Monday, July 23, 2012

Migrating My Documents to Google Drive or Dropbox

Well, the new buzzword is 'Cloud' and it seems everyone is getting on the bandwagon and offering services through the 'Cloud'.  First of all, most of these services either aren't actually based on cloud technology but are rather the same web services always available but now using new marketing hype to generate business OR the service is based on cloud technology and has been for a long time.  Either way, to the end user there really isn't much effect except that companies are clawing their way over each other to make sure they get your business in their 'cloud' as opposed to their competitors' clouds.  End result: we get cool new products.

One of the relatively new services getting a lot of buzz is Google Drive, which competes with Dropbox, Skydrive, Cubby, ownCloud, etc.  The purpose of this blog post is not to debate the benefits of one service over the other.  I recently migrated my 'My Documents' folder to my Google Drive in order to be able to access my documents everywhere, have a backup in case my PC exploded, and all the other reasons these services exist.  This blog post will explain how I did it and what to look out for.  I will use Google Drive as the example, but any other service should be interchangeable with it.

The first thing to do is obviously get an account with Google Drive.  If you already have a Google account, you can use that.  If not, get a gmail account, then go to Google Drive to setup your drive.

Second: Install the Google Drive desktop application.  This little app creates a new folder under your profile folder called (surprisingly) 'Google Drive'.  Once that folder is created, anything you had in your Google Drive in the cloud will get synchronized to this folder on your desktop.  The same works in the other direction.  Any files and folders placed into your PC's Google Drive folder will get synchronized up to your drive on the internet.

The next thing you need to do is determine if you'll be able to fit your documents within the space allocated on your drive.  Since Google hands out 5GB for free, you should be able to synchronize your documents to the cloud if your 'My Documents' folder is less than 5GB in size.  To find this out, go to your my documents folder, select everything (Ctrl+A) and open the properties folder (Alt+Enter).

Ideally, it would be nice to put most of the files in your profile up there.  Luckily, Windows makes it easy to change the location of most of the folders under your profile.  For example, you could have your 'My Documents' folder actually stored on a secondary hard drive or a flash drive.  If you're planning on storing more than just your documents on your Google Drive, first go to your PC's Google Drive folder and create a folder for each profile sub-folder you want to include.  Like this:

  • C:\Users\sweenig\Google Drive\Documents
  • C:\Users\sweenig\Google Drive\Desktop
  • C:\Users\sweenig\Google Drive\Downloads
  • C:\Users\sweenig\Google Drive\Favorites
  • C:\Users\sweenig\Google Drive\Links
  • C:\Users\sweenig\Google Drive\Music
  • C:\Users\sweenig\Google Drive\Pictures
  • C:\Users\sweenig\Google Drive\Videos
You may not want to include all these folders.  Pick and choose the ones that you want and that can fit (don't forget to consider that some of these folders may increase in size significantly).  

Now that you've got new locations for all your profile sub-folders, go to the existing folders and change their location.  Open up your profile folder (start>>run>>C:\Users\%USERPROFILE%).  Right click on the folder you want to move to your Google Drive, open the properties dialog box, and go to the location tab.  Click the 'Move...' button and browse to the new folder under the Google Drive folder that corresponds to this folder.  Hit Ok and Windows will ask you if you want to move the old files to the new location.  Say yes.  This next part may take a while depending on the size of the folder.  This is not copying your files to the Google Drive on the internet; it's copying the files from the old location on your computer to the new location on your computer (that happens to be synchronized with the internet).  As this move process proceeds, you should see some activity on the Google Drive app icon.  It's synchronizing your files from the local Google Drive\Documents folder up to the internet.  Pause this as necessary if it slows down your internet too much.

Repeat this process for the remaining folders (if you have space).  When it's all over (which may take a while if you have a lot of files) you should be able to access all your folders the same way you did before.  Changing the 'location' of the profile sub-folders instructed Windows to use the new location but make it look like the old location.  

If you need help visualizing the size of the various folders in your profile, use a tool like Windirstat.  Point it at your profile directory and it will show you how big each folder is using a pretty cool graphic.


  1. Great post. I use Dropbox but was planning to do google drive as well. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I would like to include the "My Documents" folder in Google Drive but I would like to sync it between my laptop and desktop via My Drive. I am not sure how to do this.

    1. via 'My Drive'? Like via your Google Drive or a different service called 'My Drive'? The fundamentals remain the same no matter which service you use. Did you have a particular question about the method i describe above?