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What Is OneDrive?

OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage solution, similar to Google Drive. It’s built into both Windows 10 & 11, so there’s nothing to download or install, it’s all right there on your computer.

In order to use OneDrive, you’ll need to have a Microsoft account, but most of us will have one of those already anyway.

What Does OneDrive Do?

When you setup OneDrive (it’s easy to do), by default, it will automatically select your Desktop, Documents and Pictures folders for backing up (syncing) into the cloud. Everything inside these three folders will be copied into your OneDrive account on the Internet.

You can choose whether or not to include or exclude any of the default folders.

You get 5GB of free storage space. That’s not a huge amount but enough to cover your most important files.

You can, of course, buy extra storage space, but if you’re looking to stay free, then you do need to careful when selecting which folders to include.

Documents, pictures and desktop folders selected for backup to OneDrive.
Desktop, Documents and Pictures folders will be backed up automatically.

If You Have A Microsoft 365 (Office 365) Subscription.

If you have a subscription to Microsoft 365 (which used to be called Office 365) then you have access to upwards of 1 TB (1 Terabyte) of storage space with your subscription.
The downside to this is that if you cancel your subscription, then you’ll lose all that storage space.

Sync Options.

When your files are synced to your OneDrive account, you have three sync options.

  • Always Available – You can choose to have the files stored on both your local computer, the one you’re using right now, and have a backup copy stored in the cloud. Indicated with a solid green circle with the white check mark
  • Online Only – Or you can have files stored only in the cloud. These files will only be available when you’re online, but it does free up space on your computer. Indicated by a blue cloud icon
  • On This Device – This option is a kind of hybrid of the previous two options. The files are stored online only, but when you open them, they download to your computer. Which then means you can view/edit them offline. Indicated with a green tick icon.
Onedrive folder open and files shown with their respective status symbols.
OneDrive status symbols. A blue cloud is online only, a green tick means the file will download when opened and a solid green circle with a tick means the file is stored on this device.

Access To Your Files From Other Devices.

Many of us have more than one device. Accessing files (documents, pictures etc) that are stored on your computer from, let’s say, your phone, is a pain.

However you can access any of the files/folders stored in your OneDrive account from other device (computer, phone, tablet etc) simply by logging in to your account.

Sharing Files With Others.

One of the big pluses with storing files online is the ability to share those files with others.

You can easily give other people access to the files and folders that you’ve got stored in your OneDrive account. When you share a file or folder with someone, they only have access to that particular file/folder, not to your entire OneDrive account.

So if you’re working on a document, perhaps, with someone else, you can both have access to it.

It’s also a great way of showing off family photos etc.

Right click context menu is open and the Onedrive options are highlighted.
Sharing and other options in OneDrive.

The OneDrive Personal Vault.

The Personal Vault is a protected folder within your OneDrive account. You have to setup a second means of identification (usually a PIN) to access it.

File and folders stored in the vault can’t be shared or viewed by anyone without both your password and the PIN.

Personal Vault screen from Onedrive.
Keep your private files/folders private.
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