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Get the most from OneDrive, Part 2

OneDrive banner image part 2

In part 1 we covered the basics of what OneDrive is and what it’s not. I also explained the OneDrive icons on the app and how they show the overall status of OneDrive. In this second article I discuss how you can tell where your files are physically stored. So, let’s dive into how to get the most from OneDrive, part 2.

Where are your files, really?

Your files can be in one of two places or in both places at the same time. Sound confusing? Let me explain, they can be stored…

1. On your computer:

When you create a new file it is probably saved locally on your computer. Usually, you would save the file on your desktop, in your documents folder or on the network drive.

2. On both computer & cloud:

With OneDrive installed and set up properly a copy of the file is stored on the Microsoft cloud. A bit like a backup system except that it continuously watches for changes to the file and sends any changes to the cloud nearly instantly. So now the file is stored physically both on your computer AND on the cloud at the same time.

3. Just on the cloud:

However, some people need a lot of storage space, too much to store on a standard office computer. Luckily, OneDrive allows some or all files to be in ‘online-only’ mode.

The magic bit is in online-only mode, just the file name is on stored your computer. The file contents are kept online until you try to open the file. This way very little storage space is used on the computer.

When you need the file OneDrive detects you opening the file as normal and downloads the contents automatically. Most of the time it’s hard to notice the difference between files that are online-only versus files that are stored on your computer.

How can you tell where the file really is?

Depending on the last time you accessed the file it’s most likely to be in online-only mode. That’s because OneDrive intelligently notices that you haven’t used files for more than 90 days and sets them to online-only mode to free up space on your computer. Remember the file is still available to you as normal but without using up your computer’s storage space unnecessarily.

To find out where the file is actually located take a look at the status column in Windows Explorer.

OneDrive icons image

File no 1. has a blue doughnut icon. This means the file (or any changes) is on your computer and waiting to be sent to the cloud.

File no 2. has a green tick which means the file is on both your computer and on the cloud.

File no 3. has a cloud outline which means the file is only on the cloud but available on your computer in exactly the same way as the other two files.

Why do the OneDrive icons matter?

For the most part they don’t so long as you have a good and working internet connection. All three locations will appear to work in exactly the same way.

The only time it really matters is if you have slow internet & large files. If you have an online-only file with a slow internet connection, 3G for example, and you are trying to access a huge file (eg video or presentation) then you will have may wait while the file is downloaded to your computer before it opens up.

If you have no internet at all you can still work on files that are saved locally (types 1 and 2 above) but you won’t be able to access any ‘online-only’ files (type 3) until you get connected to an internet connection.

Don’t forget though, with OneDrive’s intelligent sync the files are only put into online-only mode if you haven’t used them for over 3 months. If the file is already on your computer because you’ve accessed it recently, you won’t notice the slow internet as the copying of the file to the cloud is done in the background.

More to come

Understanding OneDrive icons is a great step in understanding OneDrive and its file system. In part 3 I will go through some of the ways you can choose which mode the files are in and how you can override the OneDrives defaults. Stay tuned and don’t forget to share this article with your family, friends and colleagues!

If you have any questions about this article please post a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer it or you can give our tech team a call on 03333 055 055 option 1. Guardian customers; please use your unique VIP phone number to get fast, direct, access to our tech team.

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