Google Shared Drives

Google Shared Drives are a feature of Google Drive that allows departments and teams to collectively own content, as opposed to standard Google Drive content which is owned by an individual. This solves problems around transfers of ownership when people join or leave a department or team.

Shared Drives are accessible either through the standard Google Drive web interface or as synced desktop items for those who use Google Drive for Desktop.

Shared Drives behave very much like the rest of Google Drive, with a few differences. The best guide to start using Shared Drives is Google’s walkthrough “Get started with Shared Drives” in the G Suite Learning Center.


Why should I use Shared Drive? This seems complicated

After the Shared Drive is set up, it's no more complicated than using traditional Google Drive. It will actually save a lot of confusion and hassle later on when your working group or department structure changes, people come and go, etc. This product solves a specific, significant problem that organizations like ours face, namely how do we transition, share, and preserve knowledge.

How can I start using Shared Drives?

Jumping right in and making a Shared Drive for experimental or limited use is a great first step. Consult the “Get started with Shared Drives” guide for how-tos. When you’re ready to expand your use or transition more complex systems, then take a little time to plan in more detail. At that point, you’ll want to identify who should be part of the Shared Drive and it’s intended use, as well as allow time to review individual files. Feel free to contact the Technology Help Desk for assistance.

Who owns files in the Shared Drive

No one. Or more accurately, they belong to the Shared Drive itself. This is a different way of thinking about document ownership than with your other Google Drive content.

Does everyone have equal control over the drive and its files?

No, there are tiered roles, similar to other parts of Google Drive:

  • Managers have full control and can manage content, members, and settings.
  • Content Managers can add, edit, move, and delete files.
  • Contributors can add and edit files.
  • Commenters can only comment
  • Viewers can only read

So what should I keep in a Shared Drive and what should I keep in my “My Drive”?

Content that pertains to you as an individual should go in “My Drive”, as well as things that you aren't ready to share with the team yet. In the Shared Drive, put things that relate to your job, i.e. things to which your successor, supervisor, or colleagues should have access. This might mean that you need to have more than one Shared Drive for your department/office: things unique to your role that only you and your supervisor should see, and then things for the department or working group as a whole.

If a document is moved to a Shared Drive, does it retain edit history, old versions, etc?


When I search, does it search my Shared Drives?

Searching is unified. When you use the Google Drive search bar, it will search everything you can access, including Shared Drives.

I can delete files. Does this delete them for everyone?

Yes. Unlike files in “My Drive” and other shared documents, this document only exists in one place. When it is gone, you've removed the only copy.

I made a mistake. Can I delete a Shared Drive?

No, but our administrator can. Let us know and we'll start a ticket.

I used the desktop sync client and I don't see my Shared Drive. Why?

You're probably using Google Backup and Sync. Instead, use Google Drive for Desktop, which supports Shared Drives.

Some of my documents and formulas don't work right after I moved them to Shared Drives. Why?

Permissions for interlinked documents are tight, and this is a good thing. If you copy a document that uses a formula like "ImportRange" from another document, it will require reauthorization. This might break a number of things downstream, but if you can trace the issue, it should be a quick fix.

Why can't I move whole folders? What should I do?

Moving a folder affects the ownership of everything inside, and that gets complicated really fast. To move a folder, create that same folder in your Shared Drive and then move all the files into it.

Useful Links

Google's walk-through: “Get started with shared drives
Google's "Best practices for shared drives"