Many of us have more than one Google account, whether it’s for work, a side hustle, or simply a backup email address — and with modern browsers now keen to manage all of our logins for us, navigating sites such as Gmail and Google Docs with multiple accounts can get complicated.
It needn’t be: Google actually has a straightforward switching mechanism built into its websites and web apps that works in any browser. In addition, the browsers themselves (and especially Chrome) have features for keeping different accounts separate so you always know which one you have open.
Basic account switching
Whichever browser you use, you can manage multiple Google accounts inside it.
- Log in to one of your Google accounts on a site such as Gmail or Google Drive.
- Look for your account picture icon in the top-right corner of the webpage — it shows up on most Google sites. Click the icon and then click Add a new account.
- You’ll be prompted for the credentials (the email address and password) for the additional Google account you want to use.
- A new browser tab will open showing the same Google app (Gmail, Drive, Maps, etc.) but with your additional Google account active.
- To switch accounts, click your account picture again. You’ll see the added account listed.
It’s possible to have sites linked to different Google accounts open in different tabs and different windows right next to each other simultaneously — just make sure you know which is which (the account picture in the top-right corner of each page will tell you). Click your account picture and then Manage your Google Account to access options such as your password and security settings.
These Google accounts will stay available in your browser until you remove them. To do that:
- Switch to the account you want to remove.
- Click your account picture (top-right corner), then choose Sign out > Continue > Remove an account.
- You can then click one of the red icons to the right to remove an account.
Google Chrome profiles
If Google Chrome is your browser of choice, you’re working with Google accounts on two levels: both in terms of the websites you’re logged in to, as we’ve already covered, and in terms of the browser itself. If you’ve linked a Google account to Chrome, then it saves all of your browsing history, passwords, bookmarks, and other data so you can sync this information between devices.
When you add a new Google account in Chrome, you’ll also be asked if you want to create a new Chrome profile. This means your Google accounts are more clearly separated: different accounts have different browser windows with different colored title bars, and you have access to all the synced bookmarks, browsing history, and passwords from your other Google account, too, right there in Chrome. Rather than having different accounts open in different tabs, you’ve got different instances of your browser.
If you decide not to create a profile when you add a new Google account, you can add them later (and manage them) by clicking on the profile picture icon on the browser toolbar — the one above the picture icon that appears to the right of Chrome’s address bar on websites like Gmail. Click this and choose Add to create a new profile in Chrome. You can also pick a profile to switch to or click the cog icon to manage your profiles.
Removing a profile will wipe all of your browsing data from the local version of Chrome, though not from other devices that use that Google account or from your Google account on the web. It’s the same as if you sign out of Chrome entirely: data stored on your computer is deleted but stays in place everywhere else you use that account. To remove a profile:
- Go back to where you added the profile and click on the cog icon.
- Find the profile you want to remove and click on the three dots in the top-right corner.
- Select Delete and then confirm.
It’s up to you how you manage your Google accounts in Chrome. You might want to create profiles for some accounts and not others, for example. It really depends how separate you want to keep the Google accounts that you’re working with, how often you’re going to be switching between them, and whether you need to pull data such as browsing history and stored passwords from these accounts.
Profiles in Edge and Firefox
Browsers such as Microsoft Edge and Mozilla Firefox have features that are similar to Chrome profiles, but they’re not intrinsically linked to Google accounts the way they are in Chrome.
In Edge, for example, you click your profile picture icon in the top-right corner and select Other profiles > Add Profile > Add. You can give each profile a separate name and picture and associate a Microsoft account with them if needed.
If you then sign in to different Google accounts in different Edge profiles, Edge will remember these logins and keep them saved. Click the profile icon in the top-right corner to the right of the address bar, and you can switch between your various Edge profiles and configure them via the cog icon. Each profile opens in a separate browser window.
In Mozilla Firefox, profiles are called Multi-Account Containers, and you need an official Firefox extension to enable them. Once you’ve installed the extension, click its icon to the right of the address bar, and you’ll see that Firefox has created containers such as Personal and Work for you. Click Manage Containers to delete or reconfigure these or to create your own.
These containers work like Edge profiles: you can keep separate Google accounts in them. Unlike Edge, though, tabs from different containers can sit side by side in the same browser window — the color at the top of the tab distinguishes them. While not quite as comprehensive as Chrome profiles, these Edge profiles and Firefox containers make it a little easier to handle different Google accounts in the same browser.