Google Drive Bandwidth Problems Make It Vastly Inferior to Dropbox

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I love Dropbox, but I use it for work and personal things. I thought it might be nice to segregate those out and put my personal stuff on Google Drive and leave Dropbox just for work. So I transferred some files over on my local computer, fired up Google Drive and everything ground to a halt. Google Drive took my connection to its knees, using up almost every single bit of my overall bandwidth and rendered my internet connection completely unusable, even when Google Drive is paused.

Yup, you read that right. Google Drive in pause mode, not transferring anything, somehow managed to use up about 90% of my bandwidth. I’ll come back to that, but first I’ll throw out a couple of comparison points between Google Drive and Dropbox.

  • Most importantly, Dropbox has never noticeably affected the performance of my computer in any way. It works quietly and efficiently in the background without doing any harm and doing much good.
  • Dropbox allows a lot more granularity in folder selection. Using the Advanced Settings in Selective Sync you can tell it which folders not to synchronize. Google only lets you control the top-level folders.
  • If you pause Google Drive and then reboot your computer, it springs into inaction again. Dropbox remembers your preferences.

There’s probably more, but the performance issues are the complete deal breaker for me anyway. Check out these results from SpeedTest.net:

screenshot from speedtest.net
This is with Google Drive Off.
screenshot from speedtest.net
Even though G Drive is PAUSED, look what it does to my connection.

Seriously? Just turning Google Drive on and letting it sit there idle, not transferring any files, and my ping time goes up from a reasonable 28ms to a dismal 3145ms? Over three seconds to get a first ping back from the server?

Why don’t I have a screenshot for when Google Drive is actually transferring something? Simple: if I try that, my connection times out and I get a “Download Test Failed” message. Meanwhile, Google Drive will actually seize up and say that the synchronization failed. And yet, even when Google Drive has supposedly given up on synching, it manages to do something with my connection to bring it to a halt. I’ve done this over and over again and the results are completely predictable. If I kill Google Drive, the bandwidth comes bouncing back. Turn it on and everything dies.

When I fire up NetBalancer (great tool by the way), it tells me that Google Drive is sucking up 44 KBps, which is roughly 352 mbps which is roughly my entire bandwidth. No wonder everything comes to a halt!

screenshot from Netbalancer
Netbalancer Output

[note: I had previously read the Netbalancer output as 44kbps, not 44kBps and thought Google Drive was somehow messing up my connection. Thanks to Daniel Chatfield for pointing out the error].

So in short: Dropbox still rules the roost.

27 Responses to “Google Drive Bandwidth Problems Make It Vastly Inferior to Dropbox”

  1. It seems to have gotten a lot better – but there is still a bit of latency involved with having Drive (and a few other online tools) running, particularly if they run simultaneously.

    Have you tried going back to GDrive and seeing if that bit of mess has been cured yet? I’ve not had any real issues, and I also run SkyDrive, SugarSync, and MediaFire Express, although the latter two I run on demand only.

    Of course, I might also not be noticing the effect because, well, my connection is 30-40X faster than yours to begin with.

    Finally, have you run a latency test using a tool (such as http://www.thesycon.de/deu/latency_check.shtml ) to see if it could be a combination of things? I used the same test to verify that MalwareBytes’ Anti-Malware product was causing a huge latency issue when website check was enabled, but only when there was an actual outbound packet being sent…that took a while to figure out as I thought it was any (conbination) of these online apps causing my issues….

  2. Zooreka

    I have been having serious issues with my bandwidth on Mac. Had the technicians our 3 times this week and apparently all was well! When they left here Friday I was getting 0.046 Mbps more or less downstream and 0.01 Mbps Upstream – On a 4 Mega account!!!! In addition My Phone which is connected via cable was inoperable…
    I have been in Snow Loepard on a separate Boot all weekend on the same machine (A Multiboot Hackintosh!),,, Neither Dropbox or Google Drive is installed,,, and my internet has been “normal” ish to say the least… and my phone seemed to be working also,,, So I did a Speedtest before rebooting to Mountain Lion… 3.56Mbps doen and 0.46 Upstream…

    Rebooted to Mountain Lion…. let everything load…and once again my dowstream and upstream reates were practically non-existent! I disabled dropbox first… No change… Took me a while to figure out how to turn off Google Drive without having to disconnect the account and then have to re log-in and download everything again! But I sussed it out eventually… and BANG… My speeds came rocketing back!

    This is one evil app,,,, Am thinking I’ll trash it and try just relying on the browser… Only problem there is with 1Gb file sizes… browsers are often useless! Nack to the drawing board once again or Mega!!!

  3. @John L. Galt – thanks for the comments. I haven’t tried it again. But yes, where I live, not only can I not get fast internet, I have very high latency (I’m often on a satellite connection with over a half second of latency). I find that Google product in general are not very tolerant of high latency. I don’t have a compelling reason to try GDrive again and I feel more and more that I’m too dependent on Google services as is, so I’m leery of committing to another.

    @Zooreka – sorry to hear about the issues. Honestly, the two apps that have done the most “damage” to my system have both been online storage apps: GDrive and Microsoft Live Mesh (terrible experience).

  4. Zooreka

    Just saw you originally posted back in November… amazed nobody posted a reply before now… and then suddenly 2 of us in 1 day! Some coincidence!

    Guess it comes down to having to use a browser as one cannot rely on these new breed of Vileware apps… only Drop Box maybe whose capacity is sadly too limited fro anybody’s good: Maga insists you use Chrome,,,, which is another story n itself (check the amount of running processes you have in a Chrome session for example! Nasty! I avoiced Chrome for years until I signed up for Mega… and only started using Chrome really 2 months ago… I have a ton of extensions running to make it behave something lik a normal browser should be… and have to say I like it…BUT… given this experience with Drive, and the fact I hate Android and pretty much everything Google get their hands on ( I even dumped the search page in favour of Dogpile when they started spamming us with changes and G+ messages… (and rarley ever log into my G+ account now either!) – I am extremely suspicious of Chrome now also,,,

    If you need storage and have to use a browser I guess you have no choice anymore thanks to Herr Dotcom’s Snide Microsoft tactics of forcing us to use a particular browser on his say-so to access his services… It has to be Mega and Chrome Now! The Days of the Web I’m afraid have come and gone. These days its all about rubbish un-navegable bloatedness, the likes of Facebook… and web apps that leave the user with little or no Choice! A Hiding to Nothing in other words!

  5. I know this is an old article but it is completely wrong.

    Your upload speed is 0.33 mbps, which you correctly said was (approximately) 330kbps. Google drive was using 44kBps (notice the uppercase B – bytes not bits).

    See: http://www.ronstauffer.com/blog/your-internet-speed-megabits-vs-megabytes/

    I am no defender of Google Drive, I have 80gb of Google Storage (I’m on a legacy plan so it is less than $2/month) but I still don’t use Google Drive for syncing (I use dropbox). It has loads of problems the most annoying being:

    – It syncs temporary files
    – If you reinstall the operating system or even just google drive you have no option but to redownload everything even though all the files are still there.

    Since I have the space I use it for large files which I want to archive but don’t need to be synced (they don’t change and I access them very infrequently), and it works well for that.

  6. Ack! I didn’t notice the capital “B”, so you’re right. Netbalancer numbers in BYTES not BITS. I didn’t notice that.

    So in point of fact, 44KBps = 352 kbps = pretty much my entire capacity (at the time – satellite internet has improved a bit since then).

    Now to edit the main post

  7. BTW – the article is not “totally” wrong. The central problem remains that Google Drive, even idle and not synching, was somehow using up all of the available bandwidth on my system. I was totally wrong in my explanation, but the symptom (can’t use anything that requires a network connection if Google Drive is on) is still totally unacceptable.

    Maybe it’s been fixed now. I don’t know.

  8. No it is bad as always. Ranking by stupid things and apps of big ecosystems do and can you force to use: 1) Google ecosystem 2) Microsoft 3) Apple. Google reader, google mashup, notebook vanishes. I totally lost my calendar like others on Google (the 0.00001 something that’s millions of users), totally lost and Google just say me “I’m sorry”. Gmail became ***t. Youtube became ***t (but the content is only there!). High price of ecosystems: 1) Apple (but not on software, the software is the cheapest) 2) Microsoft (holy fuck give exchange sync at reasonably prices) 3) Google (you have to pray every day to the Lord that somehow it will work at least in a reasonable in future). Sofware quality: 1) Apple and Microsoft notclassified)Google

  9. Exactly the same problem here!!!!

    I thought it was my router. I restart the router while my google drive is running. My ping rate goes down from 12Ms to 3200 Ms. My download rate from 4.24Mbs to 0.09. I thouhgt my router had a problem and almost replaces it until I read this post. If I stop google drive sync then my bandwith is 100%. Once I start it dies!!!

    Riaan

  10. I have been using Google drive for almost a year without an issue. However, last week I updated my WiFi driver and I started having this very issue. I went back to my first driver and the issue remains even if the wired connection is plugged in (WiFi disconnected)!

    In the newest version of G drive you can change how much bandwidth G drive uses. I told it to only use 100 kbps for downloads and uploads but it is still taking my network to its knees! I am not to happy right now with Google because this is my backup solution. I am going to lower the setting to just 50 kbps and see if that works any better.

  11. I’ve just been over to sort out problems with a laptop I bought for a friend in May 2013. His 100G drive had filled and a month ago his bandwidth usage (download) shot up from 10G to 140G – he is a retired guy who writes a few letters for people and sends a few emails, does some research – there are no pics or video on his machine. I found that GDrive had filled his User/Local Settings/Temp folder with numerous folders named with the prefix MEI followed by some numbers – these had been created generally once, sometimes twice or three times a day – every day since I gave him the machine in May 2013 – each folder contained about 30M worth of misc files but the contents of each MEI folder looked very similar – GDrive was simply used to store backup copies of his work – in all they amount to 1.25G. I don’t know if GDrive was responsible for the massive increase in his downloading in May (it’s now mid-Aug) – I intend to return to see if I can diagnose that – the info from his account with his ISP was not detailed enough – it simply showed daily total downloads of up to 10G. He asked me to look at the machine when GDrive started complaining that there was no disc space left. I’ve set him up with Dropbox, moved all his files there, disconnected his GDrive, uninstalled the GDrive app, cleaned the registry and temp folders (CCleaner) and everything seems fine – I had been looking to see if someone else had definitely linked GDrive to a sudden and massive increase in download bandwidth usage but haven’t yet come across any such reference.

  12. I am having exactly the same problem. Lately I have been noticing that in certain networks my initial Wifi speed would be very high, starting at say 145 Mbps, but then within 2 or 3 minutes it would degrade to 7 Mbps, making it impossible to work. I was using Yosemite on a Mac, but after upgrading to El Capitan the same issue remained. I then uninstalled Google Drive, and the problem went away. After installing Google Drive again… same problem.

  13. Yup. Pretty much what happened to me. I thought it was because I was on a crappy connection to begin with, but it seems like it’s a problem even with good speed (I would make a blood sacrifice to get 145Mbps… but I wouldn’t move to the city for it :-)

  14. Koagul8or

    I’ve been using the Google Drive app on my Mac for years. Few months ago I started having intermittent network issues. Tried all sorts of tests to track down the source and even ended up changing ISP.

    At this moment in time I can’t say for sure that the Google Drive app is the culprit it is definitely a factor. Pinging 8.8.8.8 normally takes me about 20ms but it jumps up to 2500ms and website start becoming unresponsive. Killing the app, fixes the problem.

    If I open Activity Monitor (similar to Task Manager in Windows), go to the Network tab and sort by packets sent, Google Drive is always at the top and typically has sent 10 – 100 times as many packets as the next process in the list.

    The crazy thing is, I haven’t changed the contents of my Google Drive folder for a couple of weeks but the Google Drive app is sending tens of thousands of almost empty packets several times a day.

  15. Ouch! That was pretty much what was happening to me. We’re in a bandwidth-constrained environment (rural location, satellite connection), so I can’t risk having that happen, even occasionally. Thank you for reporting that – I was thinking this would have been fixed by now, but based on what happened to you, no way am I going to risk it yet!

  16. Koagul8or

    Thanks for replying! :) First of all and most importantly, I can now confirm that Google Drive is NOT the root cause. Also on reflection, I do not think there is anything strange about a sync service sending many many virtually empty packets. It’s certainly one way of achieving synchronisation but I would have perhaps expected changes to be pushed. Anyway…

    Killing the Google Drive app did kill the problem at that moment in time and being so excited about seemingly fixing an intermittent problem I have had for months, I posted what I had found.

    Unfortunately, I still have an issue even after deleting the contents of the Google Drive folder and uninstalling the app. At this point I should say that I am using a Mac (El Capitano or whatever it’s called) and I have noticed the same problem when FTP-ing large videos files to a friend and what I think is iCloud (similar to Google Drive) uploading files.

    I’m no networking expert, but with regard to manually uploading large files (without any attempt to throttle the bandwidth), it does not really surprise me that ping times increase and download performance degrades; I think that is normal.

    But it surprises me that synchronisation services such as iCloud and Google Drive (but notably not Dropbox) do not regulate their own effect on network performance (although Google Drive does provide a control to manually throttle). Perhaps both these services make use of a common operating system service that is flawed somehow.

    Also, apart from this page, I didn’t really find a lot of people having the same problem which does perhaps suggest that there is some other fairly rare condition that causes the issue. I still need to check with my ISP that there isn’t a fault on the line. And Google are spearheading so many initiatives to speed up the web, it’s hard to imagine that the fault lies with their app.

    And finally, whilst I say I think iCloud has the same problem, it’s much more difficult to pin that down as iCloud uses a number of processes and right now the process on this machine that is sending the most packets is “kernel_task” which could be interpreted in a number of ways. :)

    Will keep you posted!

  17. Wow! Thanks for the detailed response.

    “But it surprises me that synchronisation services such as iCloud and Google Drive (but notably not Dropbox) do not regulate their own effect on network performance ”

    Yes – I think Dropbox is the only one that seems to work well in my relatively low-bandwidth environment. You could be right about iCloud and GDrive depending on the same flawed OS component, but in my case I was on Windows when I had the problem… so that would be odd. But if could be that both Windows and El Capitan supply similar, basic components and Dropbox decided to create theirs from scratch.

    Speaking of which, we have a huge problem in general with Apple devices – iPhones, iPads and MacBooks – on our network. The second someone plugs one in, it commonly brings everything else to a halt. We recently went through every setting we could find on a friend’s MacBook trying to stop it from hogging every bit of bandwidth and did not succeed. So that correlates with your theory that there is a Mac-native utility that is a bandwidth hog. It makes sense that iCloud would use it and, if it has a published API, it makes sense that GDrive would use it too.

    “I didn’t really find a lot of people having the same problem”

    I have noticed the same. I assumed it was a problem for me because I have so little bandwidth, but you may be right – it’s a particular recipe that leads to disaster. Maybe I’ll try it again and see (I’m on a new machine since I wrote that)

    Anyway, thanks for the report on your sleuthing!

  18. Recently I downloaded Chrome and allowed google drive to install on my computer, as Microsoft cloud is downsizing, I thought it was a good idea.. I downloaded Chrome because I was having internet jitter and It seems smaller than Firefox and hoped it would help, Initially it did. Then my internet connection was completely shot. I called timewarner (business class) in they found some line interference, and for three days after replacing my lines, changing which node I was routed through, replaced my modem and then replaced it again, called out another technician to check the main lines and trunk. finally the technician had me disconnect all my computers and copiers and we started isolating the problem. after some work we discovered that when my computer came on line it was using so much bandwidth that it crippled the download speed to a crawl I was sucking down over 8Mps. After running various clean-up, virus and malware scans. I was still sucking down bandwidth. watching my processing I discovered that google drive was the culprit. I uninstalled it and now running clean.
    I don’t know if it was the drive itself or synchronizing all I know is that not only was it collapsing my internet it was also slowing my internal processing. Stay away from Google drive.

  19. Glad you got it figured out, but sorry to hear it was such an ordeal!

    To your last point, I don’t think it’s when it’s syncing. In my case it didn’t matter if there was anything to sync or not – it just swamped the system. I think it has a bug where it can get into a loop where it’s polling for changes so aggressively that it maxes out all available bandwidth even when the result of that polling is to learn there are no changes (if it’s actually syncing you should see the tray icon spinning).

    Anyway… It always surprises me when I post something so obscure that I’m sure it’s only happening to me and then I get comments from others. And I have to assume for every comment I get, the same problem is happening for hundreds of people who never find my post or find it and don’t comment.

  20. the major difference is drive allows you to create a document where dropbox is merely storage. There is no comparison in this regard and Drive is far superior. Unfortunately it has been rendered nearly useless now due to slowdown.

    jumping ship into the water – there is no valid alternative.

  21. You can use Drive without having the synchronization app. So you can still create documents and get all the benefits of Drive, without the synch app, you need to use the web interface.

  22. Must admit, your connection is very slow. Maybe google drive only works with faster connections!

  23. Hey, Thanks for the comment James. I think this post is sorely in need of updating. I have done a few tries with Google Drive and it seems to have improved as some other people have mentioned, though J.R.’s comment is from August, 2016.

    I think actually it’s a function of some strange combination of conditions that causes GDrive to go wild and eat up most of your bandwidth, no matter how much you have. Because of where I live, I’m still stuck at 1.54Mbps, but when I have tried Google Drive, it’s been okay. I typically avoid installing the app that runs locally, like Dropbox, but I have tried it on other machines and haven’t had an issue. Probably time for a new test and some updates to this post. I always forget about this post until someone comments! It’s 4.5 years old now. Almost ready for kindergarten ;-)

  24. Interesting, on my side I have fiber, but Google Drive do not use the bandwidth :-( it sync 30K files / days (I have 500K to sync) because I move from DropBox to GoogleDrive. It only use 15% cpu too. It’s so slow …

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