Having trouble getting Google Drive going on mac OS?

I use a number of cloud storage providers. One of them is Google Drive, and given my personal productivity platform of choice is mac OS, I’ve been following the various incarnations of Google Drive on that platform. Across several Macs and many versions of OS X and now Mac OS, I’ve used a variety of versions of Drive, and – from memory – I think they’ve been called:

  • Google Drive – originally
  • Google Backup and Sync, and now
  • Google Drive for Desktop

The move back to this latest version of Google Drive for Desktop promises to deliver some really impressive additional features and Google has been advising users to transition to this new version. I began to do that recently, thinking it should be simple. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Having installed the newest version of Google Drive for Desktop, I encountered the most bizarre issues. Obviously, I needed to login to my Google Account to connect, so Drive launched a browser to perform the authentication, all good.

But then I was presented with a message that Drive couldn’t connect to the Account, and asked whether I wanted to “Disconnect” the account. This process always got into a loop – successful authentication, followed by the message that Drive couldn’t connect to the Account, asking me to “Disconnect” the account. I should have taken screen shots of the specific message, but now I have finally got it all working, I don’t want to go back and “break” it again!

I was mystified. I knew the authentication was working correctly – I used Gmail as my mail provider. I checked with a variety of knowledge base articles that suggested a variety of approaches to address this situation, including:

  1. Specific comprehensive uninstallation steps
  2. Manual Installation, after comprehensive uninstallation.

None of these assisted making things work, and the number of times I uninstalled, and re-installed Google Drive, was astonishing.

I finally made progress by investigating some of the key directories associated with the Google Drive installation. After some research, I found that many of Google Drive’s configuration and settings files are located at the following location:

~/Library/Application Support/Google/DriveFS

Upon examining this location, there were several folders there, as shown below:

The DriveFS Folder where Google Drive config info can be found

Let me emphasise – DO NOT change any of the files in this folder – the only reason I went to this folder was to help me diagnose what the issue was. You should only ever change the configuration of Google Drive through its settings / configuration dialogs.

When I examined the Logs folder, there were a number files present, and in one of them I found the answer to my issue!

The “chrome_debug” files contained messages that indicated there were DNS issues

At first I thought these DNS related issues might be the root cause of the problem, but they weren’t. I moved onto the next set of log files.

The “Drive_FS” logs were much longer files, but reviewing them provided “Gold”

I skimmed through one of these logs not really expecting to see much; they’re rather long, and although I didn’t see much at first, something caught my eye. It was the name of a disk volume –Samsung_T5_2TB. Nothing too special about that you’d think – As the name implies, it is the name of one of those Samsung T5 SSDs, and a 2 Terabyte one I own ….

BUT, then I began to think about it a bit more deeply … That particular SSD had never, ever been plugged into this Mac – my current, reasonably powerful 2020 iMac – never …

But, this iMac had been “migrated” from my former MacBook Pro – where that Samsung SSD probably would have been used as the location for my “cloud” based provider storage – so the location where my Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox repositories would have been … BUT … that external drive had never, ever been plugged into this machine, and while Google Backup and Sync the local storage for my Google Drive documents was a non-removable external drive – a thunderbolt 3 240v powered drive.

So I was mystified? How had these Google Drive configuration settings acquired details of an external drive that had never been connected to this machine?

My conclusion was that the “old” settings from the original version of Google drive, from my “old” MacBook Pro, had been migrated along with all my other settings, when I migrated across to this new iMac in 2020. If my theory was correct, how to recover?

Well the approach I took was rather unconventional, but it worked. I had an ageing, essentially unused Western Digital Firewire drive with nothing on it. So, what I did was this. I renamed it – yes, you guessed it – as Samsung_T5_2TB.

I restarted the iMac, and what do you know, when I started Google Drive, it asked for authentication – again – but then launched successfully, and began establishing the appropriate file store on this newly renamed Samsung_T5_2TB drive. I was later able to “relocate” my local Drive location, to where I really wanted it after everything had synchronised.

The key observations I would make out of this episode are:

  • If you’re experiencing similar issues to what I was, perhaps consider what “legacy” settings might be hanging around from much earlier Google Drive installations.
  • Examine the various log files you can find the DriveFS/Logs folder, as there is a lot of information there that might enlighten you regarding the root cause of the issue.
  • This migration from Google Backup and Sync to Google Drive for Desktop is a big one. Google is adding a number of useful additional features to this latest Google Drive for Desktop, but this is a very early version of the client. I almost feel like I’m using a Beta version.
  • I hope that my experiences might help others struggling to get this latest version of Google Drive for Desktop on Mac installed and operating normally.

Best of luck getting your version going on mac OS!

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