Thursday, 2 June 2016



What is it?

Microsoft OneDrive is an online storage space you can use.  It enables you to save and store your files in an automatically encrypted form on Microsoft servers.  The first 5GB are free. After that you have to pay for any additional storage unless you have Office 365 when you are entitled to 1TB of free storage.

It is accessible from almost any electronic device, a computer, tablet, phone, or Xbox.  It is compatible with any Microsoft, Apple, iOS, Android or Windows Phone product that has the OneDrive app installed on it. 

It can be used as a back-up or for accessing or sharing any of your files upon it from almost any other electronic device on which you’ve installed the OneDrive app.  For example, you can access copies of meeting papers, travel itineraries, any essential documents like your passport or bankcards, or family photos or anything else.

Its flexibility in use and compatibility with other systems and devices make it one of the most useful of the Cloud based storage programmes. 

For ordinary users like us there are several things you have to watch.  

First, to take advantage of the 5GB free limit you might have to edit what is on your OneDrive.  

Secondly, OneDrive has such universal application you need to make sure you have the correct set up for your computer and device[s].  Otherwise you might find, for example, that files you want on your computer's hard drive disappear if you delete them off OneDrive to keep it within the 5GB free limit.  Importantly, for those of us using Windows 10 OneDrive is our default drive for all of our files, which is not very likely to be what we want if we are to keep within the 5GB free limit. This can be changed but there is still a risk that we might accidentally delete material from our computers if we follow the instructions for OneDrive relating to a different operating system. 

Thirdly, OneDrive and the instructions for using it have had lots of development and changes recently.  As a result web page materials and advice are often out of date.  

Fourthly, if you are using it with a non-Microsoft operating system it is just possible files might not be compatible with OneDrive.

An overview of what you need.

Because OneDrive can be used on so many different devices and operating systems these notes can only show you the way to what you need and cannot deal with all the different situations that arise.

Here are the essential ingredients.  We’ll come to some of the detail shortly.

  • Your own OneDrive Account.  Don't be disheartened by the word account'.  OneDrive account is no more than an e-mail address and password recognized by Microsoft for the use of OneDrive, although a Microsoft account is particularly handy if you’re running a Microsoft operating system.  A Microsoft account is no more than a Microsoft e-mail address and password recognized by Microsoft for the use of any of its products.
  • A computer with OneDrive installed upon it.  If your computer is running Windows 8.1 or 10 it already has OneDrive installed upon it.  If your computer has some other common operating system, Microsoft, Apple or otherwise, then the OneDrive app has to be installed upon it.
  • The OneDrive settings that suit you best.
  • The files you want on your OneDrive installed upon it, not exceeding 5GB unless you’ve paid for more or have Office 365. 
  • The OneDrive app on any device you want to use to access your OneDrive from, be it a Microsoft, Apple, iOS, Android or other notebook, netbook, tablet or smart phone.

The essential ingredients in more detail and where to find them explained.

Your own OneDrive Account.  If you have Windows 8.1 or 10 you probably already have one.  Let’s go to the OneDrive site to see what’s involved.

The Home page is a good starting point as it and the Menu Bar show the items most relevant to us under Plans, Download, How-to and Sign In.  Further down the page is Sign up for free, some brief information about OneDrive and links to various aspects relating to it.

The starting point is Sign In, if you already have an account, or Signup for free if you don’t. We can look at those steps in a moment but while the page is open we can quickly look at the other menu items.

Microsoft also has an OneDriveHelp page in Office that sets out nearly the same information as we have just traversed, but not about signing in for free, in a simpler menu type format.  It also has a link to a number of useful OneDrive training videos.  In general I find it easier to work from the latter page but it mightn’t be where it is now much longer as Microsoft has recently signalled a change to it. 

Incidentally those two Microsoft pages are the principal sources of Microsoft information about OneDrive at present.

You have to sign up to OneDrive to use it. 

If you already have done so you skip this step. 

Otherwise it is necessary either to sign up with a valid e-mail account or to create a Microsoft account to get the benefits of OneDrive.  As already mentioned a Microsoft account is particularly handy if you’re running a Microsoft operating system and/or Microsoft devices.  It has the added bonus that it keeps a copy of all your computer settings.  If you have no Microsoft devices of any kind it might be different. 

You might well already have a Microsoft account without knowing it.  For example, have you ever used, Hotmail, Office 365, OneDrive, Skype, Xbox, or Windows Live? The email address and password used for any of those services is your Microsoft account, for example,,, or plus your password.  If not you can easily create a free email account at and make that your new Microsoft account.

If you follow the Sign Up trail hopefully it will all be reasonably clear, even if some of the boxes are slightly confusing. 

Getting OneDrive on your computer.

Once you’ve signed up to OneDrive you can sign in to it.  You might then need to check whether you’ve already got OneDrive or whether you need to install it.  On theOneDrive site you go to the How To menu and click on it.  At least in Windows 10 it might show you whether you need a download or not and which download you might require.  If you need a download proceed in the usual way.

Once you have OneDrive look at the Getting Started page.

Whether you prefer to use theOneDrive site or the OneDriveHelp page site you next get to the same page, which varies according to your operating system.  Click on the entry relevant to your operating system.

The Getting Started Page.

The page has a very simple description of OneDrive and a set of topics link at the bottom to a number of other pages dealing with Syncing and Saving.  Otherwise I find it a very unhelpful page.

The catch about the page is that it tells you:

“To save a doc you’re working on to OneDrive, select a OneDrive folder from the list of save locations. To move files to OneDrive, open File Explorer and then drag them into a OneDrive folder.”

What it does not tell you is that if you do that in Windows 10 you’ve automatically removed it from your computer to OneDrive.  If you copy and paste the file you want into OneDrive you still have it on your computer.

Part of this confusion relates to the differences in the One Drive settings between Windows 10 and the earlier operating systems.  Unless we change the settings, the default setting in Windows 10, as Microsoft admits, is to save files to OneDrive rather than to your computer.

Get the OneDrive settings that suit you best.

OneDrive settings depend upon your operating system and as a result cannot be explained simply.  The easiest starting point in Windows 10 is in the Notifications area on the far right of the Taskbar at the foot of your window.  Right click on the OneDrive icon and you will see various choices including Settings.  Open it and you will see a variety of headings and choices that we can work through.  They cover the same sort of things as can be relevant for other operating systems.  

Two of the settings are critical.
  •  Under the Settings - Auto-save tab you decide whether your computer, "This PC only", or your "OneDrive" is the primary storage place for your files. 
  •  Under the Settings - Account tab you have the opportunity to control the folders that are going to be on your computer and in your OneDrive folder.
Your default drive: For on-line help in respect of which drive is your primary storage drive and how to ensure your files are where you want them to be see this Microsoft site last mentioned and this piece by Lincoln Spector in PC World.  For most of us we will want to ensure our primary drive for our Documents and Pictures is "This PC only".  It is only if you have Office 365 or intend to pay for One Drive usage beyond 5GB that you would want "OneDrive" to be your primary drive.

Folders to sync under the Account tab: In choosing which folders to sync under the Account tab this relates only to folders in your OneDrive that are going to sync with your computer if OneDrive is your primary drive.  [You have to make your own choices but you are helped in that you are told what volumes are involved.]  This does not result in any folders on your computer syncing with OneDrive if our computer is your primary drive as it probably is. If you want to have copies of what is on your computer on OneDrive you must ensure copies of what is on your computer are moved on to your OneDrive. 

As already mentioned if you follow what Microsoft says and open File Explorer and then simply drag or move a file into a OneDrive folder in Windows 10 you’ve automatically removed it from your computer to OneDrive.  However, if you copy the file you want into OneDrive you still have it on your computer.  So to use One Drive as a backup facility in Windows 10 when your primary drive is your computer and NOT OneDrive you MUST copy what you want into OneDrive through File Explorer.  Use whatever copying system you prefer, for example, copy and paste or drag the file to the destination folder while holding down the control key. 

A particularly useful setting is OneDrive Fetch. Under the Settings - General tab select the option to use OneDrive to fetch files on your PC even if they are not in your OneDrive folder.  

If you might want to share files with someone else but not in Office go to the Settings - Office tab and deselect the default option.

This Windows Help page is helpful in respect of the file storage aspect, although you might first have to sign in to see it.
Syncing your files is a part of the settings in Windows 10.

For Windows 8.1 PCs with OneDrive – see this Microsoft page.
PC World has a page relevant to Windows 8.1 and all earlier Windows or other operating systems reliant on the OneDrive app on “How to sync your Windows desktop to the cloud.” 

In Windows 10 once your settings are to your liking go back to the icon and left click on View online.  Go to the Gear wheel and Options and you will be able to manage your storage.  The main page also gives you access to OneDrive's dedicated Recycle Bin.

In other operating systems follow Microsoft's advice - see some of the links below.

Have you got the files you want on your OneDrive installed upon it?

Hopefully you will have achieved this through your settings. 

If you want to delete anything from OneDrive either do it online or through your OneDrive folder.  Should you delete something it might be wise to check it is still on your computer.  If it isn't and it is something you do want to keep on your computer open the OneDrive recycle bin and find the relevant file and either copy and paste it where you want it on your computer or restore it on One Drive.

Is the OneDrive app on any device you want to use to access your OneDrive?

You can readily access and download the relevant OneDrive app through theOneDrive site.

How do you access your OneDrive from another computer?

All you have to do is open a web browser on it, open the OneDrive site and log on.  You might need a Microsoft account to do that.  When you are finished sign out.
Remember that if you access your OneDrive account from another PC that does not belong to you, such as a public computer, the computer could be deliberately infected with spyware. There is a way around this using a single use logon code procedure documented here, but it might not be available to you.

You can log in to OneDrive with your Microsoft account here.

Turning off, disabling or uninstalling OneDrive.

Yes, it can be done.  See thispage for the built in OneDrive in Windows 8.1 and 10.  This TechJourney page deals only with Windows 10 as does this WonderHow To page..

If you are using the OneDrive app on any computer or device you remove it as you would remove any other app or programme.

Links to useful sites and tutorials:

Getting started with OneDrive in Windows 8.1 is a Microsoft help page.
DigitalCitizen has a simple description of OneDrive and how to collaborate with someone else in respect of a common document without having to e-mail. 
TechRadar.Pro has a helpful and practical introduction to OneDrive as does Trusted Reviews, although neither can be taken as gospel in every respect.
PC Mag’s take on OneDrive has some helpful information.
If you are having problems with synchronisation in Windows 10 you might find this Windows Central page with trouble shooting tips very helpful.  It refers to Windows 10 but much of what it says will be similar in other operating systems.
GCF Learn Free deals with OneDrive and Office Online.

More from Microsoft about a Microsoft account:

TechRadar also has a useful piece on creating a Microsoft account.
Fetching your documents from your home computer to another computer using OneDrive – see this Microsoft page.   If you have the OneDrive desktop app for Windows installed on a PC, you can use the Fetch files feature to access all your files on that PC from another computer by going to the OneDrive website.

Using OneDrive with Office apps, Word, Excel and Powerpoint – see Microsoft’s dedicated page.

   Share OneDrive files and folders – see this Microsoft page. 

Dummies How to Access OneDrive fromAnywhere page.

   “Microsoft has just released a brand new OneDrive app available from the Windows store for Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, Surface, and Surface Hub. The new app brings feature parity with Windows 10 Mobile and now gives users an extra option for browsing their OneDrive files without having to sync them all to their computer.” Windows Central
For Windows 10 this Microsoft page strangely headed Syncing and Saving has links to various useful pages relating to Windows 10. 

   How to Manage Your OneDrive Folders fromYour iPad.
How to use OneDrive on iOS.
OneDrive in Ubuntu 14.04

Final thought.  

If OneDrive does not work for you do not despair.  There are numerous other free cloud storage facilities. Here are links to two fairly recent surveys of free programmes, 22 Free Cloud Storage Services and The Best Free Cloud Storage - 22 Servicesthat give you more.

[Revised 9 September 2016.]

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