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The why, how and what on the new Google Drive for Desktop

If you are using Google Workspace (previously G Suite) as your collaboration tool, which is great, you might have come across the need to sync files to your desktop for different reasons. Google’s solutions for this, Google Drive for Desktop & Backup and Sync, will be updated still in 2021. In this article, we will explain why, how and when you need to act (or not). 

Google Drive for desktop

Speaker picture Circle_julie dockx-03 Written by Julie Dockx, Head of Digital Workplace at Devoteam G Cloud

Syncing to your desktop

When not working on a Chromebook, Google Workspace users might have a need to access and sync files from Drive to their desktop. Google offers for this need 2 solutions: Google Drive for Desktop (formerly Drive File Stream) and Backup and Sync.

The difference is that Drive for Desktop is more suitable for organisations as it lets you stream both My Drive and Shared Drive files from the cloud even in an offline mode. Most employees use it to free up disk space, decrease time needed to sync files and to facilitate upload and download of files. Backup and Sync on the other hand is the consumer version, available for organisations too, which stores all or selected Drive content locally. A full comparison can be found on this support page.

Drive for Desktop: why, what and your actions

Some organisations allow both solutions to be used, depending on the different requirements, which can be confusing for end users and challenging to manage for IT. Later this year (2021) Google will unify these solutions and bring most used features from both into one solution: Drive for Desktop


  • Easier administration and management
  • One solution, one user experience
  • Better performance for end users

Organisations using Backup and Sync can apply for the beta version of the new unified client to understand the new way of working and understand potential impact.

What will be different?

For Drive File Stream users the only change so far was the renaming into Drive for Desktop. Later this year Backup and Sync users will need to transition to Drive for Desktop. Google, and we, will announce which actions both you as the organisation and your end users will need to take. The below table gives an overview of functionalities that will be in addition available for both. 

What do I need to do?

Drive for Desktop users on versions 39.x or earlier should update the application before May 18, 2021 to version 40.X or higher. Users with earlier versions may be prevented from signing in and will be prompted to upgrade upon sign-in. Ensure your users verify they are able to log in and upgrade by installing the latest Drive for Desktop release. In order to do so, your admin can opt for:

  1. Deploying Google Drive for Desktop in the Admin Console (instructions for both Windows & Mac)
  2. Share the How to-article with your users to upgrade 

Backup and Sync users will need to act only when the solutions will be unified.

As you have noticed, this change will somehow impact anyone using the tool as the common goal and result to make it easier for both end users and management. Bringing all the different functionalities, currently separately available, into one experience for Drive for Desktop. 

Follow our blog to be updated on the planning of this unification and make sure the used applications are up to date.

Do you need help or extra guidance with this update or with Google Workspace? Drop us a line, our experts are there to help!