Getting Started With OneDrive

Category: Cloud

Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage feature now comes installed by default with Windows 10. That OneDrive folder is on your File Explorer tree and there is no getting rid of it, even if you deactivate the OneDrive app. Microsoft wants OneDrive to be always part of your Windows experience. So let’s see what OneDrive can do, and why MS is pushing it so hard...

Using OneDrive Cloud Storage

To get started with OneDrive on Windows, type “onedrive” in the Start menu’s search box and click the OneDrive app’s name in the results. Follow the setup wizard’s instructions to the final prompt, the “Open my OneDrive folder” button. That folder is where your computer meets Microsoft’s cloud.

You can place files or folders in your OneDrive folder by copying or moving them, just as you normally would. Moving is better to avoid duplicates that may get out of sync with each other. You can drag items to the OneDrive folder and drop them in, or cut-and-paste them. From within an application, you can “save as” to your OneDrive folder. The OneDrive folder is exactly like any other folder, except its contents get echoed in the cloud.

Every folder or file that’s placed in your local OneDrive folder gets copied to your OneDrive storage space in the cloud. Changes to local copies are synced to their counterparts in the cloud. You can access your OneDrive files from any device that can log into your Microsoft account. This beats carrying a keychain full of USB drives!

What can OneDrive do?

Only three folders appear in OneDrive by default: Attachments, Documents, and Public. The Attachments folder holds files that arrive or are sent as attachments to your Microsoft account’s email. The Documents folder is where any new documents that you create will be stored by default; you can always specify another location when you create a document, or save an updated copy of the document with the “save as” function found in most programs. The Public folder is where files that you share with the public go, either when you move a file to the Public folder or change its permissions to “share with public.

There already is a Documents folder on your hard drive. You can move it to the OneDrive Documents folder but that looks a bit redundant when viewed in File Explorer. The more elegant way to get all your Documents synced with OneDrive is to change the location of your original Documents system folder.

Right-click on the original Documents folder and select Properties. Then select the Location tab. Click on the Move button. Select OneDrive and then Documents as your target. Be sure the path shown is OneDrive\Documents not OneDrive\Documents\Documents. Finally, click “Select Folder.” Henceforth, everything saved to your original Documents folder will be synced in OneDrive.

If, by chance, you have Windows 7 or higher, but not OneDrive, get it at the Microsoft OneDrive website. OneDrive is also available for Mac OSX and mobile devices running iOS or Android. (Yes, you will need a Microsoft account, just as you need a Google account to get apps from that store, and to use Google Drive.)

But you still have to move the existing contents of your original Documents folder to OneDrive, if you want it there. Open your original Documents folder, select the content you want to be synced to OneDrive, and move it to the Documents folder in your OneDrive folder. Do the same for your original Pictures and Shared folders too, if you wish.

One Drive for Local or Cloud Storage

Be aware that if you COPY a file or folder to your OneDrive folder instead of MOVING it, the copy will be updated in the cloud but the original file or folder will not be updated. Also, any new content that you create in the original folder will not be echoed in the local or cloud OneDrive folders. Generally speaking, it is best to MOVE content to OneDrive. Having duplicate files and folders on your hard drive wastes space and gets confusing.

Let’s move from our local OneDrive folder to OneDrive on the Web and see what we can do there. Click once on the OneDrive “cloud” icon in your system tray and OneDrive’s dialog window will appear, tall and narrow on the right-hand side of your screen. Click on the three dots icon in the lower-right corner of the window and select “View online” to open your OneDrive cloud storage space’s dashboard.

Wow! It looks very different from the File Explorer view of your local OneDrive folder. But as you explore the options you will find they are much the same. Here are a few significant differences.

The Upload option is another way to move a file or folder on your local drive to OneDrive in the cloud and to the OneDrive folder on your local drive.

The “New” option include creation of new Microsoft Office documents using the Office Online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote. The online versions of these Office standards are limited compared to their fully-paid versions, but more than good enough for most consumers and even small businesses. Create content to your heart’s content!

Microsoft is hoping that you will do exactly that, and save it on OneDrive. Then, when you run into the 5 GB ceiling on your free OneDrive storage space, you will feel compelled to subscribe to one of MS’ premium services, Microsoft 365 Family ($99.99/year or $9.99/month), Microsoft 365 Home ($69.99/year or $6.99/month) or the OneDrive 100GB plan ($1.99/month).

This table compares OneDrive plans side by side. It is worthwhile for you to study the features in each plan and choose the one that best meets your needs.

I'm sure many who read this will wonder how Microsoft's OneDrive compares to Google Drive. In fact, they are quite similar. They both offer free cloud storage, with syncing and collaboration features. They both work on a range of web, desktop and mobile platforms. They both have a suite of online office tools for word processing, spreadsheets, etc. One significant difference is that Google Drive offers 15GB of free storage, as compared to 5GB for OneDrive. And OneDrive is significantly more complex than Google Drive, in my experience.

But complexity comes with control of how you do things and how they look to you and others. Your needs will determine whether that much control is worth the extra complexity. For a sole proprietor or a small business with five or fewer employees who need to collaborate, the six-seat Microsoft 365 plan looks pretty economical and functional. For a busy volunteer who shares a lot with volunteers, the one-seat Microsoft 365 Personal looks good. And one hundred GB of storage for less than two bucks a month is not bad either.

For individuals who just want the convenience of being able to access files from multiple devices or locations, the free version of OneDrive with 5 GB of storage is a good option. It's also a painless way to ensure that important files and folders are backed up.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Getting Started With OneDrive"

Posted by:

30 Jun 2020

How does it compare to DropBox?

Posted by:

30 Jun 2020

I am a user of OneDrive, and Google Drive and DropBox, although I don't use any of these services to "back up everything". One thing I like about the DropBox setup is that you preserve your original file structure on your PC, and can selectively tell the DropBox app while folders to mirror. As well, if your have more than one PC attached to DropBox, they do not all have to have the same selection of folders mirrored.

If I understand the OneDrive setup correctly, each of your PCs on which you set up OneDrive is going to have exactly the same set of folders and files mirrored. But maybe, for some reason, you want to limit the folders that get mirrored on some PCs. (Or maybe I am misunderstanding how the files/folders on all of your PCs would get synced?)

Posted by:

im Bennett
30 Jun 2020

My experience with OneDrive has been entirely positive. I teach an adult Sunday school class, and, since the pandemic, have created online videos of the lessons and uploaded them to OneDrive. I opted for the 100 GB plan and am using the 'share' feature to generate links that my viewers can use to view the videos. So far I've uploaded over 20 videos, and it seems to be working flawlessly; the videos download fast, and they don't take up space on my domain. If you'd like to see my website with the links to the videos, it's

Posted by:

30 Jun 2020

I've used OneDrive for ages. I have a huge OneDrive file system and the 100 GB plan. What happens when I buy a new computer? I will want my OneDrive folder located exactly as I've had it on the old computer in my user folder, not where Microsoft thinks it should be. Can I specify its location before it starts syncing my files on the new computer?

Posted by:

Joe B
30 Jun 2020

You can get rid of OneDrive by running O&OShutup10. Then check the programs you don't want running, like OneDrive. Reboot & OneDrive does not appear. You can also turn off a lot of feedback to Microsoft. It's a free program. Warning: Do a backup first, and be cautious about what you turn off.

Posted by:

30 Jun 2020

An easier way to backup your "My" Documents, Desktop, and Pictures is to enable the OneDrive "Backup" feature.

Right-click the OneDrive icon, select Settings. Click on the Backup tab, then the Manage backup button. Those three folder will be added to OneDrive *without* any complicated moving or copying.

Posted by:

30 Jun 2020

I am part of the old-NiMBY crowd: Would this be an opportune time for a comparison between these pay-as-you-go cloud-storage offerings versus local NetworkAccessStorage (NAS) alternatives?

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr.
30 Jun 2020

I have been using One Drive for several years on my Desktop PC and two Laptops. I have set it to back up my Documents, Pictures, and Desktop folders, and enabled sync on all three of my devices.

Since making this change, when I reinstall Windows10, all my files are automatically available. I still have to reinstall any application I use (such as LibreOffice), but after this step, any document whose file type is supported can be opened from any of my devices. I use Libby to get and read ebooks from my local library, and I can sync it as well. I do not know if this ability is built into Libby, or if it is a result of One Drive's sync feature.

I am retired, and my devices are for my personal use. At present, I am using 2.8 GB of the 5.0 GB available for free. This is working very well for me so far. If I find that I need more storage space, I will upgrade to the 100 GB for $1.99 per month. As far as I am concerned, One Drive is an excellent addition to my Windows10 experience :).

Posted by:

30 Jun 2020

Offline remote access: Does One Drive require a connection to the Internet to work or can one use it offline and still access all files and subfolders in the One Drive folder hierarchy? I ask because that's a significant difference among cloud storage programs. For instance, my employer supported Box Sync for several years. With Box Sync the folders are stored on the user's computer locally and synced to the cloud, meaning any and all files and folders were accessible online or offline. Then they switched to a new product, Box Drive, which requires an internet connection to access all files and folders (a subset can be marked individually for offline access, but one must known in advance which to mark prior to going offline).

Posted by:

01 Jul 2020

Just got a new computer after my old one totally crashed. Wish I’d had this article three days ago. Inadvertently restored files from my Google Drive to the Documents folder in OneDrive. When I got the out of storage notice from Microsoft, I just deleted all the files from the online OneDrive. My files on the computer then disappeared too. Managed to recover most from the Recycle bin but what a pain.

Posted by:

Frank Cizek
01 Jul 2020

To quote a past President, "NaGonnaDoIt!" The day will come when everyone's banking & other proprietary info in the Cloud will be hacked & I don't trust Microsoft to avoid that.

Posted by:

01 Jul 2020

I find it odd that as soon as 'in-system' storage prices dropped to affordable levels for home users, we are all encouraged to store everything on someone else's machines - and usually someone whose security has proven vulnerable in the past.
I have a free DropBox account on which I store some useful documentation for my model railroad electronics and some photos, none of which are sensitive. For my backups I have a small (footprint!) 2TB portable hard drive, which I can carry with me if I'm worried - and I've recently acquired a couple of 2TB USB thumb drives, which will be even more portable.
Am I paranoid about security? No, not really; my worry is that too many criminal types target the big players because they'll have a lot of choice if they do manage to break in - and often have! Anything connected online is potentially vulnerable; if it's in my pocket it's a lot less so.
What worries me more is that Microsoft, Google and the like all seem to want me to put all my eggs into their basket - and they've already shown that they can't hold onto it.

Posted by:

05 Jul 2020

What about those with only metered mobile data?

Posted by:

25 Apr 2021

Bob, regarding the IDrive One that I purchased from you - did it come with a manual?
If so, I have misplaced it.
Can you please advise me sir?

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Getting Started With OneDrive (Posted: 30 Jun 2020)
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