Microsoft OneDrive has been around a good while now. First introduced as SkyDrive back in 2008, it has grown into a feature-rich cloud storage service that rivals the best of them. It works well, offers free cloud storage and can sync across devices. What more could you need? If you’re new to Windows or haven’t used OneDrive before, the ultimate guide to using Microsoft OneDrive will give you everything you need to master the service.
Also see our article Dropbox Vs Google Drive – Which is Better?
Like Google Drive and iCloud, OneDrive provides free cloud storage for users. You get an amount of storage for free, (15GB if you got in early enough, 5GB presently), a simply interface and instant familiarity if you use Office or Outlook. OneDrive is also integrated into the Outlook.com ecosystem.
Installing and setting up OneDrive
Windows 8 and Windows 10 users will have OneDrive installed already. If you’re still using Windows 7 or earlier, you will need to download and install the app. As most of you will likely be using Windows 10, I will concentrate on that.
When you first set up Windows 10, you will be firmly encouraged to log into the OS with your Microsoft account. This not only sets up email and registers the operating system, it also logs you into OneDrive and sets it up on the computer. You should then see a OneDrive entry in the right pane of Windows Explorer and a file entry into the root of your C: drive.
If you do log into Windows 10 with a Microsoft account, you get an extra benefit. Windows will automatically save your PC settings to the cloud. You can then share these settings with other computers you might have or use it if recovering your main computer.
For mobile users, you can download OneDrive for iOS here and for Android here. Windows Phone users will have it already.
As a Windows user, you have a few options for accessing OneDrive. You can double click the entry in Windows Explorer which is probably easiest. You can also look in the System Tray, right click the cloud icon and select open or use the applications menu at outlook.com. The only difference is that the first two methods will show the OneDrive on your computer while the outlook.com method shows what has been synced online. The two may not match exactly depending on how up to date it is.
If everything is set up okay, the little cloud icon should be clear. If there is a connection or sync problem, a small yellow triangle will appear and you will receive a notification. Once configured, there is little to go wrong so you should rarely have issues.
Saving files to OneDrive
Saving files to OneDrive is as simple as it gets. You can:
- Drag and drop a file or folder into the OneDrive folder in Explorer.
- Drag and drop a file or folder into the OneDrive folder at outlook.com.
To set up Windows sync:
- Navigate to the Windows 10 Settings menu.
- Select Accounts and Sync your settings.
- Toggle on Sync settings in the right pane and select individual items to sync.
Recovering files from OneDrive
One important use for OneDrive is to recover files that get corrupted or overwritten. Here’s how to do it.
- Navigate to com and log in.
- Select the document you want to recover and right click.
- Select Version history and a new window will appear.
- Select the version you want and download.
Share files in OneDrive
You can share all sorts of files through OneDrive. You don’t have to have Office 365 or be at work to do it either, home users are equally able to share.
- Navigate to com and log in.
- Right click the file or folder you want to share and select Share.
- Select to either get a link or email. You can select a social network if you prefer.
- Send the link to the person or people you want to share the file with and they will get access to it.
- Select Manage permissions to decide whether to allow read only or read and write access to the file.
Manage files in OneDrive
If you use OneDrive in Explorer, you can move, add or delete files and folders as you would any other. They will be moved to the recycle bin and remain there until you empty the bin. The copy saved to OneDrive will remain though, so if you want to delete a file forever, you will need to log on to OneDrive and delete it from there too.
OneDrive.com also utilizes a recycle bin which can be useful for accidental deletion. It will retain the file in the bin until you empty that one too. This add a an extra couple of steps for anyone wanting to permanently delete a file but is an essential safeguard against further accidental deletion.
Automatic backups to OneDrive
OneDrive is great but if a file isn’t in the OneDrive folder, it won’t get backed up. Given how integrated OneDrive is into Windows, that’s a real missed opportunity. Office sets it as the default save location so your documents will automatically be saved unless you change it. But what about your other stuff?
I use a third party tool to back up my work daily to OneDrive. I didn’t want my work to be saved only to the cloud as version control becomes difficult. So I save files to my hard drive and then have an automatic backup run at the end of the day to save it all to the cloud.
There are a range of free and premium programs that will manage that backup. I use SyncBackPro. It isn’t cheap but it works flawlessly and has done for years. Other programs are available.
- Download and install your backup program of choice.
- Set the source folder as you see fit and set the destination folder to OneDrive.
- Set the schedule how you like it, a certain time each day, one a week or whatever.
- Perform a manual backup to test the connection.
I have SyncBackPro run at 4pm every day which is about when I stop work. OneDrive then uploads the files to the cloud and I can rest easy. Safe in the knowledge that should I break Windows through my incessant tinkering that all my work is still safe!