Google File Stream: A Horror Story with Corrupted Files and More

Published by Joeran Beel on

I am not usually writing in this blog about my experience with software, but today I make an exception to prevent others from making the same bad experience that I had with Google File Stream, the enterprise version of Google Drive / GDrive.

My research group is using Google File Stream for about 2 years, and since then I had to learn that Google File Stream has one really serious and two annoying bugs.

  1. Corrupted Files
  2. High CPU Load
  3. A never-ending greed for disk space

1. Corrupted Files

One year ago, Google File Stream’s Windows client corrupted a file for the first time. I used the Windows client to keep my local files in sync with the cloud, in the same way as e.g. Dropbox’ client does.

On that day, I wanted to open an Excel file (.xls)…

… but Excel displayed the message “The file is corrupt and cannot be opened”.

Interestingly, and luckily, the file was corrupted only on my local computer. I could still access the file online in Google File Stream’s web interface.

I could also download the .xls file, and open it locally – as long as I wouldn’t store it again in Google Drive. Once I stored/copied/moved the file to Google File Stream’s Desktop client, the file was corrupted again.

I renamed the file, stored it in a different GDrive folder, cleared the cache, made it available offline, … I tried everything, but nothing helped (except storing the file outside of GDrive, removing a few rows in the Excel sheet, saving the file, and moving it back to GDrive). Also, all collaborators who had access to the same file, couldn’t open it locally. I even had a Skype call with some support staff from Google but he neither couldn’t find a solution. Given that it was only a single file where this problem occurred, I ignored this problem and continued to work with Google File Stream.

However, continuing to use Google File Stream was a mistake. Today, I just realized that a large number of PDF files is corrupted in Google Drive (not all though). And, even worse, it is not only PDF files but some MS Word documents are corrupt as well as my Adobe Lightroom catalogue (.lrcat), i.e. the file that has all information (ratings, metadata, …) about all the photos that I took in the past 15 years.

When I try to open one of the corrupted PDF files…

… the PDF reader shows an error message. I tested it with Adobe Reader (“There was an error opening this document. The file is damaged and could not be repaired“) …

… Foxit Reader (“Format error: Not a PDF or corrupted“) …

… and with PDF-XChange Editor (“Can’t open the document […] Error [PXCLib]: Required value not found“).

As before, I can still access the file through Google File Stream’s web interface:

Similarly, when opening my catalogue with Adobe Lightroom, an error message occurs.

And, when I try to open one of the corrupted MS Word files, this message appears (“Word found unreadable content in “FileName”. Do you want to recover the contents of this document?”

And again, whatever I try (delete cache; make files available offline; rename the file; …), nothing helps, but downloading the file from the web interface and storing it locally on my computer outside of GDrive. Obviously, Google File Stream’s Windows client must have some bug that corrupts files. Last year, it was a single .xls file (btw. today that file syncs fine), today it is a number of PDF files, my Lightroom catalogue, some Microsoft Word files and who knows what else (I still have to double check hundreds of files to know for sure as the problem seems only to affect files from the last few months).

At least, there is a simple way to identify broken PDF files. In Windows Explorer, you just need to search for .pdf , which will list all PDF files. Then you need to change to thumbnail view and all PDFs that are not having a proper thumbnail but only the PDF icon, are corrupt.

How to check whether there are other corrupt files… I have no idea yet.

2. High CPU Load

The corrupted files certainly are the most serious problem. However, there is another annoying problem with Google File Stream and that is a constantly high CPU load. During synchronization, Google Drive uses almost 60% of my CPU.

Even without an internet connection, and hence no need to sync, Google File Stream’s Windows client uses 6.5% of my CPU.


That means that I always need to remember to manually pause synchronisation when I am working on the train, plane or in a long meeting. Otherwise, my battery will be out of charge pretty fast.

3. Greedy for Disk Space

Last, but not least, Google File Stream takes all of my disk space as it does not clear its cache automatically. It seems that whenever I open a file, that is not stored on my computer but only in the cloud, Google is caching the file locally. As a consequence, every couple of months, my hard disk is full.

When this happens, the Google Cache Folder typically has the size of a few dozens of Gigabytes.

The only solution is to manually delete the cache, which also means, I need to sign in again to GDrive and do a few other things to get it running.

Summary

In general, I am a happy user of many of Google’s products (Gmail, Maps, Search, Analytics, Adsense, …). However, Google File Stream is simply horrible, and it’s not even free. For me, it’s time to say ‘goodbye’ to Google File Stream and return either to Dropbox or Microsoft Onedrive.


2 Comments

Anand Bhaskaran · 15th May 2019 at 09:31

It is the same for me. Glad that someone spoke out! I believe Google will fix it soon.

Roberto · 28th April 2019 at 16:57

And it’s not only on Windows ; on MacOS we’re having similar problems, not only file corruption, but terrible upload speeds, and general OS slow-down and lockups. Uninstall filestream and things go back to normal. Why in hell can’t they hire a decent development team and make something work as Dropbox does, flawlessly, with block-level sync, lan sync, responsive and fast.

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