How to get started with a drive with G Suite

How to get started with a drive with G Suite

Use shared drives to store and share files with your team to ensure access to items from time to time – even if the team membership changes.

If you use G Suite, please note that Google gives you two slightly different types of drives. First, there is the standard Google Drive My Drive that stores files that you created, uploaded, or can access. But there are also newer Google Drive Shared Drives that store files that are available to shared drive members.

Shared drives allow people to upload and collaborate on files in the cloud, rather than storing documents on a local server or drive. Here are some tips to help you and your team get started with a drive with Google Drive.

The following steps and examples assume you are using Chrome on a laptop or desktop to create and work with Shared Drives. You must use the G Suite edition for Business, Corporate, Education, Nonprofit, or Essential, with an account whose administrator has activated the shared drive.

How to make a shared drive

For your first shared drive, you might start with one for many people or for certain teams. Drives that are shared with groups of people who often collaborate on Docs, Sheets or Slides make a lot of sense. Likewise, a shared drive that contains information that many people need, such as forms, guidelines, or policies, might also be useful.

To create a new shared drive (Figure A):
1. In Chrome on your computer, open
2. Select Shared Drives (from the left hand menu).
3. Select + New.
4. Enter a name for your new shared drive, then select Create.

Figure A


If you are using the G Suite edition which has activated a shared drive, select Shared drive (left menu), then + New to create a shared drive, then enter a name for your new shared drive.

The new file is your file in My Drive

When you open Chrome and type where you usually type the web address, the system creates a new Google Doc. By default, this Doc is private and only available to you. After you edit, the system saves the file in Google Drive in your main My Drive directory.

If you choose the blue Share button (top right), you can give others access to Doc. Regardless of whether you let someone else edit, comment, or view the document, you remain the owner – it’s your document.

How to move or upload files to a shared drive

When you move or upload files to a shared drive, the file ownership changes: The shared drive is the file “owner”. This means that as the membership of a shared drive changes (e.g., when employees change roles or when different people join or leave), the collection of files on the shared drive remains unchanged. It’s not like your file in Google Drive My Drive, which is still owned by you until you or the G Suite administrator transfers ownership to another account.

Here’s one way to move files from My Drive to shared drives:
1. In Chrome on your computer, open
2. Navigate to an item in My Drive, then click once or tap to select it.
3. Select the three dot menu (to the right of the trash can icon).
4. Select Move To.
5. Select the back arrow until Shared Drives is displayed.
6. Select Shared Drives, then select the shared drive where you want to move your files.
7. If you like, navigate to a specific folder on the shared drive.
8. When the destination you want is displayed, select Move Here (or Move).

How to manage shared drive members

What you or someone else can do with files on a shared drive depends on each member’s access level. When you create a new shared drive, the system recognizes you as the drive’s Manager. As a Manager, you can “Manage content, people and settings,” which means you can control who has access to a shared drive, as well as what anyone can do with items stored on a shared drive (Figure B).

Figure B


The shared drive manager can manage members and access levels. If you are not sure which level of access someone will give, I recommend Contributor, which allows people to add and edit files on shared drives and, importantly, also prevents that person from moving or deleting files.

Managers can give individuals and groups access to shared drives. Note: There are some limits to the maximum number of accounts that you can add to a shared drive. See the Google Shared drive drive boundary page for details.

To manage members on a shared drive:
1. In Chrome on your computer, open
2. Select Shared Drives (from the left menu).
3. Select the desired shared drive.
4. Select Manage Members (at the top right).
5. Add people and groups or change the current member access level.
6. Select Done when finished.

Currently, you can choose from five different access levels for shared drives. Each level gets all abilities above the level. In increasing access orders, the levels are:

  • The audience
  • Commentator: Allows people to comment on content
  • Contributor: Allows people to add and edit files
  • Content Manager: Allows people to move and delete files
  • Manager: Has full administrative control over shared drives

In many cases, the most common role to be given to members of a shared drive is the Contributor. This allows people to add or edit files on a shared drive, and also prevents someone from deleting content. If you are not sure of the level of access of someone giving a shared drive, start with Contributor.

You might want to minimize the number of people with Content Manager or Manager access. Make sure everyone in this role understands that their changes can affect everyone. Content Managers can add, move, or delete items on a shared drive, which means they can significantly change the structure of your files and folders. And the Manager can make any changes needed to drive together.

The most limited access levels, Commenter and Viewer, allow you to give people access to files, but without the ability to do much with those files. This level of access basically allows people to see (viewers) or react (commentators) to files, without the possibility they can change content. Use this level of access for people who don’t always collaborate with your core team members.

What is your experience

If you use G Suite and Google Drive, how does your team work with files in My Drive and Shared Drive? Has drive sharing helped you complete the move from local storage to Google Drive? Let me know your experience with Google Drive Shared Drives, either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).

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