OneDrive – Sync My Documents

Here’s a quick and easy way to sync your My Documents folder and make it available to other computers and mobile devices via Microsoft OneDrive. This is the same process you can use to move your My Documents to any location of your choosing – a second hard drive, an external drive or a network share. This Process works for OneDrive and OneDrive for Business (see Outlook archive note below).

Windows 7 & 8 – The process described here copies your local files to OneDrive in the cloud – you’ll have local files available with or without a network connection and you’ll have a cloud based copy that can be used by any other computer or mobile device.

Windows 8.1 – Changed the OneDrive App and it’s core behavior. By default OneDrive for 8.1 moves your files to the cloud and off your computer instead of Sync’ing as it does in Windows 7 & 8. See step 10 below to sync your files fully!

Outlook –  PST archive files cannot be copied or backed up when Outlook is open.  To use the process below you will need to move your archive files outside of the My Documents folder and re-map them from the new location – How to move PST files from Slipstick.com.

Prep steps

  1. Perform a little spring cleaning if necessary, delete or move any large unneeded or duplicate files – OneDrive starts at 15gigs for free and you can add up to 200gb with a paid subscription
  2. Sign Up or Login – https://onedrive.live.com
  3. Install – https://onedrive.live.com/about/en-us/download/

Set My Documents to Sync with OneDrive

  1. Start Windows Explorer – ‘Windows Key + E’
  2. In the left pane under Libraries expand Documents
  3. Right Click My Documents & choose Properties
  4. Select the Location tab
  5. Click Move
  6. Navigate to C:\users\%your user name%
  7. Choose OneDrive –  C:\Users\%your user name%\OneDrive
  8. Click Select Folder
  9. Click Apply
    1. You will be prompted to confirm moving all your files from the My Documents to OneDrive folder
    2. Your My Documents folder is now called OneDrive and all Libraries, links and shortcuts update to reflect the change
    3. Microsoft Office applications will save to your OneDrive folder by Default
  10. Windows 8.1  – There are two options to keep files locally and have OneDrive COPY them to the cloud.
    1. Right Click your OneDrive folder and choose “Make Available Offline.”
    2. OneDrive App settings – turn the “Access all files offline” slider to on.
  11. That’s it, wait for the Sync to complete!

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28 thoughts on “OneDrive – Sync My Documents

  1. Please clarify… You begin with “backup your My Documents folder” and toward the end, it seems you’re now reading and writing directly to OneDrive and not to your original harddrive. It doesn’t seem to write to both, which would be realtime back up. I believe your patch puts all your Office docs in the cloud and nothing written to or read from the local harddrive. Please clarify.

  2. Hi Ed – thanks for this question as Microsoft has changed the default OneDrive App behavior in Windows 8.1 to move all files to the cloud. The options below will enable the process on this page and ensure you have local and cloud file copies.

    Windows 8.1 – two options to maintain local and cloud file copies:
    > Right Click your OneDrive folder and choose “Make Available Offline.”
    > Access the OneDrive App settings and turn the “Access all files offline” slider to on.
    Windows 7 – no action needed, works as expected.

    Hope this helps! I will update this page.

  3. Hi,

    Please correct point 7 which is WRONG, at least on Windows 8.1:

    Choose OneDrive – C:\Users\%your user name%\OneDrive

    must be

    Choose OneDrive – C:\Users\%your user name%\OneDrive\My Documents

  4. Hi, pls. clearify-will the enclosed option be effective in Windows 8.0, too? and pls. explain “how to” do?
    Hi Ed – thanks for this question as Microsoft has changed the default OneDrive App behavior in Windows 8.1 to move all files to the cloud. The options below will enable the process on this page and ensure you have local and cloud file copies.

    Windows 8.1 – two options to mainta

  5. I think I’m with Ed on this. If you Move the folders (as per step 5) then aren’t they stored in the cloud? I just want to work on my hard drive (Win 7) and periodically backup chosen folders to the cloud rather than be constantly working on the cloud (not enough bandwidth to be practical). Can Onedrive do this or not?

  6. Hi Jim (and Ed) – OneDrive copies files to the cloud with Windows 7 & 8 but not by default with Windows 8.1 (see step 10 above). To demonstrate this create a test folder in your computers local SkyDrive folder and add files. Once fully sync’ed disconnect your wired or WiFi network connection (disconnecting from the cloud and all other internet based services). When offline with no cloud connection you can still see, open and edit the files because they are on your computer. Reconnect to the network and any changes you’ve made will update to the cloud. That’s the goal of this post – work on local files, OneDrive automatically copies then to the cloud for a backup copy.

  7. Hi Peter, Windows 8 works just like Windows 7 – files are copied to the cloud. I’ve added step 10 for Windows 8.1 where Microsoft has decided to break standard computer behavior in favor or mobile device (i.e. limited local storage) as seems to be there goal with Windows 8 – upset their millions of desktop users… 🙁

  8. Hi Jean-Pierre, there was no My Documents folder in my Windows 8.1 OneDrive folder. Perhaps because I already had OneDrive before upgrading to 8.1? If a My Documents folder already exists in your OneDrive folder (and is empty?) you should be able to use that as the target to move your computers My Documents to. In general you can use any folder you like but obviously you cant have two with the same name!

  9. I moved my music folder there. Icon stayed under My Computer as well.

    However, I tried going back to the old situation, which was nigh impossible! Had to disable OneDrive sync through some reg edits and some other crap, before I was able to delete the folder and reset the icon under ‘My PC’…

    I still think it’s a good idea, even knowing the problems that might occur.

    One question, however: how about save games?

    They’re under C:\Users\XXX\Documents now.
    Will they move to C:\Users\XXX\OneDrive\Documents as well?

  10. Re “Set My Documents to Sync with OneDrive” After I pressed “apply” I got another panel saying: Do you want to redirect folder “Documents” into another system folder “Onedrive” located at C:\users\jeff\onedrive? If you proceed with redirection you will not be able to separate them or restore default locations.
    I wasn’t sure what this was all about – however I replied Yes. Was this correct? Look forward to your comments.

  11. Jeff – I did the same thing and now my “documents” folder under this computer is renamed “onedrive” and it reflects the onedrive folder exactly. My concern now is that everything I put on onedrive is pushed to my documents on my local computer. Onedrive is terribly confusing if you ask me. The onedrive app is easy on my windows machine but from a windows 8 machine I am having issues. It just bugs me now that I have to bring all my onedrive doc’s onto my surface. And that i have spent 5 hours trying to figure this out and I am pretty good with computers and still can’t seem to make sense of how to use it corrrectly.

  12. But sync is not backup. If you delete from the Onedrive desktop folder the version on Onedrive will also be delete. What is the point in that?

  13. I have never seen such a confusing process. I simply want to work on my hard drive and have it automatically sync to my OneDrive in the cloud. I have spent so many hours trying to figure this out. Easier to just drag and drop changed files up to there. The problem is that I work with so many files daily how can I remember what changed. Auto-sync would be lovely.

  14. I have downloaded one drive onto my computer but I still cant se what it is I am doing wrong because every time I try to use it to backup for me on conputer but it just ignors me so wherE I am going wrong I dont know

  15. Hi, I no longer want MyDocuments to create a back-up on OneDrive or store my files on OneDrive. How can I reverse the above process?

  16. The whole process is terribly complicated for what should be straightforward. Not only that, here it is June 17, 2015–and an article dated Feb 2014 is already OUT OF DATE and irrelevant! (For example my Oneddrive page says that Microsoft 8.1 does not support syncing files to another computer. Hate to believe I have to delete all folders from Onedrive and start over again.

  17. My question is that when I make a file , and put it into my one drive folder located in my computer, then as soon as I remove the file from onedrive folder, the file also disappears from onedrive cloud. So what if my computer crashes , then onedrive folder in my computer will not be accessible. and all the documents in it are going to dissappear from onedrive cloud as well. What is the solution?

  18. @Deborah – To restore your Documents to their original location see screenshot #3 above – click “Restore Default”.

  19. @Xeraviton – If your hard drive crashes all your files are still stored in the cloud and always will be – unless you actively delete them on your computer which would be instantly replicated (as are all actions within the OneDrive Sync Folder) and the files would be deleted in the cloud. If your hard drive were to fail – simply setup OneDrive on another computer or new hard drive using the same account and all your files will download.

  20. I have really messed this up badly. I kind of don’t even understand what I did. I have set it so that I can’t edit my OneDrive location without changing the Picture folder location. So when I change one, they both change. Also, what used to be Pictures is now OneDrive. Any help you can give me would be appreciated.

  21. OneDrive lets you work on and keep a local copy and also mirrors the saved version to the cloud – and to any other PC you run OneDrive on with the same account credentials. for me this works great – it means I can have multiple PCs (2 laptops and a desk machine) and have my files synced on all. I can’t afford to lose a day recovering a backup drive on a failed laptop – this lets me keep running and fix a PC at my convenience.

    What is most useful to me – and not noted by anyone above – is that OneDrive automatically keeps prior versions in the cloud as “older versions”. So if you make a mistake (and I know I do) and accidentally write over the document you wanted to keep, the prior version still lives on in the cloud. This has saved me numerous times.

    Also, Google Drive has an issue with Office documents in that the temp file Office creates confuses it and prevents you from saving the file. You always have to rename the file to save it or disconnect from Google Drive (I turn off my WiFi to fix this). OneDrive doesn’t have this problem of course.

  22. “@Deborah – To restore your Documents to their original location see screenshot #3 above – click “Restore Default”.
    Doesn’t work, at least not in WIn 10, when you try to Apply or OK the change you get a message “The folder cannot be moved here. Access Denied”

  23. One of my user’s one drive location has set to OneDrive by group policy still files (in My documents) are not reflecting to Onedrive Document folder. Please advice as it seems to sync issue.

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