Using Google Drive instead of My Documents

Sometimes old habits die hard. Sometimes default settings also can be a bit of a pain. Sometimes you can set up all the synchronisation you want, but files will still get lost somewhere in the blue void.

That’s my experience with Windows in schools. Microsoft does a very good job for the most part, but it has always been a bit of a sticking point when a teacher arrives at work on Monday and suddenly their work from the weekend goes missing. Or they’ve logged in on another computer and suddenly don’t have all the files they thought they did.

Firstly, before we even look into using Google Drive, I want to say one thing. Back up your files.

Then back them up again. Put them on a USB or portable storage. Take them home. Back them up again. Just in case.

I make a habit of doing it every year at the end of the year. Some would even suggest doing it more regularly. Every term, or every month. However, now that I’m using Google Drive to store my files, I’m finding that the need to back up is much, much less than if I were purely relying on Windows and My Documents synchronisation.

Google Drive

Okay. So what is this amazing thing called Google Drive?

Basically it is a server of all your files on the interweb. In a cloud some people say. It’s a USB stick, except instead of plugging it in, you simply log in online. This image below gives you an idea of how it works.

All your files, uploaded to Drive, available on all your devices. Essentially we are setting up one big backup each time we make or create or edit or move any document in ‘My Documents’. And what’s more, space has just become unlimited with Google Apps for Education (#GAFE)

Find out more about using Google Drive here:

From here you can click on  and create a new Google Doc, Google Sheet, Google Slide, or Create Folders to store your documents in, just as you would in My Documents.

The Incoming tab will display all your shared files, along with any files that have been shared with you.

The Recent tab displays the most recent files you have created or opened and worked on.

In the Starred tab, you can see any files that you have starred (just like emails that you ‘star’ in Gmail)

Bin is where all your deleted files are kept just in case.

Searching and Finding

Remember; Google is a search engine first and foremost. This means they can apply the same search functions to your documents as they can to the entire world wide web.

At the top of the Drive home page (, or the Docs home page (, is a search box. This can search through any document you have opened or put into your drive.

Do not forget you can use the Incoming and Recent tabs to help with finding documents.

Integrating Google Drive with Windows

There is a great program for Google Drive which creates a folder on your computer for your Google Drive documents. This then syncs up with your Google Drive on the internet.

ANY file can be put onto Google Drive. It’s not just limited to Google Docs. This includes old planning files, PDF’s, images and photos of your class, worksheets, and other resources.

  1. Go to and click on Download → Mac and PC.
  2. Once it’s downloaded open it and install with the preset default options.
  3. It will require you to sign in at some point.
  4. You will now see a Google Drive option in your “Favourites” bar when you go to Windows Explorer (Windows+E).
    Here you can see I have copied all my teaching files over from My Documents to Google Drive.
    When I save a file, instead of saving it in My Documents, I save it to the Google Drive folder.
  5. In Libraries (down bottom left of the picture above), click on Documents

  6. You will see a bar at the top of the window. Click on Includes: 2 locations
    (Note: Mine says 3, yours may have a different number)
  7. On the right of the pop up box, click on Add.
  8. Find your Google Drive folder (should still be on the right in your favourites) and click on Include folder.
  9. You should now have your Google Drive folder showing up as a location.
  10. Right click on Google Drive and select “Set as default save location
    I then right click on it and select “Move Up” until it is at the top. This means when you click on “Documents”, your Google Drive location will show up at the top.
  11. Click on OK. And now you are all set up and ready to go!

Tips and Tricks

  1. You can save attachments straight from emails to your drive. Just click on the Drive icon that shows over the attachment in Gmail. Then you can choose which folder to put it in afterwards, and open it in your Google Drive.
  2. Use the little arrow at the end of the Google Search bar to filter your search results before you search. Maybe you can’t remember the title of the document, but you can remember that it was shared by a particular person or was a PDF. You can select these first. This arrow also works in Docs, Gmail, and all the other Google Apps.