Google's Drive for Desktop has been my secondary backup strategy for a while now. It's a great complement to OSX's built-in Time Machine backup and helps to ensure that my backups are not tied to a single location.

Usually when I move to a new computer I use Apple's Migration Assistant to move everything from my Time Machine backup to the new machine. With my latest computer, however, I wanted to start with a fresh install to avoid migrating all of the built-up hidden files I've accumulated over the past 15 years or so. I thought using Drive to restore would be a great solution, but turns out it's not actually supported. When I signed in with the new computer I ended up with a second computer backup. There was no option to start by restoring an existing backup.

Two separate backup paths rather than one.

A 30 minute chat with Google customer support confirmed there's no supported path to migrate to a new computer, but I was able to find a workaround. I couldn't find this when Googling so I figured I'd write it up here in case it would help anyone else.

Migration steps

Use an existing backup (Computer A) to migrate to a new computer (Computer B).

  1. Make sure Computer A is completely backed up and your files are visible at drive.google.com.
  2. Log in to Google Drive on Computer B but don't add any local folders for syncing
  3. Drag folders at drive.google.com from Computer A to Computer B
  1. Choose the same folders to sync on Google Drive for Desktop
  1. Google Drive will warn you that these folders exist already and will ask you to confirm whether you want to merge them.
  2. Complete this step for each folder you want to sync. Make sure that your local folder on Computer B matches the name of the backup folder from Computer A.

Now you should be all set. Google Drive will merge your files from Computer A to Computer B and Computer B.

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