Google Drive

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Google Drive
Logo of Google Drive.png
Google Drive screenshot.png
The web version of Google Drive
Type of site
File hosting service
Owner Google
Registration Required
Users 240 million (October 2014)
Launched April 24, 2012; 4 years ago (2012-04-24)

Google Drive is a file storage and synchronization service created by Google.[1] It allows users to store files in the cloud, synchronize files across devices, and share files. Google Drive encompasses Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, an office suite that permits collaborative editing of documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, forms, and more.

Google Drive was launched on April 24, 2012,[1] and had 240 million monthly active users in October 2014.[2] Google said in September 2015 that they had over one million individual or organizational paid users of Google Drive,[3] and that they had made new security and privacy additions.[4]


Google Drive
Logo of Google Drive.svg
Screenshot of Google Drive app for Android.png
Google Drive's Android App
Stable release
  • Windows, OS X
    1.31 (July 28, 2016; 2 months ago (2016-07-28)) [±][5]
  • Android (July 6, 2016; 3 months ago (2016-07-06)) [±][6]
  • iOS
    4.15 (October 19, 2016; 8 days ago (2016-10-19)) [±][7]
Operating system Windows, OS X, Chrome OS, Android, iOS[8]
License Freeware

For Google Drive to synchronize files between the user's device and Google Drive storage, the Google Drive software application must be running on the user's device. The software communicates with Google Drive to synchronize data.

Computer apps[edit]

Google Drive is available for PCs running Windows Vista or later, and Macs running OS X Lion or later.[9]

In October 2016, Google announced that versions 1.27 and lower of the Drive computer software will be discontinued and sync will stop on February 1, 2017. Going forward after that date, Google will drop support for versions of the software older than 1 year.[10]

Google indicated in April 2012 that work on Linux software was underway,[11] but there was no news on this as of November 2013.[12]

In April 2012, Google's then-Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai said that Google Drive would be tightly integrated with Chrome OS version 20.[13]

Mobile apps[edit]

Google Drive is available for Android smartphones and tablets running Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) or later, and iPhones and iPads running iOS 7 or later.[9]

The Drive app supports offline viewing of most file types, and unsupported files can be opened in third-party apps on the device. Google Drive supported editing of documents and spreadsheets until April 2014, when the capability was moved to the newly released standalone apps for Docs, Sheets, and Slides.[14]

The Google Drive app on Android allows users to take a photo of a document, sign, or other text and use optical character recognition to convert to text that can be edited.[15][16] In October 2014, the Android app was updated with a Material Design user interface, improved search, the ability to add a custom message while sharing a file, and a new PDF viewer.[17]

In August 2016, Google Drive ended support for Android devices running Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" or older versions,[18] citing Google's mobile app update policy, which states: "For Android, we provide updates for the current and two previous named Android releases." According to the policy, the app will continue to work for devices running older versions, but any updates are provided on a best-efforts basis. The policy also states a notice will be given for any planned end of service.[19]


Individual user account storage[edit]

Google gives every user 15 GB of Drive storage space, which is shared across files in Google Drive, messages and attachments in Gmail, and pictures and videos in Google Photos.[20] Users can obtain more storage on payment of a monthly subscription.[21]

Files in Google Docs, Sheets and Slides native formats (including .gdoc, .gslides, and .gsheet) are not counted towards the storage limit.[22]

An unlimited amount of photos at maximum 16 megapixels and videos at maximum 1080p resolutions are stored for free in Google Photos using the "High quality" setting. Using the "Original quality" setting uses Google Drive storage space.[23]

As of 2016, these are the storage plans offered by Google:[21]

Storage Price
15 GB Free
100 GB $1.99 per month
1 TB $9.99 per month
10 TB $99.99 per month
20 TB $199.99 per month
30 TB $299.99 per month

By default, storage purchases are set to renew automatically at the end of the subscription period. Users can upgrade their storage plan anytime, with the new storage tier taking effect immediately. If the auto-renewal fails, a 7-day grace period is offered for users to update their payment information. When the storage plan expires or is cancelled, storage limit is set back to the free level. Users can still access all their content, but will not be able to add anything beyond the storage limit, which means:[24]

  • Users cannot add new files to Google Drive, with the exception of Docs, Sheets, or Slides files, which do not take up space. Synchronization between Drive and the local device will stop.
  • Users with the "Original quality" setting in Google Photos cannot upload new photos or videos.
  • Any incoming emails in Gmail will be returned to the sender.

Varying levels of free additional storage are offered on the purchase of specific Android devices from Motorola and HTC, Kensington devices[25] and Chromebooks.

G Suite storage[edit]

Google offers 30 GB of Drive storage for all G Suite Basic users, and unlimited storage for those using G Suite Unlimited or G Suite for Education, as long as there are at least 5 members. Associations with less than 5 members get 1 TB per user.[26]

Storage scheme revisions[edit]

Before the introduction of Google Drive, Google Docs initially provided 15 GB of storage free of charge.[citation needed] On April 24, 2012, Google Drive was introduced with free storage of 5 GB. Storage plans were revised, with 25GB costing $2.49/month, 100GB costing $4.99/month and 1TB costing $49.99/month.[1]

Originally, Gmail, Google Docs and Picasa had separate allowances for free storage and a shared allowance for purchased storage.[citation needed] Between April 2012 and May 2013, Google Drive and Google+ Photos had a shared allowance for both free and purchased storage, whereas Gmail had a separate 10 GB storage limit, which increased to 25 GB on the purchase of any storage plan.[citation needed]

In September 2012, Google announced that a paid plan would now cover total storage, rather than the paid allocation being added to the free; e.g. a 100 GB plan allowed a total of 100 GB rather than 115 GB as previously.[27]

In May 2013, Google announced the overall merge of storage across Gmail, Google Drive and Google+ Photos, allowing users 15 GB of unified free storage between the services.[20]

In March 2014, the storage plans were revised again and prices were reduced by 80% to $1.99/month for 100 GB, $9.99/month for 1TB, and $99.99/month for 10 TB.[28] This was much cheaper than competitors Dropbox and OneDrive offered at the time.[29] The 25 GB and 200 GB plans were discontinued and the 2 TB, 4 TB, 8 TB and 16 TB plans were replaced with 10 TB, 20 TB and 30 TB. Users were automatically upgraded to the new pricing scheme.

In most cases during these changes, users could continue with their existing plans as long as they kept their accounts active and did not make any adjustments to the plan. However, if the account lapsed for any reason, users had to choose from current plans.



Google Drive incorporates a system of file sharing in which the creator of a file or folder is, by default, its owner. The owner can regulate the public visibility of the file or folder. Ownership is transferable. Files or folders can be shared privately with particular users having a Google account, using their email addresses. Sharing files with users not having a Google account requires making them accessible to "anybody with the link". This generates a secret URL for the file, which may be shared via email, blogs, etc. Files and folders can also be made "public on the web", which means that they can be indexed by search engines and thus can be found and accessed by anyone. The owner may also set an access level for regulating permissions. The three access levels offered are "can edit", "can comment" and "can view". Users with editing access can invite others to edit.

Third-party apps[edit]

A number of external web applications ("apps") that work with Google Drive are available from the Chrome Web Store and are compatible with supported browsers. To use an app, users are required to sign in into Chrome Web Store and add the app. Some of these apps are first-party, such as Google Docs, Sheets and Slides. Drive apps operate on the online files, and can be used to view, edit and create files in various formats, edit images and videos, fax and sign documents, manage projects, create flowcharts, etc. Drive apps can also be made the default for handling file formats supported by them. Some of these apps also work offline on Google Chrome and Chrome OS.[30][31][32] All of the third-party apps are free to install. However, some have fees associated with continued usage or access to additional features. Most Drive apps have the permission to access users' files outside of Google Drive. Saving data from a third-party app to Google Drive requires authorization the first time.[33] The Google Drive SDK works together with the Google Drive UI and the Chrome Web Store to create an ecosystem of apps that can be installed into Google Drive.

In February 2013 the "create" menu in Google Drive was revamped to include third party apps, thus effectively granting them the same status as Google's own apps.[34] On March 19, 2013, Google released an API for Google Drive that enables third-party developers to build collaborative apps that support real-time editing.[35]

File viewing[edit]

The Google Drive viewer on the web allows the following file formats to be viewed:[36]

Files in other formats can also be handled through third-party apps that work with Google Drive, available from the Chrome Web Store.[30]

File limits[edit]

Files uploaded, but not converted to Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides formats, may be up to 5 TB in size. There are also limits, specific to file type, listed below:[36][37]

Documents (Google Docs)
Up to 1.02 million characters, regardless of the number of pages or font size. Document files converted to .gdoc Docs format cannot be larger than 50 MB. Images inserted cannot be larger than 50 MB, and must be in either .jpg, .png, or non-animated .gif formats.
Spreadsheets (Google Sheets)
Up to 2 million cells.
Presentations (Google Slides)
Presentation files converted to .gslides Slides format cannot be larger than 100 MB. Images inserted cannot be larger than 50 MB, and must be in either .jpg, .png, or non-animated .gif formats.


Search results can be narrowed by file type, ownership, visibility, and the open-with app.

Using Google Goggles and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, users can search for images by describing or naming what is in them. For example, a search for "mountain" returns all the photos of mountains as well as any text documents about mountains. Text in the first 100 pages of text documents and text-based PDFs, and in the first 10 pages of image-based PDFs can be searched.[citation needed] Text in images and PDFs can be extracted using OCR.

In September 2016, Google added "natural language processing" for searching on the Google Drive website, enabling specific user search queries like "find my budget spreadsheet from last December".[38]


A Description field is available for both files and folders that users can use to add relevant metadata. Content within the Description field is also indexed by Google Drive and searchable.

Google Drive does not currently support metadata in the form tags or labels, like Gmail[39] and Google Keep[40] do. Limited workarounds exist, like using the Description field, starring files and folders, changing folder colors and adding the same file to multiple folders.[41]

Accessibility to the visually impaired[edit]

In June 2014, Google announced a number of updates to Google Drive, which included making the service more accessible to visually impaired users. This included improved keyboard accessibility, support for zooming and high contrast mode, and better compatibility with screen readers.[42]

Save to Google Drive browser extension[edit]

Google offers an extension for Google Chrome, Save to Google Drive, that allows users to save web content to Google Drive through a browser action or through the context menu. While documents and images can be saved directly, webpages can be saved in the form of a screenshot (as an image of the visible part of the page or the entire page), or as a raw HTML, MHTML, or Google Docs file. Users need to be signed in to Chrome to use the extension.[43]

Professional editions[edit]

See also: G Suite

Google Drive for Work[edit]

Google Drive for Work is a business version, a part of G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work), announced at the Google I/O conference on June 25, 2014 and made available immediately. The service features unlimited storage, advanced file audit reporting and eDiscovery services, along with enhanced administration control and new APIs specifically useful to businesses. Users can upload files as large as 5 TB.[44] For companies with less than 5 users, the storage limit is fixed to 1 TB per user. A press release posted on Google's Official Enterprise Blog assured businesses that Google will encrypt data stored on its servers, as well as information being transmitted to or from them. Google will deliver round-the-clock support to business users and has guaranteed 99.9% uptime for its servers.[citation needed]

Google Drive for Education[edit]

Google Drive for Education was announced on September 30, 2014. It was made available for free to all Google Apps for Education users. It includes unlimited storage and support for individual files up to 5TB in size, in addition to full encryption.[45]

Docs, Sheets and Slides[edit]

An example of a document in Google Docs

Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides constitute a free, web-based office suite offered by Google and integrated with Google Drive. It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users. Since October 2012, Docs, Sheets and Slides respectively refer to the word processing, spreadsheet and presentation programs within the suite. The three apps are available as web applications, as Chrome apps that work offline, and as mobile apps for Android and iOS. The apps are compatible with Microsoft Office file formats. The suite also consists of Google Forms, Google Drawings and Google Tables (beta). While Forms and Tables are only available as web applications, Drawings is also available as a Chrome app. Google Docs is tightly integrated with Google Drive. All files created with the apps are by default saved to Google Drive.

Prior to the launch of Google Drive, Google Docs was also an online file storage service. But since the launch of Google Drive in April 2012, all files created using Google Docs are saved to Google Drive and the Google Docs' URL ( redirects to Google Drive.[note 1] The free storage space was increased from 1 GB to 5 GB as part of this transition.[46]

Writely's beta logo

Google Docs originated from two separate products, Writely and Google Spreadsheets. Writely was a web-based word processor created by the software company Upstartle and launched in August 2005.[47] Upstartle was acquired by Google on March 9, 2006.[48] Google Spreadsheets was first launched as a limited test on Google Labs on June 6, 2006, following the acquisition of 2Web Technologies.[49] A presentation program was added to the suite on September 17, 2007 following the acquisition of Tonic Systems on April 17, 2007.[50][51] Google Docs was made available to Google Apps users in February 2007 and the service was taken out of beta in September 2007.

In October 2012, following the launch of Google Drive, Google Documents, Spreadsheets and Presentations were renamed Google Docs, Sheets and Slides respectively.[52] Standalone mobile apps for the three products were announced in April 2014.[53]

Offline support on Chrome and Chrome OS was first introduced for documents in June 2012[54] and was subsequently extended to presentations in January 2013[55] and to spreadsheets in December 2013.[56]

Google Docs is officially supported on the two most recent versions of the Firefox, Internet Explorer (9+), Safari and Chrome browsers running on Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X, Linux and Chrome OS operating systems.[57]

Ownership and licensing[edit]

Google has one unified set of terms of service and privacy policy for all its products. According to CNET, unlike competing services Dropbox and OneDrive, Google has broad rights to reproduce, use, and create derivative works from content stored on the Google Drive, via a license from its users. This license is perpetual even after the user removes the material. Although the user retains intellectual property rights, the user licenses Google to extract and parse uploaded content to customize advertising and other services that Google provides to the user, and to promote the service.[58] Google's broad license to uploaded files also allows it to make usability improvements, such as creating modified versions of uploaded content which are more suitable for various uses. For example, Google might transcode an uploaded video into formats more suitable for viewing on a handheld computer or a certain browser than the original.

A report from The Verge, however, finds that Google's terms are quite comparable to those of its competitors, and slightly better in some cases.[59]


On November 12, 2013, Google announced that Google Drive had 120 million active users, a figure that the company was releasing for the first time.[60]

On June 25, 2014 at the Google I/O conference, Sundar Pichai announced that Google Drive now had 190 million monthly active users, and that it was being used by 58% of the Fortune 500 companies as well as by 72 of the top universities.[61]

On October 1, 2014, at its Atmosphere Live event, it was announced that Google Drive had 240 million monthly active users. The Next Web noted that this meant an increase of 50 million users in just one quarter.[2]

Data safety and privacy[edit]

In a cloud environment, data security issues and national interests mean that online document storage and processing can be unsuitable for use by governments or commercial organizations, especially where sensitive or confidential data is being stored, edited or shared on systems and infrastructure that are outsourced (e.g. by senior US government officials to Google) and shared with many other organizations, individuals, or users (e.g. the Internet).[62][63]

  • In a mid-2011 attack from Jinan, China (a city with a military command center), the passwords for the Gmail accounts of hundreds of senior US government officials were stolen in a phishing attack.[62] The Gmail addresses and passwords would have given the attackers the ability to access other user data stored on the Google accounts of these users (Apps, Docs, etc.). Other systems, where the username and password pair were the same, could also have been accessed. Also, some systems using a password recovery feature could be accessed. (If a password is forgotten a new one is sent to the registered email address. See Password notification email.)
  • On 10 March 2009, Google reported that a bug in Google Docs had allowed unintended access to some private documents. Google believed that 0.05% of all documents stored via the service were affected by the bug, and said the issue had already been fixed at the time of the announcement.[64]
  • Google has a close relationship with the US intelligence agencies[65][66] and provides information to intelligence agencies around the world upon request via established protocols (e.g. RIPA in the UK). Google is primarily a US company, and therefore, to protect perceived US national interests, non-US citizens may have their safety or privacy compromised as a result of using Google Drive and other Google services.[67]

Some of the issues that have to be considered to see if Google Drive is "enterprise-ready" include:

A Google account, which is used for signing in to Google Drive, provides optional free two-factor authentication for greater account security.[68] If it is enabled, then to log in, users have to provide a short random code sequence sent to their phones via SMS or generated by the Google Authenticator app on Android or iOS.[69][70] Google has also switched to using secure sockets layer communication (HTTPS) by default, preventing common man-in-the-middle attacks.[71][72][73] In addition, third party Google Drive plugins that enable at rest encryption of data stored on drive, adding a further layer of security, exist,[74] although Google currently points out that Drive's data (as well as other Google Apps services') are encrypted at rest. [75]

Google Drive does not provide end-to-end encryption, also known as client-side encryption,[76] and without end-to-end encryption, user’s information is left unsecured because it remains easily accessible to unauthorized persons.[76][77][78][79][80][81]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Since the introduction of individual home screens for Google Docs, Sheets and Slides towards the end of July 2014, the URL now directs to the Google Docs home screen.


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External links[edit]