Google Drive: Add To Drive vs Make A Copy

A great feature of Google Drive is how easy it is to share files with others. You can allow others to read, edit, comment, and more.

One thing that can be confusing when you get started is figuring out the difference between the Add To Drive and Make A Copy options.

Well, after reading this tutorial it will make perfect sense to you.

The difference between Add to Drive and Make a Copy in Google Drive. Great organizational options for students and teachers looking for tech tips. #GoogleDrive #Google #Teacher #Cloud #students #school #classroom #techtips

Add To Drive

When someone shares a file with you, there are a few different ways to access it. I’ll share some of them later, but let’s look specifically at when you may want to use Add To Drive.

Let’s say you have a folder in your Google Drive called School Rules & Procedures. In that folder you’d like to have all of the relevant documentation that your administration has shared with you. They share all of these files using Google Drive, because they are just that cool.

When they shared these files with you, you probably received an email with a link. The file should also be listed in your Shared with Me folderThough you could search for the files when you need them, you’d rather they be nicely organized in your folder.

No problem! When we use Add To Drive to put a shared file in a folder, we are basically putting a shortcut in the folder that links to the file. If any user updates the file, you will see the updates too. This is great for a document that occasionally needs revision and you always want the latest version.

Here’s an example.

Add To Drive

Let’s pretend your administration shares a Google Doc with you called Field Trip Request Process and you want to put it in your School Rules & Procedures folder. You can do this in Google Drive, but personally I think it is faster and easier to do this in the document by following these steps.

How To Add To Drive in Google Drive

  1. Open the file that has been shared with you by either clicking the link you received in an email or by double clicking it inside your Shared with Me folder in Google Drive.Add To Drive

  2. Next, click on the Google Drive icon with a + on it. It’s located next to the document name
  3. Scroll down the list until you find the folder you want to save the file in. If you want to use a sub-folder you can click on the > to  the right of the folderAdd To Drive
  4. Click on Move

Now the Google Drive icon next to the filename has changed to a folder. That’s the only visual change you will see. Choose the wrong folder?You can click on the folder icon if you want to move the file to a different folder in your Google Drive.


Check Google Drive Folder

Let’s see if it worked.

  1. Open Google Drive
  2. Open your folder. In our example the folder is called School Rules & Procedures.

    Add To Drive

And there’s the file!

Using this process you could potentially have a folder with tons of documents that were shared with you by different people. The files can be from anyone with a Google account.


You Could Lose Access to the File

Like I said in the beginning, by using Add To Drive you are making a link to someone else’s file. The benefit being, if the file is updated, you see the updates. The downside is, the person who shared the file with you could remove your ability to access the file. In our scenario with the Field Trip Request Process that is unlikely. However, it you were give access to a file at a training or from another school district it might happen. If you are not worried about receiving updates, want to make changes to a file you can only view, and/or want to make sure you always have access to the file, you’ll want to Make A Copy.


Make A Copy in Google Drive

This one is a bit more straight forward. Make A Copy actually makes a copy of the file in your Google Drive. The copy will not be updated if the original file is updated. Also, you own the copy. This means you can edit it, share it, move it, and rename it. Here’s a few examples of when you may want to use Make A Copy:

  • You want to add your own notes to a file you cannot edit.
  • You want to update or make changes to a file, but you want to keep both versions
  • You want to make sure you don’t loose access to a file that has been shared with you.


How to Make A Copy of a folder or file in Google Drive

You can make a copy of a file in Google Drive, but I’m going to show you how to do it from within a Google Doc.

  1. Open the file that has been shared with you by either clicking the link you received in an email or by double clicking it inside your Shared with Me folder in Google Drive.
  2. Click File

    Make A Copy
  3. Click Make a copy…
  4. Make A Copy The Copy document dialog box will pop up. Give your file a name. By default the name will be Copy of + the original file name.
  5. Choose what folder you want to save your copy in.

That’s it!You now have your own copy of the document. Even if the file sharing settings are changed on the original, you’ll still have your copy.

Note: It is possible for a user to share a file with you that you can not make a copy of this way. You could still copy and paste the text, but keep in mind there may be a reason, such as privacy concerns, as to why they shared it that way.


How to Save a File in Multiple folders in Google Drive

Ever had the need to put a file in multiple folders? This could be for sharing purposes, organization, etc… I’m not talking about making copies of the file. I mean putting the exact same file in more than one location. If you update the file in one folder, it updates in the others too.

This is a great feature within Google Drive and I show you how to do it in my Save a Google Doc to Multiple Folder Locations within Google Drive post.


Sharing Options in Google Drive

As I discussed, you can share a Google Doc with individuals. You can also share a Doc with a group. This works great, but you may run into an issue with email notifications if your email provider is not Google. I explain how to work around this in my Google Docs Sharing: Group Emails Fail To Send post.

You can also share a Doc by generating a link. That link can give access to anyone in your organization (domain) or to any one in the world. This can be useful when:

  • sharing a Google Doc with parents
  • sharing a Google Slide deck in a training
  • sharing non-confidential information in a Google Sheet


How to Get a Link

  1. Make A CopyClick on the blue SHARE button in the top right corner of the screen
  2. Click Get shareable link
  3. When you share the link, by default only users in your organization can access the file. This also means users will need to sign in with their Google Account to access the file.
  4. Click on MoreGet A Link
  5. Select Anyone with the link. By default users can only view the file which typically is what you want.
  6. Click SaveGet A Link
  7. Click Copy link and the link will be copied to your clipboard so that you can paste it into an email, a Google Slide, or some other document you will be sharing.

Google Doc links are long and ugly. They are almost impossible to type if sharing them in a slide presentation where users read the link off of a screen. In these situations it is common practice to use a URL shortener site like to make your URL easier to type and/or remember.


Force a User to Make A Copy of You Google Doc

There are times when you want users to Make A Copy of a Google Doc. You can make this automatic for users by slightly changing to the URL link.

For example, if the URL looks like this

Change it to this

That’s all you have to do. You can also do this with a link but you need to put the whole URL including /copy into the URL. Here’s an example:

I hope this helped you understand the difference between Add To Drive and Make A Copy. If you found this post helpful, please share it on your favorite social media platform.

Thanks for reading and sharing!

Dave Carty

K12 district technology administrator, Google domain admin, Certified Google Trainer.

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