How To: Turn off Google Drive Offline Sync

Google decided to be helpful today and automatically turned on the “Offline Sync” feature of Drive. It wasn’t actually very helpful at all. In a way, it upset me a bit.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the ability to work on documents created through Google Docs if and when I lose my internet connection. That’s kind of handy. It’s that Google made the choice for me, and decided to start caching large amounts of data on my local hard drive. I already have the Google Drive App running locally on my machine for quick access to non-Google Documents files stored in Google Drive. For documents that I know I’ll need access to offline, I use Pages and other iWork applications and then let iCloud sync them for me. The engineers and servers at Google obviously don’t know this, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they did with as much access to my data as they have. So I’m guessing someone thought it would be helpful for the offline sync feature to be automatically turned on.

And by making that decision, my machine started to automatically download and cache up to an additional 5 GB of information. Like I said, perhaps handy for some, but I wasn’t thrilled from the perspective of a school “tech guy.” If you’re district is like ours, most of your machines available to students are publicly shared devices. The students all have separate logins, but they share machines in labs, on carts, and in classrooms. With the potential for dozens of students using a single machine, that storage space gets eaten up quickly!

I’m hoping that this feature was only automatically turned on for non Google Apps for Education users, or even better through some fluke of my own random keyboard mashing (not that I’m in the habit of doing that). You might want to check your own machine and your districts, especially if you use Chrome as your default web browser, as it seems to be much more eager to “help” with these sorts of features. I made a quick tutorial on how to turn it off if you’re interested. Enjoy!

Update: I realize that this automatic feature isn’t new, and only for Chrome OS or Chrome Browser users, but for some reason it was just activated on my account today. Paul Murray, colleague and one of my go-to Google power users, recommends that this is actually a GOOD thing on Chromebooks, as it helps improve speed and access to documents. Chrome OS is built to handle a crowded drive, and will efficiently manage data for you without local storage becoming full. This is good news for Chromebook users. So yay for Chromebooks in schools, but for me the jury is still out on full feature laptops that are shared throughout the day. I’ve seen student laptops fill up FAST when used among a dozen or more students, and I know the tech department sometimes gets headaches when there’s one more cloud sync happening in the background taxing the shared devices.


  1. Thanks for the info, Ben, just happened to me to day. Best wishes – Bernhard

  2. The major issue here is not only Google Drive Sync was turned on by Google without the users’ consent, in my case it keeps turning on by itself over and over after being turned off. I have not been able to find a solution for it yet.

    1. Yep no matter what it keeps re-enabling every time for me. Most likely due to cache being cleared every time the browser is closed. Google needs to give the option in settings serverside that allows it to be off by default… I mean come on google, you of all people should know storing info on the users pc won’t stick.

      1. Yes, this is a problem for me. My job in a college finds me ‘hotdesking’ across campuses, classrooms, and any free computer in the resource centres. I use Drive for my notes precisely because I can access from any machine, but I don’t want it syncing to any of these public devices. Sync is only useful for people using one or two main machines, in which case it would be a one-off to switch on.

  3. No simple fix for me, I do not have the option of checking the offline box as this option does not exist in my window. My options in “General” are: Storage, Convert uploads, Language, Density, Create a Google photos folder & Privacy & Terms. What next?

  4. How do I get Google off my mobile. Constantly popping up trying to get my location, syncing contacts, syncing this, teying to push me to get their apps, interfering in my nongoogle twitter by replacing my nongoogle twitter app with theirs to get me to sign up. Its getting beyond tiresome and time wasting. Please tell me how to get rid if google on my MOBILE Samaung Galaxy A5. Time for google to google off. I am fully capable of deciding what or who I want on my mobile. Time for Google to stop the crap.

  5. It’s.happening on my Android phone, and I do not hqve Chrome browser and have Sync turned “OFF”. It is a huge annoyance, Google overlaying a “sync accounts” page over my current screen – whatever it is- so interrupting my work every minutes or less.. I use my phone often for searches etc at home in Airplane mode/wifi and my cell account doesn’t even include data – I try to keep rf as low as I can in my home.

    This is also relatively recent, beginning in mid Fall, 2016.

    I hope your links can help, I will check them out and see.

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