Skip to main content

Google Drive: How to upload, download, view, and share files and documents

Google Drive is one of the handiest cloud storage services around, giving you 15GB of free space, which you can access from just about any device with an internet connection. The age of USB thumb drives is over.

When you set up your Android phone, you would have been prompted to add your Google account, which is all you need to use Google Drive. Here's how to set up your personal Google Drive and use some of its main functions.

How to add an account to your Google Drive on Android

If you've already set up your Gmail account on your phone, then you'll just have to launch Google Drive and perform steps 1-3 below. If you'd like to add another account, like a work email address, continue on after step 3.

  1. Launch Google Drive from your home screen or from the app drawer.
  2. Tap the next arrow in the bottom right corner through the start screens.
  3. Tap Done in the bottom right corner of your screen.
  4. Tap the menu button in the top left corner of your screen. It looks like ☰.

  1. Tap the dropdown arrow next to the current account that's associated with your Google Drive.
  2. Tap Add account.
  3. Tap the type of account you'd like to use. You can even use Twitter!

  1. Enter your security measure if you have a pattern lock or PIN lock on your phone.
  2. Enter your email address or login credentials, depending on what type of account you chose to add.
  3. Tap Next.
  4. Type in your Password and tap Next in the bottom right corner.

  1. Tap Accept.
  2. Tap the circle next to a payment option.
  3. Tap Continue.

The account will now be added to your phone and can be used with other Google apps, like Gmail, Docs, Sheets, and more!

How to upload files to your Google Drive on Android

You can upload Microsoft Word documents, Google Docs, photos from your Gallery, and tons more!

  1. Find the document on your phone that you'd like to upload to Google Drive. In this example, we're using a photo from the Gallery.
  2. Tap the share button. It'll usually look like a left-pointing triangle, with a dot at each point.
  3. Tap Save to Drive.

  1. Tap Allow if prompted to allow Google Drive access to your files.
  2. Add a title to the document if you'd like and tap Save in the bottom right corner of your screen.

Your file will now be uploaded to your Google Drive where you can view it from any device on which you can access Google.

How to view files in your Google Drive on Android

Viewing your files in Google Drive on Android is as easy as launching the app from your home screen or app drawer. That's it! When you launch the app, you'll be brought to your Drive with all of your files right there for you to scroll through and view. Just tap a file to open it.

You can search for files by name by tapping the search icon (usually looks like a magnifying glass) and typing the name of the file you'd like to view.

How to share files from your Google Drive on Android

You can share any file from your Google Drive, either by sending the physical file or by sharing a link that will allow someone to view the file in your Google Drive (they won't be able to see anything else).

  1. Launch Google Drive from your home screen or from the app drawer.
  2. Tap the more button on the file you want share. It looks like three vertical dots.
  3. Tap Share link to send someone a link to this file in your Google Drive.
  4. Tap Send file to send someone the physical file.
  5. Tap a sharing method. You can share files via email, Facebook, messaging, and much more!

Now you can just share the file or the link via the method you've chosen normally. If you're sending it as a message, just tap the send button like you would for a text message. If you're sharing it via email, you can add a message and add multiple recipients, just like normal!

How to view files that were shared with you via Google Drive on Android

If you have notifications for Google Drive turned on (which they usually are by default), you can just tap the notification and it'll open right to the file that's been shared with you. If you dismissed the notification by mistake or just didn't get one, here's how to view files that have been shared with you!

  1. Launch Google Drive from your home screen or from the app drawer.
  2. Tap the menu button on the top left of your screen. It looks like ☰.
  3. Tap Shared with me.
  4. Tap the file you'd like to view.

How to download a file from Google Drive

If you're transferring files via Google Drive and want to save a hard copy to your phone, you just have to download the file.

  1. Launch Google Drive from your home screen or from the app drawer.
  2. Tap the more button on the bottom right of the file thumbnail. It's the three vertical dots.
  3. Tap Download.

The file will now be downloaded to your phone. You'll receive a notification when it's downloaded, and you can tap that to view it or look in your file storage.

How to check your storage in Google Drive on Android

Google Drive starts you off with 15GB for free, and if you find you're saving a lot to your Google Drive, it's probably best to keep an eye on your storage.

  1. Launch Google Drive from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. Tap the menu button on the top left of your screen. It looks like ☰.
  3. Tap Settings.

The first item in the Settings list is Storage and beneath it, it'll tell you how much of your 15GB you have used. If you're just using your Drive to save Google Docs, it's going to take you a very long time to fill it up.

How to delete files from your Google Drive on Android

If you do find your Google Drive is getting a bit full because you've been using it to save photos, videos, music, and a ton of other stuff, you can choose to pay to upgrade your storage or take the frugal route and delete some stuff!

  1. Launch Google Drive from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. Tap the more button on the file you'd like to delete. It's the three vertical dots in the bottom right corner of the thumbnail.
  3. Tap Remove, which is at the bottom of the options.

The file will now be removed from your Google Drive, but you can always re-upload it if you need to.

How to upload files from your home computer to Google Drive

Google Drive is also a great place to store documents and other files that you created on your desktop computer. You can either do a one-time backup, or set your folders to synchronize to Google Drive.

  1. Open the Google Drive web site.
  2. Click on New.
  3. Click on File upload or Folder upload, whichever is appropriate.
  4. Select the file or folder you'd like to upload, then click open.
  5. When the files or folders are down uploading, there will be a notification in the lower right corner of the screen.

This was a one-time upload, but setting up the synchronization is also easy!

  1. Download Google Drive Backup and Sync from this website.
  2. Click on the installation file. You will need administrator rights for your computer to install the software.
  3. Once the installation is finished, click on the cloud icon in the lower-right corner of your screen.

  1. Sign in with your email address, password and two-factor authentication method.
  2. Select the libraries and folders you would like to synchronize to Google Drive.

  1. Select the Google Drive folders you would like to synchronize to your computer.

That's it! Now your computer files will automatically backup to the cloud, where they'll be safe and sound.

This article was updated in May 2018 with information about uploading files from your home computer to Google Drive.

Mick is a writer and duty editor for Android Central. When he's not on the job, he can usually be found vacuuming up pet hair or trying to convince his wife that he needs more guitars.
28 Comments
  • I used to be able to attach files from Drive directly to a text message , but since I switched back to Samsung phones that option is now gone. I don't know if it a software limitation with Marshmallow or if Samsung is not letting me do it. Any ideas how to get this back or if this feature is gone? Any other phones where I can text message a file from drive?
  • I just tried it out and it looks like you can only share your files via a website link. The only way I was able to text the document and not the link was through whatsapp or email.
  • I use both GD and one drive. I have an office 365 account. Basically, most of my info is on one drive including pictures and videos. I use GD mainly for picture and video backup. I have quadruple back ups to almost everything including my NAS. Can never be too safe and secure. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Please enlighten me. What is your NAS?
  • Network-attached storage (NAS) is a file-level computer data storage server connected to a computer network providing data access to a heterogeneous group of clients. NAS is specialized for serving files either by its hardware, software, or configuration.
  • "The age of USB thumb drives is over."
    Very unfortunately it is not and I am regularly obliged to use one. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Ubiquitous use of thumb drives is. Sure there are use cases, but the age of it being the primary form to store, transfer,and access files is over now that cloud storage is nearly free and everywhere
  • I have about 140 gig on my GD (you get a bunch when you buy an HTC phone), and I use it to share the photos from a shoot with the other photographers. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Also, for audio snobs, Google Drive works great with CloudPlayer (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.doubleTwist.cloudPlayer) for streaming or downloading lossless music :)
  • Will that let me download all my music instead of going into each and every folder?? 0_o Posted via the Android Central App
  • Ignore me. I just downloaded it. So happy. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Hey I'm just wondering cause I want to download the app , do you have a Samsung phone
  • What do you mean about downloading all your music? From drive? Google music is great for storing up to 50,000 songs. And the PC app does automatic scanning, uploading, and let's you download an entire collection
  • It's it 50,000? I thought it was only 20,000.
  • Used to be 20K, it's now 50K
  • Thanks, Tex, for your post! I was looking for a way to play ALAC files from my Onedrive. Groove Music compresses it. I'm hoping this works the way I expect. Either way, thanks!
  • I like to upload photos to a Pictures folder on my drive. Why they have NO option to ask if I want to replace existing files, makes no sense. For years now...my drive is FULL of (1) duplicate pictures. Google's stock apps always lack the most basic features. I don't get it. Like G-Mail STILL has no select all so I can clean out my Promotions section and de-select the couple of emails I want to open.
  • I agree re Gmail, such is why I use Inbox. Re the pictures, are you referring to the filename?
  • Yeah, I kinda jump from phone to phone or just once a month upload pix from phone to my Pictures main sub folder, to be sorted later. If i have any overlaps it can't do a simple thing like ask if I'd like to overwrite or skip that one. It just uploads the same file (name) and slaps a 1 at the end of it...or i think even just keeps it the same twice...i can't remember exactly...i haven't looked at it in a while. Either way...again...the most basic file transfer action..completely absent...makes no sense. Any other app...dropbox/ box/ whatever would ask or tell you that file already exists.
  • Removing doesn't delete files. It puts them in the trash where they sit indefinitely. You must go in and permanently delete if you want to delete.
  • On the subject of Drive, there is now a little known plug-in available for integration in Microsoft Office. No more saving to the hard drive then uploading to Drive or hoping it syncs thru the Windows Drive app to access remotely. You can save any Office document/spreadsheet/presentation directly to any Drive folder. There's even a dedicated toolbar in Office for Drive. Still a couple bugs here and there. Overall, it's been really helpful for me. Just search "Google Drive for Office".
  • Does anyone know how I can wipe my whole Google Drive? Having to individually delete multiple files is really difficult
  • If you use the web app, you can use Google Drive like you would your normal Finder or file explorer. Just shift-click and right click and delete.
  • @Mike,
    What app do you use to get the zoomed in portions of those screenshots overlayed on the screenshot itself?
  • Having just returned to Android after a couple years using Windows phone I enjoy these basic how-to articles. I need to refresh.
  • The age of thumb drives is over? Put down the crack pipe please Posted via the Android Central App
  • Great article. I just shared it with the parents so they can stop asking me how to use Google Drive.
  • Good read,How effectively we can utilize google drive is nicely explained here.For secure file management system in all types of enterprise systems and commercials areas the Workapps Chat app https://www.workappschat.com/ is best suited.