How to Fix the "Unable to Sync" Google Drive Error

I am loving Google Drive.  I’m currently using 52% of my 80 gigs and everything is now online and properly backed up.  I did have a problem for a day that was annoying and took some sleuthing to find a fix.  If you are experiencing the greyed-out “Unable to Sync” error message, you are left to your own cure because there isn’t an official solution online from Google yet and the App itself offers no advice.  Today, I will share with you the fix I found that worked for me and might just get your Google Drive syncing again with your local Mac computer.

The first thing you need to look for if your Google Drive has stopped syncing is for the list of files that Google Drive is having trouble syncing.  The App will give you a list of problem files.  In my class, I had four local .PSD files that were quite large:  5.7MB, 6.3MB, 7.8MB and 8.9MB and Google Drive was choking on them for some reason.  I believed those files only resided on my local Google Drive and had not yet uploaded to my online Google Drive.

I opened up my local Google Drive folder and drilled down to the problem folder and files. I looked for the tiny icons Google Drive added to the file identifiers to indicate the file’s sync status. Green check marks meant everything was good. Circular arrows meant that folder was in the process — OR NOT! — of syncing. I opened the folder with the circular arrows and looked for red check marks on the files — those were the problem files I had to remove from the folder by dragging them to my Mac desktop.

After removing the four problematic local files from my Google Drive folder, I quit Google Drive and restarted it.  I waited about 10 minutes and — for the first time in a day — the sync was complete!

I still had those four .PSD files that were not yet synced.  I have a lot of .PSD files that are larger than the four that caused Google Drive to barf, so I knew I wasn’t hitting a file size upload limitation.

I decided to go online to my Google Drive.  I drilled down to the same folder that held the problem files and saw, as I suspected, they were not in the online Drive.  I simply dragged those files from my Mac desktop into my Chrome browser, and all four files uploaded the proper directory without pause or concern.

I waited another 10 minutes and checked my local Google Drive folder and the four “problem” files were in the right folder and everything had perfectly synced for the first time.  As well, the folder-within-folder changes I made online were also live in my local Google Drive.

I used Google Docs all day long for writing and editing and publishing and now, with the rise of Google Drive, my usage will only increase and my workflow will continue to get better.  It’s magnificent having so much cheap storage space online that now just simply syncs to provide a local mirror and that provides incredible ease-of-use and untold delights of the mind.

71 comments

  • Thank You. I had the same issue this morning as well. Yours was the first post I found.

  • Thanks! I had the exact same issue this morning! Goggling first before troubleshooting, I found your post and saved a lot of trial and error!

    • I’m glad your Googled the problem and found your answer here! I spent most of the day yesterday Googling trying to find an answer and there was nothing! Then I rooted around the Google Drive support forum and found a lot of people were having the same problem with no answers from Google. It became time for some trial and error to find my own fix! SMILE!

  • First, color me confused. I haven’t received an email saying that I now have Google Drive as they said they would send but I just went to drive.google.com and behold! I have it. Weird.

    I wonder what changed between when it was successful and when it failed — if it was the same files that caused the problem, how did it get fixed?

    • Cool! Glad you have Drive now! It is entirely addicting. SMILE! Janna received her message that her Google Drive was ready about 18 hours after she first requested to be put in the queue. Of course, all her files synced perfectly on the first try.

      It doesn’t make any sense, really, why Google chokes on certain local files for the upload. The sync can choke on a variety of files. There’s no real reason for it or any predictability. I thought maybe my problem was related to me moving folders into other folders online and that was confusing Google Drive with the local sync — so I stopped that for awhile but it didn’t heal the problem. If I logged out of the Google Drive App, I was warned that everything online would be downloaded and everything local would be erased. That was a “Nuke Solution” that would take forever and also remove files that hadn’t yet synced — and I had no idea how many un-synced files I had locally — so I tried this “remove the barfing files” solution and it worked! Turns out those four files were the only non-synced local files.

  • Thanks for taking the time to post. I’m still having the same issue, but the app doesn’t identify problematic files. I had previously noticed an item in the menu bar app that said something like “2 files cannot be synced” – but that no longer appears. Just a warning symbol and “unable to sync” after restarting the app.

    Is there another way to get the list of problematic files? You mentioned that part but didn’t go into any more detail.

    • Hi there —

      I think you posted two comments on the same topic, so I’ll go answer “the face” instead of the placeholder Gravatar. SMILE!

      • Thanks David. I had a tragic authentication issue and double-posted. I wouldn’t be offended if you were to delete this comment (thread) altogether. But I am, in fact, both the face and the faceless version of myself.

        • Ha! I’m glad you’re here in full now, Matt. It’s good to see the name with the face and we’ll just keep everything online because I don’t like pruning threads. SMILE!

  • Thanks for posting! I’m having the same problem, except I don’t get any kind of indication as to what my problem files are. I recall there being a menu item earlier that said something like “2 files can’t be synced,” which I assume would have provided more info when clicked. Now all I get is the “Unable to sync” message. Could you expound upon where you got the list of problem files?

    • Yes, you make an excellent point, and I should have more fully explained this in my article.

      I had the same problem with losing the list of synced files. I also lost the check mark file indicators in my local Google Drive so everything was wholly disconnected. Here are the steps I used to bring it all back:

      1. Quit Google Drive (but don’t logout of your account, or you’ll have everything erased locally and replaced by your online Google Drive content).

      2. Restart your computer.

      3. Restart Google Drive.

      4. Google Drive should then auto-start the re-sync process all over again and re-identify the status of your local files with the check marks and also, once again, provide the list of problem files. You’ll have to write down the list of the problem files so you can move them to the desktop. I actually had a fifth file called “secure.vol” that I think had something to do with a Bootcamp install long ago or, perhaps, a USB drive. I just deleted it from my system entirely and had no problem.

      Let us know if these steps work for you!

      • The nuclear restart wasn’t sufficient, but I noticed I’ve not been getting the Dropbox-like checkmarks that identify synced/pending files. I deleted just about every cache on my machine starting with the icon caches, then gave it one more restart, finally I see the sync status icons on all the files. Google Drive is currently having another go – even if it fails, I can now dig through the file system and look for the items that haven’t synced.

        Thanks for the help and ideas!

        • Ouch! I hope that you find a solution, Matt! Let us know what works.

          I was definitely a little heart-shook when I had the dead sync, but had lost the list of the problem files. There has to be a way to tell Google Drive to start all over, but without nuking the current local files.

          You might try creating a temp folder on your desktop and dragging all your local Google Drive files to that folder for safekeeping and then telling Google Drive to sync everything again from online to local. Don’t delete the local Google Drive folder, though. Just let it sit there empty so it can be filled by the next sync. It will take awhile to download everything again, but it should work, and you won’t lose anything local in the process.

          • No no, it’s all good news here! Clearing out the filesystem/icon caches got me the sync icon overlays in the Google Drive folder. Even though the Google Drive app didn’t identify non-syncing files, I just browsed through and found the culprits (usually large PSD or TIFF files) and moved them. Every problem file was conveniently from a past client project, so I just moved most to my (non-GD) archives.

            Everything’s working great! I failed to make clear that my checkmark/sync icons weren’t appearing, which made it impossibly difficult to identify files that were choking the sync.

          • Oh, good! I’m so glad you have it solved! The little icons are a great help. They tell you immediately and visually the status of every file.

      • Rather than auto-start the resync process, it wants to reinstall. It says welcome to google drive. I am afraid I will loose all items in the Google Drive folder that are not in the cloud already.

        • Before you start the process again, Sue, you might want to make a new folder — called “Google Safety” or something and copy everything into that backup folder on the same drive, or a different drive, that way, if anything bad happens, you have a local copy of all the stuff in your Google Drive folder.

  • Thanks from me too! Something about this morning for all of us I guess :) Mine was because I had a copy of my Windows 7 Image in a folder and that is obviuosly gi-normous! Removed it and all went well.

    • Hi Jason!

      Yes, these sync problems do seem to be with local files. I can’t yet find a specific reason for the sort of file that will cause Google Drive to choke. I’m still pretty amazed that the rollout of the service has been to seamless and, basically, fault-free.

  • UPDATE:

    One of the greatest things I love about Gmail and Google Docs/Drive is the ability to create a Doc from an email just by choosing “Create a Document” from the drop-down “More” menu in Gmail while reading an email.

  • Mine shows using more storage space than it supposed to be, I quit inSync and moved to this today hoping to have a better experience, But still a lot is left when compared to dropbox.

  • never had this problem with dropbox.

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  • does this also work for windows? because mine doesnt have the check marks and it is very hard. your article was misleading.

  • David, Thanks for posting these thought, they saved me a ton of time/trouble doing this myself. I can’t imagine how long it would have taken me to track this down. I started with the online Google Drive site and was convinced it’s a settings thing. After your post I went into my local (Google Drive) folder and sought out the files with with red exclamation marks. It was not easy to find at first, but once I found the first one, finding the rest was easier. I ended up spending about 8-10 minutes tracking down about 15-20 files out of ~ 1,000 that I had uploaded. I transferred the files onto my desktop in temp folders and found that many of the files were reverting back to Office 2010 Starter. I reclassified them as Office 2007 and reintroduced them to their respective local Google Drive folders. They then uploaded fine! Total invested time ~ 20-25 minutes including reading your blog.

    Thanks again!

  • I am a bit confused.

    I have the same issue. “Unable to sync”.
    Open up “View unsyncable file”. the file is displayed.
    I clicked retry all.

    Nothing happens.

    I am not sure that fixing this problem should be done by playing manually with the problematic file.
    It must all be automated within Google Drive.

    I am using Dropbox for few years. Very heavily. syncing files between 4 different machines.
    Never had this issue with 3500 files and more.

    I hope Google will find the reason for this failure.

    Cannot see myself looking after these kind of errors manually.

    • I agree Google needs to fix these initial sync problems — but once the matter is initially solved with the few problem files, everything then starts to work just fine. I’ve uploaded and downloaded and created hundreds of files since I set up my Google Drive and have zero sync problems since the initial sync.

  • Finally a fix! And a quick one too, thank you, this has been frustrating me for a few days, especially since I need to sync across multiple devices and via my Galaxy Nexus.

  • If this is clearly going to be an issue for Google, they should great some type of restart button.

  • If files are too bog, they can not be synced. I found the problem for two files. Once it finds large files, it will stop all sync of other files in the list.

  • Dropbox can sync large files without a problem (mine is 300MB)

  • Correction: Now it works nicely for file of 300MB. If you have sync problem, simply quit the program and start it again. It will automatically do the job. Thanks

  • I am having problem with my google drive when I click on it it says Resource unavailable. what is this it was working fine when it was google docs but when it was converted into google drive it started me showing this error and problem please can any one help the this is serious problem for me.

  • I have had a problem with a Red Cross….. All appears to be synced online OK. My local folder is OK. I have shared a folder and all files appear to have synced OK. The shared folder is synced to a local folder on a different machine. A couple of folders in the shared local folder have red crosses by them (all files in them are OK) …. The shared main folder has a Red Cross .ALL FILES OK ….. Can you advise a solution. Both machines are Mac’s

    • Nothing is okay if you have red “X” icons on your files. That means the entire file is not properly synched and you need to take the steps I’ve outlined here in the article and in the comments to resolve the problem.

      • David thank you for swift response. All the files and folders on my mac synced with google drive have green ticks. I have shared a head folder with my wife’s account and on her mac all files have greens ticks ….. A couple of sub-folders with all green ticked files in them have red crosses (on my wife’s mac) ….. The head folder has a Red Cross……. All files appear ok …. My files and folders remain all green ticks.

  • Google sync also reports all is synced ok

  • What eventually solved my problem was a restart of Mac

  • I’m completely disappointed with the “Google Drive” experience. It is clearly NOT ready for primetime (just look at the huge number of people who have commented on your article).

    After my first run with Google Drive, 33% of my files were unsyncable. That’s RIDICULOUS. I have no other problems with uploading or downloading files–only Google Drive.

    Yes, I will uninstall it.

  • yea i agree that google drive is a bit retarded.. my files wont sinc to google drive but sync fine to sharecloud and dropbox.. so guess ill wait for google drive to fix these bugs before i use this service which would be cool since they offer 5gb of free storage compared to sharecloud 1gb and dropbox 2 gb share storage… i really need a service like this since am living in a foreighn country and want to be able to share photos and videos with family..
    for the time being will use dropbox and wait for the pioneers to finetune googledrive.. cheers…

  • I have the same problem Mr. David. But I am not able to drag the files which are showing red mark. It says that file no longer available in location. Even I am not able to delete. Will you be able to help me?

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  • I can mess with it and get it to sync, but I want to use Drive for a backup and I have to fiddle with it EVERY time I want to upload the backups. I’m not sure it’s ready for prime time. At this point I think Dropbox is a better alternative.

    • Thanks for the comment, Carl. I’m not sure why it isn’t working for you. When I want something saved locally, I upload it to the website and let Google Sync handle the rest and the download to my local drive.

  • Dear David, would you say you are a google apologist? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be offensive. But this issue has been out there for how long? And it’s still not fixed. I’ve taken the same files marked by GD as “unsyncable”, dragged them over to Dropbox and Skydrive and they synced just fine, thank you very much. Don’t mean to vent on you — would do it to Google if they would listen. But when you’re saying what a wonderful product GD is when the local sync function still doesn’t work in OS X — ummm, I can’t agree with you.

    • I can only speak from my own direct experience. Google Drive works just fine for me. The initial sync can be problematic, as indicated in my article, but once everything is set, the rest is invisible.

  • I have been a great supporter of the Google environment for many years but have only just started using Drive as a backup medium.

    Having battled through a series of issues, some of which are covered here, I am stuck.

    I cannot get the option to Start Google Drive Automatically to stick. It is fine on an XP machine but on a Windows 7, I can tick the option, apply changes & I get no error messages or anything.

    I open up Preferences again, & the tick box is unticked.

    Any & all thoughts welcome

  • UPDATE:

    Crazy in love with my Google Drive! Just blew it up to 1TB!

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