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I use Google Drive File Stream for work, and there are certain mission-critical files that I need available for offline access. File Stream makes this easy: control-click on the file, and choose "Available Offline". Great!

But where are these files stored? With the "old" Google Drive (now "Backup & Sync") there was a Google Drive folder at the top of my user directory; this folder was always available, whether Backup & Sync was running or not, and Time Machine would back it up for me (if I wanted it to). With File Stream, I have no idea where those files are -- when the program is not running the "Google Drive" volume unmounts from my system, and the files appear to be completely inaccessible; moreover I don't think Time Machine backs them up.

Where is File Stream storing these offline files? Is there a way to back them up, or to access them when the program is not running?

Just for clarity’s sake: I am interested in the answers to these questions on MacOS, specifically in Catalina, if that makes a difference.

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  • As this is not explicitly about Google Drive File Stream on macOS you run the risk of having it marked as off-topic. You may want to consider making it more explicitly about this service on macOS. Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 19:17
  • @SteveChambers how about that edit at the end?
    – mweiss
    Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 19:19
  • Better but unsure. You may want to ask this on a Google discussion group, they might be better equipped to answer that question... Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 19:23

2 Answers 2

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By default, Google Drive for desktop (formerly known as Google Drive File Stream) stores cached files in ~/Library/Application Support/Google/DriveFS/$account_id/content_cache, where $account_id is the numeric ID of your google account. The files aren't encrypted or anything, but they don't have any metadata (or even their original filenames) so I don't think you'll find them terribly useful. The metadata seems to be stored in various SQLite databases in in the $account_id folder. In an emergency an expert might be able to reconstruct the original file names and folder structure.

If you want a full backup of your Google Drive, you can try backing up the Google Drive volume itself (/Volumes/GoogleDrive), while Google Drive for desktop is running.

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    THANK YOU SO MUCH I had transferred film data to offline-available google folder, it copied to computer in 40 seconds ( 4G) and I let it sync it to cloud for night. On morning there was "Error in syncing" and the clip was not found on desktop, google drive, various folders, even find . and mlocate couldn't find it. But there it was, in Lost-n-Found dir. Commented Sep 17, 2022 at 8:42
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    Same! Thanks for sharing about the lost_and_found folder
    – zed111
    Commented Apr 29, 2023 at 19:46
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Since MacOS 13 (or possibly an update of the Google Drive software) they are stored in

~/Library/CloudStorage/GoogleDrive-[username]/My\ Drive/

using their regular name. In fact, it is not just offline files that are stored there, it looks like it is a mirror of the whole file structure but the files are empty until you access them.

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