Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Managing Multiple Google Accounts in Chrome

It is becoming more and more common for someone to have multiple Google accounts.

  • You have your personal Gmail account
  • Then you have your school Google Apps for Education account
  • Then you also have that Google account for the club/sport/organization you help run.

As a Google Education Trainer, I have lost count of how many accounts I have. Typically I have one, if not two, accounts for every school I work with, as well as dozens of accounts on the domains I run.

So the question is, how do you manage multiple Google accounts?

To make matters worse, there are actually several different options for handling multiple accounts in Chrome. Some are better suited for specific situations, while some are just better in general. How do you know which to use?

See below for options to manage your many Google accounts, when to use which method, and detailed directions on how do each.


Option #1 - Incognito for one-time use

Sometimes you need to log into a different Google account for just a few minutes. Maybe you need to test out a problem someone is having with their Drive. Or you have a colleague at your desk and they need to check their email real quick.

In such cases, there is no need to permanently add this new Google account to your Chrome browser. You just need to log in, do your thing, and log out. For these purposes the best solution is to use Incognito mode.

Incognito is a special mode in the Google Chrome browser that opens a temporary new window where you are not logged in. Once the Incognito window is open, you can log in with a different account, do what you need to do, and then close out of the Incognito window, leaving no trace behind.

Here is how:

  • Click on the menu button in the top right corner of the Chrome browser (the button looks like three horizontal lines, aka the pancake button or hamburger button depending on your taste or time of day).
  • Choose “New incognito window” from the drop down menu.
  • A new window will open where you are not logged in.
  • You can now go to Google Drive or Gmail or such, and log in with a different account.
  • When you are done using the account, simply close out of the Incognito window.
  • You will no longer be logged into the account, and no trace of the account will be left on the computer.

Benefits of Incognito mode:

  • You do not have to log out of your primary account.
  • You can temporarily log into another account.
  • No information for the second account is saved on your computer when done.
  • Works on Chromebooks to use multiple accounts at one time (as long as Incognito mode is not blocked for your school account).


Option #2 - Multiple profiles for repeated use

Incognito mode may be good for one time use of an account, but what if you have a second account that you need to use frequently? The best option in this case is to create an additional profile in Chrome for that other account.

The Chrome web browser allows you to create multiple profiles, with each one connected to a different Google account. It is like having several copies of Chrome on your computer. Each profile is completely independent of the other profiles and their accounts, so nothing will ever get mixed between them. This is a great way to keep your personal Gmail account and your school Google account totally separate.

Each Chrome profile also has its own unique set of synced bookmarks, extensions, web apps, passwords, history, and more. Again this is a great way to have just the tools and settings you need for each account, without having to combine anything.

Note: This option is my suggestion for Chrome on a PC or a Mac. However, this option does not work on a Chromebook which is designed for you to log into only one profile at a time.

Here’s how to create a new Chrome profile:

  • Click on the menu button in the top right corner of the Chrome browser (the pancake or hamburger button).
  • Choose “Settings” from the drop down menu.
  • This will open a new tab with all your Chrome settings.
  • Scroll down to the “People” section.


  • Click the “Add person…” button below the “People” section.
  • You will now get the “Add person” window where you can give the user a name and choose an avatar image.


  • When done, click the “Add” button.
  • A new copy of Chrome will now open and ask you to sign in.
  • Sign in with the new Google account (email address and password).
  • After you sign in you will get a window asking if you want to link your Chrome data to this account. 


  • Click the “Link data” button. This will allow you to sync your bookmarks, extensions, passwords, and such for the new account on this Chrome profile.
  • Your new profile is now set up and ready to use.


So how do you switch between different Chrome profiles?

  • Look in the top right corner of your Chrome browser where you will see a small box with your profile name.
  • Click your profile name and choose “Switch person”.


  • This will open up a window showing all the different profiles you have created.

  • Simply click on the profile you want to use.
  • A copy of Chrome will now open for that Google account.

Note: You can have multiple profiles open at once, with each one showing up as a different instance of Chrome. Just click on each Chrome icon in your taskbar to jump between each open Chrome profile.


Benefits of multiple profiles:

  • You do not have to sign into each account each time you want to switch. Just click the profile.
  • You can have multiple different accounts open at once to move information between them.
  • Each account profile has its own synced extensions, bookmarks, history, passwords, and such.
  • Each profile is separate so no data gets mixed between your work and personal accounts.

Video Tutorial (9 minutes)

For a detailed overview of all these steps, see my video tutorial below:




Other (not so good) options

There are several other ways to use multiple Google accounts, but these are not as useful as the options detailed above.

  • Log In and Out - You could log out and back in everytime you need to switch accounts in Chrome. This takes much more time and is not as convenient as just having permanent multiple profiles. Additionally you can only be in one account at a time with this option.
  • Use Different Browsers - You could use different browsers for different accounts, such as Chrome for your school account and Firefox for your personal account. The drawback here is you do not get all the benefits of Chrome for one of your accounts, such as useful extensions.
  • One Profile with Many Accounts - You could add multiple accounts to one Chrome profile. This is actually the most common thing for people to do, but can lead to problems. In Chrome you can click your profile icon, and choose “Add account” to link a second account (or more) to the same Chrome profile. The problem here is it can be confusing to tell which account your are in at any one time. When you click an email link, which Gmail account will open? When you click a link to open a Drive file, which account will it use? When you visit a website, which account history is recording your web activity?


Conclusion

In the end, I recommend creating multiple Chrome profiles anytime you have more than one account that you use regularly, such as work and personal. Then for those times when you just need to temporarily log into a different account, Incognito mode is a great option.

Do you have any other tips or tricks for managing multiple Google accounts? Please feel free to share your ideas, comments, suggestions, and questions below.


Post by Eric Curts. Connect with Eric on Twitter at twitter.com/ericcurts and on Google+ at plus.google.com/+EricCurts1

12 comments:

  1. I use option 2 in windows. But in Chromebook is not possible and log in and log out is so slow. Any other option in Chromebook?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For Chromebooks you can use an Incognito window to log into a second account (as long as that is not blocked for your domain). Alternately, Chromebooks also allow for fast user switching which does not require you to keep signing out and back in. You can see details at https://support.google.com/chromebook/answer/6088201?hl=en (again this only works if your domain has enabled this feature)

      Delete
  2. We don't have Incognito Mode enabled on our domain. So I use multiple me's, in different windows

    ReplyDelete
  3. Preach on! This is a great, organized write up. I share these methods with people all the time. Thanks for organizing this so well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chad, you are welcome! Thanks for the comment!

      Delete
  4. Thank you Eric! I always learn something or am reminded of a better workflow from your blogs! Thanks for your great work!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Suggestions for doing this on Android?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love Chrome on the Mac, the simplicity of using the People menu and just launching another account from there!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Excellent job narrowing it down to the two best methods-- chrome users and incognito. It might have been to explain why the common method you do not recommend -- one profile with many acconuts-- is provided. This is best to use with other browsers, right?

    ReplyDelete