Microsoft’s cloud storage solution, OneDrive, has been around since 2007 and was originally known as Windows Live Folders. Since then it has matured and changed to become a very reliable form of cloud storage. 

In fact, I am yet to lose a file because of OneDrive - most of my lost files are operator error!

In recent months OneDrive has gone through some bad press when Microsoft announced they were reducing consumers from 15GB to just 5GB of free cloud storage on the service. They later backed down from that, after a lot of very vocal feedback from customers, and gave OneDrive users the option to opt in and continue to receive their full 15GB of free storage.

So now that the dust has settled from all of that commotion late last year I wanted to take you through how I put OneDrive to use in my home computing environment.

First some clarity and background about what OneDrive is and is not.

OneDrive is not a backup of your files. A backup means the originals are in daily use and on a regular basis you back up those files to a secondary storage location. This means if you inadvertently deleted a file from the originals you could still retrieve the most recent copy of that file from your backups.

OneDrive is a syncing of your files. This means changes made on one device in your OneDrive file structure will be matched in other locations those files are available. Luckily, OneDrive on the web has an Undo function that could help you retrieve that file but it is only available right after you delete that file.

However, since late 2012 OneDrive has had a Recycle Bin through the web interface which holds deleted files from your OneDrive storage on any of your connected systems. Basically, this is your PC Recycle Bin but on the web and across all the devices where you use OneDrive.

Files stored there are kept for at least 3 days and do not count against your OneDrive storage quota. If you delete enough files to exceed 10% of your allowed OneDrive storage, then files will be removed starting with the oldest after it has been there at least three days. Microsoft could begin permanently removing files in your recycle bin any time after 30 days.

I just emptied my OneDrive online Recycle Bin and it contained over 5,500 files – so plenty of room for most of our accounts.

Now, while that recycle bin is handy in an emergency, it does not replace backups and you do not want to discover you need a backup when you actually need a backup.

Now that you have a solid understanding of what OneDrive is and is not let me share how I choose to use it around home on our systems.

I take advantage of the special folders in Windows which allows me to select the storage location for folders such as Documents, Pictures, Video, etc. That Location option is in the folders properties shown below.

Special Folder Documents Properties

This feature allows you to pick any storage location on your device or home network. Some people choose to store their documents and other files on a secondary hard drive or maybe use network attached storage within their home. Basically, it is whatever works for you and your local setup.

That means if you use OneDrive you have a local folder structure on your device where folders you select are synched from OneDrive.

A quick aside – it looks like some evidence of the return of OneDrive Placeholders was present in Windows 10 Build 14271 which was released yesterday. If that finally happens then you will be able to see your entire OneDrive storage hierarchy locally instead of just select folders.

So back to my local configuration.

I use the Documents special folders location setting, see the image earlier in this article, and I set it to store (and basically sync) all of my Documents folder to a matching folder on OneDrive.

That means once that setting is applied on all of our systems the Documents folder for each of us is synched to all of our OneDrive connected devices.

As for Pictures, Videos and other special folders – we keep those local because the bulk of those types of files are stored on my Western Digital MyCloud 3TB networked storage and we prefer to keep those very bulky files stored more efficiently. That local storage is where all of my original Nikon D5100 images are stored permanently and backed up.

We both use a Lumia 950 Windows 10 Mobile device so all of our images from those are already synched to OneDrive through the Camera Roll folder and I archive those images on our local storage for safe keeping.

The cloud has delivered a lot of convenience when it comes to the routine access of our files and OneDrive has proven to be a very reliable means for us to have near continuous access to our documents.

In what unique ways do you use OneDrive or other cloud storage options?