My Drive vs. Shared With Me vs. Shared Drives

If you use Google Drive for file management, you probably have a broad idea of the differences between the various storage options it makes available to you, but you might have some questions when it comes to the nitty-gritty details: Who controls a shared drive? Why can’t I download some of my shared files? How can I add Shared With Me items to My Drive?

Here, we’ll walk through three of the tabs in your Drive sidebar – My Drive, Shared With Me, and Shared Drives – and explain how each of them work.

My Drive

My Drive is your personal file storage center in a Google Workspace organization. Here, you’ll find files and folders that you create, upload, or otherwise have ownership of.

Who owns these files?

By definition, you do. Any time you add or create a new file or folder, or have ownership of an existing one transferred to you, it’ll be added to My Drive.

Who controls access to these files?

You do. You can choose to share files and folders in My Drive with individuals, multiple people, or everyone in your organization. Depending on your organization’s security settings, you may or may not be able to share items with people outside your Workspace.

You can also transfer ownership of files and folders to other users, at which point they will no longer appear in My Drive.

Google My Drive Sharing Permissions

How do permissions work?

There are three levels of sharing access available for Drive files and folders. Again, these can be assigned to individuals, groups, or everyone in your organization:

  • Viewer – Viewers have the lowest level of sharing access, and can only view a shared file.
  • Commenter – Commenters can view, comment, and make suggestions on a shared file. They can not edit the file or share it with others.
  • Editor – By default, Editors can make changes, accept or reject suggestions, and share the file with others.

You also have the ability to add additional restrictions to these default security profiles. Viewers and Commenters can be restricted from downloading, printing, or copying shared files, and Editors can be prevented from editing access permissions and sharing files with others.

My Drive Limitations

  • Individual Drive storage limits depend on which edition of Google Workspace you’re using>. These limits range from 2GB per user for Frontline Edition to “as much as you’re willing to pay for” for Enterprise editions.
  • Google Workspace users can upload up to 750 GB each day between My Drive and all shared drives. Once you hit your limit, that’s it for the day.
  • The maximum individual file size that you can upload or synchronize is 5 TB.

Shared with Me

Before we get to Shared Drives, let’s talk Shared with Me. When Drive files and folders owned by other entities are shared with you specifically, they appear under the Shared with Me tab. You won’t find files and folders that are shared with the general public or anyone with a link here – it only stores files and folders shared with you, as well as files shared to anyone with a link that you have opened.

Who owns and controls access to these files?

The user, group, or team that shared them with you. Your access to these files can be rescinded at any time.

Google Drive Shared with Me Sharing Permissions

How do permissions work?

When files are shared with you, you’re assigned one of the levels of access detailed under My Drive permissions above.

Can I add Shared with Me files to My Drive?

This one’s complicated. You can add a shortcut to Shared with Me files to My Drive, but not the original file. Shortcuts to shared files often appear under the ‘Suggested’ heading in My Drive. If you have download access to a shared file, you can also download it and upload a copy to Your Drive. Again, though, the original file belongs to the user or group who shared it with you, and can not actually be added to My Drive.

Shared Drives

Shared drives are special shared folders designed for team collaboration. Files stored here belong to the shared drive team, not individual users. If My Drive is your personal apartment, a shared drive is a co-op house.

Who owns these files?

Again, files in a shared drive are owned by the shared drive team. Even if members leave the shared Drive, files they added to the shared drive will remain.

Who controls access to these files?

This one’s a little trickier. While all members of a shared drive share ownership of its files, they don’t all share the same level of control over them. A user with Viewer permissions is limited to viewing files and folders in the shared drive, while a user with Manager permissions has total control over the shared drive and its contents.

Google Shared Drive Sharing Permissions

How do permissions work?

There are five levels of file access available to shared drive users:

  • Viewer – Can view but can’t change or share files.
  • Commenter – Can make comments and suggestions but can’t change or share files.
  • Contributor – Can view, edit, create, share, and restore files from Trash.
  • Content Manager – Can view, edit, create, share, restore, and move files to Trash.
  • Manager – Can view, edit, create, share, restore, and move files to Trash; can edit shared drive. Can edit membership, can permanently delete files, can delete the shared drive.

By default, shared drive users are assigned the Content Manager permission set. This sets you up with most of the essential permissions to create and collaborate as a member of a team – enough freedom to create, edit, and move files; not enough to mess with other members’ permissions or delete the entire drive.

Permissions and access levels can be changed by users with the Manager permission set and Google Workspace admins. Here’s Google’s full list of what you can and can’t do at the various levels of access:

Permission Manager Content Manager Contributor Commenter Viewer
View files and folders

Comment on files

 

Edit files

 

 

Create & add files

 

 

Add & remove people and groups on specific files

 

 

Restore files from the Trash

 

 

Move files from My Drive to a shared drive

 

 

Move files & folders to the Trash

 

 

 

Move files & folders within a shared drive

 

 

 

Control access to specific folders in a shared drive

 

 

 

 

Move files from one shared drive to another

 

 

 

 

Add or remove members of a shared drive

 

 

 

 

Change member access levels

 

 

 

 

Permanently delete files in the Trash

 

 

 

 

Change the shared drive’s theme

 

 

 

 

Delete the shared drive

 

 

 

 

Shared Drive limitations

  • Shared drives are limited to a maximum of 400,000 items, including files, folders, and shortcuts.
  • Data storage limits vary by Google Workspace edition and individual organization.
  • Individual folders in shared drives can have up to 20 levels of nested folders.
  • You can access up to 1,000 shared drives directly from the navigation tab. Once you hit shared drive #1001, you’ll have to access it via search or direct URL.
  • Shared drive membership is limited to 50,000 individual users. Within that count, you’re additionally limited to 600 total members – both individual accounts and groups added as members. Within that count, only 100 of the 600 members can be groups.
  • In addition, when a drive is shared directly with a group that has over 1000 users, or shared indirectly with over 2500 individual users, it is automatically hidden from the navigation tab for users over that limit.

Google Shared Drives are key to the success of many large organizations that depend on collaboration and easy access to institutional memory. And if you’re Salesforce users like us, you know that Files Connect is their built-in solution for integrating Google Drive files into the Salesforce environment.

But here’s the thing – Files Connect doesn’t work with Shared Drives. Many a broken-hearted Salesforce admin has gotten all the way through the epic Files Connect setup process only to find that it simply doesn’t work for their organization.

Luckily for you, we built something that does. Drive Connect sets up in minutes and is free for 14 days with a no-credit-card-required trial – get started now.

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