Managing Google Drive files on Chromebooks with limited storage

By December 14, 2015Blog

A reader of Google Drive & Docs In 30 Minutes recently wrote in with the following question about managing Google Drive on a Chromebook with limited storage space:

“When using Google Docs with offline sync is it possible to select where the files should be stored?  There is little memory available in a Chromebook so I use a thumb-drive to store stuff and thought it would be a great place to store offline documents – but how to I tell the computer to store it there?”

It is possible the default “save” location for all files, using this method:

To set a default location for your saved files:

  1. Click the status area, where your account picture appears.
  2. Select Settings Settings icon > Show advanced settings.
  3. In the “Downloads” section, pick a default download location by clicking Change.

However, I do not believe it is currently possible to change the default location of a Chromebook’s Drive Files folder for offline syncing.  Following is an explanation of how Drive handles a lack of storage space on Chromebooks … it apparently removes older files that have not been accessed in a while:

Open the File Manager app.
  1. Click on the Downloads folder > 3 dot menu > how much space is left on your local SSD.
  2. Click on My Drive > 3 dot menu > how much space is left in your online storage.
Drive offline syncs up to 5GB or 100 files. It will start automatically removing the oldest modified files from the local SSD when you get to that number.This is the only way you can selectively sync and choose non Google Docs, Sheets etc. Files like jpeg, png or PDF files or some other format via the right click context menu.
 
This is how is works at the moment. The way to avoid the syncing for offline is to always work in the Drive app or drive.google.com. and only open the ones you want offline in the Drive folder in the File Manager app.
Most chromebooks have 16GB – about 7GB for Chrome OS = 9GB – extensions/apps – cache – files in local Downloads – offline capable app files like Keep or offline Gmail.
If your Chromebook is running out of local storage space, you either have a lot of files in the Downloads folder or have other User Accounts also using local disk space.

It’s probably not the answer the reader wanted to hear, but in this case I think it is difficult to work around the inherent limitations of the Chromebook platform (i.e., tight integration with Google Drive/Docs/Sheets/Slides and a lack of internal storage to keep Chromebooks cheap & help them live up to the promise of cloud storage).

One thing I added when I responded to the reader: Keep in mind that even if a file is removed from the Chromebook, it will still be available on drive.google.com.

One Comment

  • Robert says:

    “Keep in mind that even if a file is removed from the Chromebook, it will still be available on drive.google.com.”

    This applies only so long as automated offline sync is turned off. And even if it is off, if you ever turn it on in the future (even temporarily), the file that was deleted in the File Manager will disappear irretrievably from drive.google.com.