What to do when you can’t download from Google Drive

7 min read

Thanks to the dominance of Gmail, both in our personal and professional lives, lots of us have switched to Google Drive for our cloud storage needs. 

Google Drive is generally a great tool. Personal accounts get 15 GB of storage for free; basic corporate accounts get 30 GB. You can edit all kinds of documents, including Microsoft Office ones, right within the app. You can even share files with others and download them too. 

The downloading part, however, does sometimes break. Do a quick search online, and you’ll see lots of messages asking for help to the tune of “Google Drive won’t let me download my files.” 

A common error here is HTTP 403, saying that access to …googleusercontent.com was denied. Logically, you might wonder how that can be and why Google could be restricting access to your own files.

Let’s look at some of the reasons behind why you cannot download Google Docs and explore a few ways for how to fix it.

Why Google Drive Won’t Let Me Download Files? 

While Google Drive errors for denying access, failing to perform an action, or forbidding something are truly very occasional, they nevertheless result in a fury of questions from users. 

Few things are as alarming as not being able to have complete control of your files. So why does it happen? 

There are generally three catalysts for Google Drive errors: your user account, your browser, or your Mac (or even a combination of these). 

But don’t worry, here’s a thorough troubleshooting guide that will allow you to download your files again in no time. 

Try a few ways to download files

Surprisingly, Google Drive gives you several methods for downloading any file. So while there might be a glitch with one of them, others might work as usual. 

First, if you cannot download Google Docs files, try to open them in the editor and then select File ➙ Download ➙ pick a format. 

Second, for any other file, you can right-click in Google Drive ➙ Download. 

download your files from Google Drive

Third, you can select any file, then open a menu in the top bar using the three-dot icon ➙ Download. 

Fourth, if you double-click on photos and PDFs, or if you choose Preview from the top menu for any other file, you can then click the download icon at the top. 

Fifth, when you try to download a few files at once, Google Drive will create a zip archive. There are instances where this archive could fail to download. To fix this, close the Google Drive tab — it will give you a warning that files were not saved, select Leave and the download should start properly. 

Use a single Google account to log in

If you’re using multiple Google accounts (e.g. for work and personal), Google Drive sometimes might improperly mix up permissions to download certain files. 

To fix this, log out of all Google accounts. Then only log back in with the account that should have access to the file you want to download and try again. 

Download a file in private browsing mode

It’s also possible to download any Google Drive file without being logged in to a Google account. 

To do so, start by creating a shareable Google Drive link: 

  1. Select a file in Google Drive
  2. Click Get Link in the top bar
  3. Change permission to “Anyone with the link” and role to Editor
  4. Copy link

shareable Google Drive link

Try open a few browsers in private or incognito mode (Shift + ⌘ + N in Safari) and pasting the link in. The permission errors should now be resolved.

Clear browser cookies and cache

Quite frequently the Google Drive not downloading can be attributed to your browser’s settings, specifically to it saving something incorrectly in its cache files and cookies. So clearing them both could help. 

When it comes to getting rid of cookies and cache, every browser is different. 

In Safari, for example, you go to Preferences (⌘ + ,) ➙ Privacy ➙ Manage Website Data ➙ Remove All. 

Privacy on Safari browser

In Google Chrome, go to Preferences (⌘ + ,) ➙ Privacy and security ➙ Cookies and other site data ➙ See all cookies and site data ➙ Remove All. 

Clear all site data

The problem is that the process for each browser is quite different and making sure you delete all cached files and cookies is not easy. When you want full control over the data your browsers retain, you should use an optimization tool like CleanMyMac X. 

CleanMyMac X is a powerful but intuitive app that lets you tweak any part of your Mac in just a few clicks. You can scan your drive for old, unused files, get rid of mail attachments, free up RAM, reindex Spotlight, uninstall apps completely, and, of course, clean anything within your browser.

To delete cache and cookies from all browsers at the same time: 

  1. Launch CleanMyMac X
  2. Navigate to the Privacy tab
  3. Check all your browsers and select Cookies
  4. Click Remove

delete cache and cookies

After you clear all cache and cookies, make sure the cookies themselves remain enabled for Google Drive to work properly. 

Disable ad blockers

With ad blockers rising in popularity over the past few years, some web apps started to inadvertently break in unexpected places. 

So if you’re using any ad blocking extension (or an ad blocker app for Safari), turn it off, reload your browser, and try to download from Google Drive again. 

Improve your network connection

After you make sure that the “Google Drive won’t let me download” problem is not with Google Drive itself or your browser, it could also be with your Mac, starting with the network connection. 

If your WiFi connection is poor or unstable, or simply off, Google Drive might throw all kinds of errors related to file downloading. The best way to troubleshoot your internet connection is to use NetSpot. 

NetSpot makes it easy to analyze your wireless network in seconds without all the technical complexities. At a glance, you can get information on signal strength and noise levels. You can test your speed and even create a heatmap to see how the WiFi signal is actually spreading across your space. In the end, it’s so much easier to come up with a quick fix when you know what the problem is. 

analyze your wifi network

Mount your drive locally on Mac

Another Mac-centric solution for when you cannot download Google Docs is to bypass the browser altogether and download Backup and Sync from Google, which turns your Google Drive into a folder on your Mac, from which you can copy files just as you would with any local folder. 

If you don’t want to take up all your Mac’s storage space with Google Drive, there is one more option you can use. 

CloudMounter is a unique tool that lets you mount any cloud storage locally on your Mac, but as an external drive, meaning it would take up no local storage space (just like an external physical hard drive). CloudMounter supports Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Amazon S3, Backblaze — nearly any storage solution you can think of! 

Once you mount Google Drive with CloudMounter, you can essentially download any files just by dragging it out of the Google Drive folder to your Mac. 

mount Google Drive with CloudMounter

As you can see, the Google Drive not downloading problem has lots of potential solutions. First, try a few options of downloading the file from Google Drive itself. Then, log out and log back in using a single account. Try to go into the private browsing mode. Clear your browser’s cache and cookies with CleanMyMac X. Disable your ad blocker. Stabilize your WiFi with NetSpot. Finally, mount Google Drive as an external drive on your Mac with CloudMounter. If all else fails, restarting your Mac is always there. 

Best of all, CleanMyMac X, NetSpot, and CloudMounter are available to you absolutely free for seven days through the trial of Setapp, a platform with more than 210 apps that any Mac user would find incredibly useful, from managing your menu bar (Bartender) to protecting your online privacy (ClearVPN). Test out every Setapp app today at no cost and find the ones you have to add to your collection!

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