opening them when not connected to the internet they seem to just be hyperlinks to the files online.

Is there a way to get Google Drive to actually sync a full copy of each document back to your local machine? As this would be an alternative to backing up the docs account.

google drive files

6 Answers 6


The gdoc and gsheet files are, as you've discovered, simply pointers to the online version(s) of the file(s). (This only happens if you have the Google Docs app on your PC or Mac, of course.)

The only way to make local backups of the files so that they contain your actual data would be to convert them to a different format. Converting a gdoc to a Word file and keeping it in the same directory would give you what you want, but converting files certainly isn't automatic.

Is it necessary, though? Google Drive/Docs is already keeping revision information, plus anything you delete goes to the "Trash" and doesn't get really deleted for 30 days (at least).

Of course, things might be a bit different for Google Apps. Certainly part of your agreement with Google is the ability to get to backups of your data in cases of vandalism/hacking/etc., no?

You might also look into the Data Liberation Front to see what data you can extract, although I don't know if that would be useful in your case.

  • thanks eddie, ive looked into it further and although you can make a backup of you whole drive account and download it locally, you have to do this manually, i think im going to go with a 3rd party backup service to make a daily backup of the entire account
    – sam
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 17:05
  • this is not entirely true. Google Drive supports offline mode for gdoc and gsheet in Chrome. support.google.com/drive/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1628467
    – neo
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 17:26
  • @neo: Yes, but that data is still stored elsewhere. The files in the Google Drive folder are still just pointers.
    – ale
    Commented Jan 20, 2013 at 15:47
  • After a couple of months living with it, ive found a service called CloudHQ that does a great job of backing up from google drive, what it lets you do is link your google drive to a dropbox account and makes a copy of all your google drive docs (in a microsoft office format) and places them as a backup in your dropbox account
    – sam
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 12:59
  • @sam cloudhq is expensive and there are better choices. Take a read at my answer!
    – cregox
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 10:44

Yeah, google drive sucks in that aspect. It doesn't save local copies of most files that do not count towards your limit (mostly docs, sheets, etc) anywhere in our hard drive. Not that we can easily access anyway. Also, even its "offline" feature, while it seem to work some times, it often fails.

Oddly enough, video files (smaller than 15 min they say) also do not count to your drive quota limit. But you do have a local copy of them! Go figure...

In any case, there are plenty of tools and mostly services out there you can use to make that local copy. Plenty. And each one do it in a different peculiar way. Most of them will help syncing with other services, such as Dropbox (referral link).

This is my on going personal research listing the most interesting ones I've found:

  • CloudHQ connects services. 15 days free trial. Cheapest plan U$ 99 per year.
  • Otixo, connects services. 14 days free trial. Cheapest plan: U$ 39 lifetime.
  • CloudKafe, simply do search. Free (catch?). Won't work for this case!
  • InSync, expands google drive. 15 days free trial. Cheapest plan: U$ 15 lifetime.
  • OwnCloud, virtual desktop. Open source, offers unnamed priced business.
  • JoliOS, online virtual desktop. Open source. Won't work for this case! (I think)
  • Zapier, connects services with tasks. Very limited free plan. Cheapest plan: U$ 165 per year.
  • IFTTT, connects services with tasks. Completely free, somehow. Won't work for this case!

I'm only trying to elucidate why I would, right now, highly advise using OwnCloud. In my head, if you're personally using Google Drive, makes no sense to pay for a smaller service. And if you're with business Google Drive, makes no sense to pay more for a smaller service. All the reasons why OwnCloud makes the most sense.

But if you're not willing to go through all the trouble of the 1 time techie setting up, simply take InSync. They provide a great service for some years already and will likely stay around.

Disclaimer: I haven't personally tried them all!

  • 1
    This is great, we're going with InSync installed on a server that backs up the office files to the cloud. Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 14:02

@sam, I'm going to try to answer your specific question about backing up native-Google-format files to your local computer, but I'm not sure how practical or extensible this will if you're trying to back up an entire organization in this manner.

As @Al E. pointed out, the Google Drive client does not convert native-format Google Docs/Spreadsheets. Instead, I would recommend using a third-party client like insync. One of their key features is converting Google files to Office format when syncing Drive contents to your computer. They even sync changes back to Google's format online. See this video for more details.

Unfortunately, the best things in life aren't free, especially when it comes to Google Apps (you have to pay to add a lot of functionality that Google omitted in building out the platform. That's why they have so many APIs.). Check out their pricing (the Pro plan is probably best for SMB - $15/year for 3 accounts and $5/account after that).

If you're interested in ways to back up Google Drive to another storage system that you control, send me a PM, as I'm exploring Apps-wide downloads via Google's APIs.

  • Thanks @iowaprodigal - I actually started using a similar service called CloudHQ which i backup my GD accounts to Dropbox, which is then synced back to a local machine.
    – sam
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 11:21
  • 1
    @sam cloudhq is expensive as hell for a service that's offered by too many competitors for much cheaper or free even. Why would you stick with it?
    – cregox
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 8:37

I don't know where are the files stored locally, but despite of being a link the only reference, if you can open that link and still have your info available, and you can edit and download it as if you were online, I think you should have no trouble with it. I've tried those operations with my ethernet disconnected and it goes on gracefully, so I think the answer is 'Google does sync locally the files, although you don't see the content directly in your explorer view.

  • Were you using chrome for this ? as i think chrome has a view offline feature for google docs, also were the files google docs, or just normal files, ie word, jpeg, pdf (non google) ect as these are stored localy unlike the native google docs files
    – sam
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 14:13

Yes, you can store your Google files on your own computer by using Google Drive offline. See here: https://support.google.com/drive/bin/topic.py?hl=en&topic=1628465&parent=2811739&ctx=topic. Only caveat is that you have to use the Chrome browser or Chrome OS. Enabling offline use will download all the files to your computer so you can have them available to use whenever you are not connected to the Internet. "Disabling offline will also remove the offline copies of documents, spreadsheets, and presentations stored on this computer."


The answer is YES. Install the google drive app on each machine and it will install a local copy of your google docs on your hard drive. Any changes you make to that local copy will be synced to the cloud AND every other machine connected to the drive account.

Here is the link: Google Drive Downloads

  • How does this answer the actual question?
    – ale
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 13:49
  • He said "But I was looking at my "Google Drive" folder (bellow) on my machine (Mac); it seems as if these files are sitting on my machine, but looking at the file sizes, plus opening them when not connected to the internet they seem to just be hyperlinks to the files online." If he installs the Google Drive App on his machine there will be a folder called “Google Drive” and it will have all the files from Drive in it NOT links.
    – William
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 16:32
  • No, it won't. The local Google Drive folder only contains placeholder files for Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Yes, other types of files will be there, but the others are just links. He's already obviously got the Google Drive app installed on his machine.
    – ale
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 16:40
  • I stand corrected, Thank you Eddie. I was only looking at other types of files.
    – William
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 16:44

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