I’ve had the distinct pleasure of traveling to Germany for the past week and a half and while here, I’ve had to firmly rely on my mobile data connection to stay even a tad bit in touch with the tech world. I made a mistake in the early going that I’d never even thought about before, and I hope to use my ignorance and bad experience to help you avoid making the same misstep.
For me, part of experiencing Europe meant sitting in a quaint cafe, sipping a cappuccino, and serenely poking out an article or two. I did get to do that and I enjoyed every second of it, but soon after publishing and feeling accomplished, I got that dreaded text on my phone alerting me that I’d already approached 80% of the 5GB of international data I’d just paid for.
WHAT??!!? I’d literally just made the transaction hours before and all I did was research for a couple articles on my Chromebook. What in the world could have chewed through nearly 5GB of data in just a matter of hours?
Turns out, it was my Pixelbook. In general, Chromebooks tend to sync in the background to make your most-used files feel much more native when you need them. Any time you sign in to a new Chromebook, for instance, Google Drive will always begin syncing certain files for your use later. As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure how much or how often a Chromebook just does this without anyone noticing. Add to this app updates on the Android side and things like Google Photos and your Chromebook can end up talking to the internet way more than you are aware at any given moment.
While this was a huge bummer for me, T-Mobile was nice enough to allow me to simply upgrade to the larger international data plan (instead of paying for it on top of what I’d already purchased) and keep me connected for the rest of my trip. What I needed to know from this point forward was how to keep this from happening again. I needed to know how to avoid destroying my data cap if and when I needed to utilize my phone’s hotspot again.
As I began researching, I also realized I tend to kill my monthly 10GB hotspot even when I’m at home. Sure, I let the kids on it from time to time and I use it with my Chromebook when I need it, but it isn’t very often that either of those scenarios come up. While I don’t have firm evidence of it, it became clear that this ongoing issue is likely also due to a Chromebook more times than not and that Chromebooks, in general, are data hogs.
How To Stop It
For what it’s worth, I think Google should have an auto switch for turning off sync when on mobile data networks, but from what I can tell there isn’t currently a setting for that. At this point, you’re going to have to do this manually and remember to put things back after you are done with your phone’s hotspot.
To turn off background syncing, simply head to your settings menu, search for “sync,” and click into the sync menu. You’ll be met with something that looks like this:
Turn off the switch that says Sync everything and then switch off everything one-by-one. At this point, the things you do or change on your Chromebook won’t be linked up with your personal account and you’ll need to re-enable each one once connected to Wifi to get everything all lined up again.
Additionally – and perhaps more importantly – you need to switch off the Offline setting in Google Drive. This setting on a Chromebook allows you to access and edit files while offline, and Google syncs down the most recent stuff for you to access in the event that you haven’t specifically chosen the files you’ll need for offline access. While it is nice of Google to do this in the event of a disconnect, if your recent files are large in size and you haven’t been connected to the internet on a particular Chromebook in a little while, that sync process could take up all of your data allotment.
To turn this off, simply go to drive.google.com, click the settings gear, and turn off the Offline toggle. With that and your Chromebook sync disabled, you should not find yourself on the other side of one of those text warnings like I did. It was not fun and it was not a nice surprise. As a matter of fact, for the time being, I’m leaving the Offline capabilities of Google Drive turned off in hopes of keeping my 10GB of tethering intact each month from here on out. Hope this helps you out as well.