Using Google Earth Offline

One of Google Earth’s speed features also has the benefit of enabling the application’s use when Internet is not available. The key is the Google Earth cache file which stores imagery and other data locally on your hard drive. This speeds up your experience even when you have broadband Internet, but it also is the secret to offline GE use.
By using the GE cache, you can still use most of Google Earth’s features while on an African Safari, while driving your car, while boating offshore, or just camping on a mountain. This includes the aerial/satellite imagery, the 3D terrain, and more. And, the iPhone Google Earth app has this feature as well. If you anticipate taking your computer (or iPhone) somewhere where you won’t have an Internet connection, you can still use GE. Or you can use it for doing a demonstration somewhere without an Internet connection. You will need to do a little preparation first.

GE Cache Options

First, go to the menu item Tools->Options and select the “Cache” tab. You will not need to change the memory cache for viewing the cache (there is a trick for storing the cache with this setting – see below). The memory cache is set automatically based on your system’s memory. You can make the disk cache size as large as 2000 MB (i.e. 2 Gigabytes). This will give you more data to work with. Then, you need to move to the area you want data for and zoom into that area. The most recent things you have looked at will be what’s in your cache. It’s important you zoom to the closest view you think you’ll use. Turn on other layers for information you want cached (for example, ‘Terrain‘, ‘Roads‘ and ‘Borders‘ – the more you select, the faster the cache wil fill). Also, make sure you save any KML files you might want to use in files on the same computer.
The more data you cache, the sooner the cache will fill, so be cautious. If you’re going on a long trip, cache in high resolution imagery just the areas where you plan to use GE for close viewing. Avoid turning other layers if you only need imagery. It can be a pain to move around and capture an area of imagery at full high resolution and load up your cache properly. FreeGeographyTools has written some nice tutorials for some free tools for loading your GE cache in a more automated fashion – see here, here, here, and here. There is also a way you can save the cache files to extend the amount of area you can store (see this forum thread),
The GE offline capability can be really useful. I’ve used it personally for driving in a car, traveling by plane, and while sailing. There are still places without broadband or even cell phone connectivity. But, Google Earth can still work even in those remote places. Amazing!

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was released. He worked in 3D graphics for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank left in 2009 to circumnavigate the earth by sailboat as part of the Tahina Expedition.



Comments

  1. You can also use the Flight Simulator F16 and SR22 cockpits overlays offline if you download copies of the images to your local drive and change the KML files to point to these files instead. Just delete the http call to the URL and replace with the path to the file eg c:\Users\User\Pictures\filename.png
    This allows you to fly with the cockpit overlays over areas of cached scenery offline, when the website hosting the overlays is offline or the overlays are no longer available, or when you want to use your own custom overlays.

  2. I like to “burn” detail into my cache for airplane flights: I make a temporary set of placemarks and then run a looping tour between them to get the detail where I will need it. I often travel with my GPS so I can be quite accurate about where I am even if clouds obscure the view.
    A couple of years ago I’d done this for a flight between Toronto and Vancouver. I’d been working on a quote and the woman next to me kept “peeking” at the spreadsheet. When I closed Excel, GE was already running under it, and I repositioned the view to match where we were. This really caught her attention, and she made no attempt to be surreptitious.
    She was fascinated, and it turned out she was going home to North Vancouver. As it happened, I’d used a placemark for a relative there so when I moved GE to North Van, the detail was excellent. Even better, she lived quite nearby, so I was able to zoom in to where she could see her own house — and their camper trailer parked in the drive! She was so excited she could scarcely write Google Earth in her notebook so she could get her husband to download it.
    And I still think she somehow missed my explanation that the view was not live…

  3. This is indeed a very good facility of Google Earth can also be used offline. I am sure it would help the users a lot.

  4. This is great!
    I’ve got a question about saving KMLs. When I try to save a “My Maps” map, the KML simply contains a link to an additional file stored on the internet, so I still can’t access the placemarks on my map without being online. Is there any solution to this?

  5. Frank Taylor says:

    @ Eve: (*Link to web site with malware removed*). The simple answer to your question is to save the KML to your local drive. You can then view the KML with Google Earth – which does work offline. You may want to cache the imagery and other layers you want to view while off line as well.

  6. Sorry about the malware. I’ve been trying to figure out what the problem is and it’s a mystery!

  7. How do I set the directory Google Earth uses for cache? I have a PC that is used by mutiple people and the current default stashes cache under the user files which makes things slower and bloats the PC. (This should have been a setting via options all along IMO.)

  8. I installed Google Earth 5.1 and cached data for Cuba with Google Earth Voyager 6. The problem is: as soon as I start GE offline it only gives me a black screen. I think they disabled by now the offline feature which is quite bad.

  9. mmm123m, you’re right. It doesn’t work in offline mode in version 5.1, you just get a black screen. This is despite a dialog box that says it will work offline.
    The latest version that works offline is 5.0.11337.1968. See http://offlinegoogleearth.blogspot.com/
    We successfully use that older version with these steps to run GE on a machine that will never go on the internet:
    1. Install 5.0 on a machine on the internet.
    2. Edit the Google Earth Plus registry keys to move the CachePath and KMLPath to C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Google\GoogleEarth
    3. Export the Google Earth Plus registry keys.
    4. Make memory cache minimum size.
    5. Give yourself a tour to build up the cache.
    6. Zip up that cache (.dat and .dat.index, and we also bring over the Icons folder) residing in the path in All Users Application Data.
    Then:
    1. Install 5.0 on a machine never on the internet.
    2. Import that .reg file you made on the other machine.
    3. Copy over the cache files (unzip in the right spot.
    This does not work with 5.1, they now lock you out if you don’t authenticate on the internet every time you launch.

  10. I think GE is fantastic, and with the facility to be able to use it while not connected to the web it is truly a fantastic tool and fun program. I have learned something from this post….the flight simulator overlays, that is awesome! I am going to check this out now :)

  11. That’s a nice tip here.Didi not know that you could use it offline too.Google earth is very helpful in many ways and is in extensive use these days.

  12. our dispatch is using google earth and ever since we save alot of money on fuel
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  13. Great Information. Nice Post.
    I already have been using Google Earth and I have finally decided to buy an iphone G4 and can’t wait to try the app.

  14. Thanks for the Google Earth iPhone tip. Our techs can really use this while not killing our data plans and usage.

  15. Can’t wait to try this for my Florida road trip….who needs to hire a sat nav when you have google earth?

  16. Does this work for ipod touch 4g

  17. How can I load a KMZ file in my GE application at the iphone and use it offline later on?
    Is for a mtb trip where there’ll be no signal.
    Thanks

  18. Hi I love this, my question is becuz i travel to eastern europe often in areas where my garmin or other gps is totally useless becuz the detail sucks in those areas, can i pair up my bluetooth gps to work with Google Earth? Hope someone reads this and can offer some help

  19. I AlwayZ use this @!

  20. I wasn’t aware of these tips to be used with google earth and I am an avid user. Thank you for the help
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  21. great little tip and trick we use for when picking up clients if gps signals not working in Durban!

  22. imageria says:

    i downloaded google earth but can only see a black screen with coloured lined.cant ee the globe :-( want to use google off line….its asking for directX

  23. Does Google Earth use internet/streaming data? I have a limited data plan for my home internet and wanted to know.

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