Google Drive is a decent service on its own, but one aspect of it is absolutely dreadful: the desktop sync client for Mac and Windows. 'Backup and Sync,' as it has been called since 2017, is so buggy and slow that it makes Cyberpunk 2077 look like a flawless creation. At long last, Google is phasing out the client in favor of the syncing software developed for Google Workspace enterprise customers.
Google wrote in a blog post, "we have two sync solutions available — Drive File Stream, which was built for business users, and Backup and Sync, which was built for consumer users. Some of our Google Workspace customers have deployed both sync solutions, which can be confusing for end users and challenging for IT departments to manage. To address this, we're planning to unify these sync clients later in 2021, bringing the most used features from both Drive File Stream and Backup and Sync to all of our users."
Google Drive File Stream on Mac
Google plans to eventually replace the current Backup and Sync application with File Stream, which is what enterprise customers have been using for a few years now. Unlike Backup and Sync, which downloads all your selected folders and keeps them synchronized, File Stream displays your files as empty aliases that are only downloaded when an application wants to open them (similar to how OneDrive and Dropbox work by default). You can still mark files or folders for offline access, and Google started allowing regular Gmail accounts to access File Stream last year.
For now, Google is renaming File Stream to 'Google Drive for desktop,' and the company is starting work on an upgraded version with some functionality ported from Backup and Sync. Some of the planned changes are explained in the beta test application:
We are bringing features from Backup and Sync to Google Drive for desktop to create a simpler user experience. New features to Google Drive for desktop include syncing folders like Documents or Desktop or Drive storage, uploading from USB devices, uploading photos and videos to either Google Photos or Google Drive, and support for multiple accounts.
It will be interesting to see if Google can actually produce a good syncing client for both personal and work accounts, or if the eventual replacement will be just as bad as Backup and Sync. Personally, I'm also holding out hope for a Linux client.
- Google Workspace Updates Blog