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Windows 8.1 includes deep SkyDrive integration, far beyond the simple SkyDrive Modern app included with Windows 8. SkyDrive isn’t just an app in the tiled interface; it’s also available from the desktop. Macs have iCloud, Chromebooks Looking For A New Laptop? Get A Chromebook Instead! Looking For A New Laptop? Get A Chromebook Instead! Read More have Google Drive, and Windows 8.1 PCs have SkyDrive. Microsoft wants you to consider SkyDrive your new hard drive where you store all your personal files.

Microsoft didn’t just include a Dropbox-style syncing solution. SkyDrive on Windows 8.1 is smart, offering a new way of syncing files that saves on disk space. It’s great for devices with small amounts of local storage.

What Is SkyDrive?

If you haven’t been keeping track, SkyDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage service 10 Ways To Use Your Cloud Storage That You May Not Have Thought Of 10 Ways To Use Your Cloud Storage That You May Not Have Thought Of When we talk about cloud storage, it usually revolves around backup and collaboration. So, let’s try to find some more interesting ways to fill up all the space they give us for free. Read More . Like the well-known Dropbox service, SkyDrive allows you to store your files online. They’re linked to your Microsoft account and can be synced across your PCs, downloaded via a web browser, and accessed with mobile apps on smartphones and tablets — yes, Microsoft offers SkyDrive apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android, too. New Microsoft accounts get 7GB of SkyDrive space, but you can pay Microsoft a subscription fee for more space.

SkyDrive gives you a place to store all your files so you can access them from multiple devices. You won’t have to worry about moving files around with USB drives. When you get a new PC or move to a different device, all your files will be right there and available to you. You can also share files with other people, making them available from your SkyDrive account.

Like a lot of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, SkyDrive is Microsoft’s attempt at dragging its users into the future as Microsoft sees it.

Using SkyDrive in Windows 8.1

When you sign into Windows with a Microsoft account How Microsoft Overhauled User Accounts In Windows 8 How Microsoft Overhauled User Accounts In Windows 8 What's up with user accounts in Windows 8? It's not complicated - Microsoft wants everyone to use an online account to sign into their desktop operating system. Sure, they offer an offline equivalent, but they... Read More for the first time, you’ll be prompted to enable SkyDrive integration. This only works if you sign in with a Microsoft account, not a local user account — SkyDrive is linked to the Microsoft account you log in with. If you have a local user account and want SkyDrive integration, you’ll have to convert it to a Microsoft account.

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With SkyDrive integration enabled, you’ll see a SkyDrive option in the File Explorer app’s sidebar. To save files to SkyDrive and store them in the cloud, just move them to — or save them to — the SkyDrive folder.

skydrive-in-file-explorer-on-windows-8.1

SkyDrive attempts to sync files intelligently. Let’s say you already have 5GB of files in your SkyDrive account and you get a new Windows 8.1 PC. After signing into your new PC, SkyDrive won’t automatically download all your files. You’ll be able to browse all your files in the SkyDrive folder, but SkyDrive will download them when you try to open them. Microsoft calls these “smart files” — SkyDrive downloads information about the files, but not the contents of the files themselves.

Windows also monitors the files you use and automatically syncs files it thinks you will open.

skydrive-smart-files-downloading

Luckily, you don’t have to rely on Windows’ instincts. You can also just tell SkyDrive to sync certain files or folders. To do this, right-click a file or folder in the SkyDrive folder and select Make available offline. SkyDrive will download the selected files — or all files contained in the selected folder — and keep them synced. They’ll be available when you need them without any on-demand downloading.

skydrive-sync-files-offline

Using SkyDrive on the desktop should be that simple. If you want to move the SkyDrive folder to another drive — for example, from a small solid-state drive to a larger mechanical hard drive — just right-click the SkyDrive folder in File Explorer, select Properties, and use the options on the Location tab to move it.

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The Modern Interface

SkyDrive is now also fully integrated into the other side of Windows 8.1. While Windows 8’s settings sync features How To Sync Your Windows 8 Settings Via The Cloud How To Sync Your Windows 8 Settings Via The Cloud Logging into your Windows 8 computers with a Microsoft account enables access to the Windows Store and other Modern apps, but it's also used to sync Windows 8 settings with the Cloud. Your settings will... Read More were separate from SkyDrive, all of Windows 8.1’s sync features are now powered by SkyDrive. You’ll even find all the old Sync options under the “SkyDrive” category in Windows 8.1’s PC Settings app.

The SkyDrive options in PC Settings allow you to view the space you’re using on SkyDrive, control whether photos from your “camera roll” folder are automatically uploaded to SkyDrive, and configure settings for metered connections such as tethered connections with a Wi-Fi hotspot 3 Foolproof Ways to Create Your Own Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot for Tethering in North America 3 Foolproof Ways to Create Your Own Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot for Tethering in North America Do you want to give multiple wireless gadgets on-the-go internet access? Are you sick of getting ripped off by wireless hotspot tethering? There’s a variety of technologies that can help you – the two most... Read More .

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The Modern SkyDrive app also allows you to browse, manage, and search your SkyDrive files. It’s integrated with the desktop SkyDrive experience, so you can also long-press or right-click a file or folder from this app and select Make available offline. Files you make available offline will be available both on the desktop and in the Windows 8-style UI.

SkyDrive now allows you to browse your local files with a touch-optimized interface, too. Just tap or click the SkyDrive heading and select This PC to browse your local files. You no longer need to install third-party Modern File Explorer apps Wondering Why Windows 8 Doesn't Have A Modern Explorer App? Try These Wondering Why Windows 8 Doesn't Have A Modern Explorer App? Try These Windows 8 doesn’t come with a Modern file explorer app, forcing tablet users to peck at the small targets in the File Explorer window on the desktop. But this is Windows 8, not Windows XP... Read More .

In Windows 8.1, SkyDrive also offers OCR capabilities SkyDrive Brings Smart Files With OCR Search In Windows 8.1 SkyDrive Brings Smart Files With OCR Search In Windows 8.1 With Windows 8.1, SkyDrive will be rolling out “smart files”, previously called placeholder files, complete with Bing-powered OCR search. Read More . If you upload a picture containing recognizable words, Microsoft’s servers will convert it to searchable text. When you search for files using Windows 8.1’s new Bing-powered system-wide search feature, SkyDrive will return images that contain those words.

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Fetching Files

If you previously used SkyDrive’s unique “Fetch” feature Is There a Good Reason To Use Microsoft SkyDrive In Addition To Dropbox & Google Drive? Is There a Good Reason To Use Microsoft SkyDrive In Addition To Dropbox & Google Drive? Read More , which allowed you to fetch unsynced files from anywhere on another PC’s file system, you’ll be disappointed to hear that Fetch is no longer available on Windows 8.1. Even if you reinstall the standalone SkyDrive desktop sync program, Fetch does not function on Windows 8.1. It’s unfortunate that Microsoft is eliminating a unique feature that separated SkyDrive from Dropbox and the rest of the pack.

SkyDrive: A Well-Rounded Experience

SkyDrive in Windows 8.1 is a compelling experience, offering built-in, free cloud storage to Windows users. It’s well-integrated into every corner of the system — the desktop, Windows 8-style interface, and Bing-powered search experience. You don’t have to install anything extra to sync your files with the cloud on Windows 8.1.

Do you use SkyDrive on Windows 8.1? Leave a comment and share any SkyDrive-related tips you have!

Image Credit: Robyn’s Nest on Flickr

  1. Roger Jensen
    April 12, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    i put a number of PowerPoint files on SkyDrive but I don't see anyway to save such files from there to my hard drive or a thumb drive, so that I can play them offline. I get the Save Symbol but it appears that it only synchronizes changes. There is no value it doing this, for me. Hence, I'll be shutting off the auto upload feature.

  2. Mike
    February 25, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    SkyDrive in 8.1 is a complete disaster. Avoid like the Plague.

  3. guest
    February 18, 2014 at 5:27 am

    you can stick skydrive where the sun don't shine hackers have they way in the lieing cloud so no no no no no no no no

  4. Betty
    February 11, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    SkyDrive is much better than Google Drive. I use SkyDrive with Kanban Tool - I attach files to my tasks. I like to keep everything in one place. See for yourself http://kanbantool.com/blog/attach-files-from-skydrive

  5. doornboss
    February 6, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    If your on Windows 8.0 and using SkyDrive: DON'T UPDATE TO 8.1. DON'T do it.

  6. mikmock
    February 5, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    I am wondering how this affects Windows 7 and my home network that uses Windows Home Server 2011. There was a neat How-To article a while back showing how to use SkyDrive with a WHS 2011. It seems to still be working so far but where does it leave us whom do not want to go with Windows 8 or 8.1
    Thanks

  7. Dorothy
    January 31, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    I just "lost" 2.5 months of work on my skydrive. It reverted back about 2 months... :( Frustrated. I don't know if a setting was messed up or the transition to 8.1 messed it up. I was so pleased with Skydrive and was planning on migrating most of our business docs online. Now, I'm really uncertain. :(

  8. moss
    January 29, 2014 at 1:49 am

    The Sky Drive SHARE option available in Windows 7 is missing in Windows 8.1. So to get to SHARE, I have to sign in to my account ON LINE.
    Microsoft should fix this!

  9. magno alberto
    January 28, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    It is amazing how Microsoft can spoil something that worked fairly well. After upgrading to Windows 8.1, Skydrive can not keep files synchronized, every time I have to keep comparing the directories to find a file that was not synchronized. It really is very frustrating! Please do not upgrade to Windows 8.1!!!

  10. Ben
    January 17, 2014 at 7:37 am

    Literally the only reason I used SkyDrive was for PC Fetching. Sometimes there was that one thing that I didn't have/forgot to put in my DropBox, and PC Fetching would save the day. Looks like I'm back to using DropBox exclusively now.

  11. Roberto Rodrigues
    December 27, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Skydrive in windws 8.1 can't update my files.
    It's always giving errors.
    I'm on the look of a third party tool to do my syncs.

  12. Bob Williams
    December 23, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    Upgraded to 8.1 and now Skydrive is a total waste of time. Will be turning it off and finding a different Cloud server. Even the Microsoft Forums are coming up with no answers. Well done Microsoft

  13. Anonymous
    December 21, 2013 at 4:40 am

    Under windows 8.1 skydrive just doesn't work

  14. thi
    December 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    MS did mistake joining user account with skydrive. Now, i must logging with password to own system. This is a bad idea.

  15. Chris Gould
    November 27, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Skydrive was great - now I am back to using a portable hard drive!
    Microsoft are hurtling to their inevitable doom at an alarming speed!

  16. Darren
    November 22, 2013 at 3:43 am

    I have a question please ... when you drag or paste a folder into the skydrive app folder on your desktop, is there any way to tell when that folder is fully uploaded to the cloud.

    There used to be a little cloud icon in the notifications tray in my taskbar on the desk top, and that would flash or do something to let you know an upload was in progress, but since upgrading to 8.1 that seems to have dissappeared

  17. D. Crouthamel
    November 19, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    I've recently upgraded to 8.1 and have an office 365 subscription that updates the size of my could storage. I would like to add D:WorkClient A, D:WorkClient B; etc to Sky Drive. I don't necessarily want to move the location of the files. What's the easiest way to add D:Work to skydrive?

    Additionally, is the service smart enough to let you work on the file locally, and then sync it to the cloud? I have massive documents, specifically spreadsheets, and I don't want it to try to download from the cloud all the time. I'm thinking the option make available offline should do.

  18. Martin
    November 19, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Does anybody know how to check if a file which has been stored offline e.g. in c:UsersMartinSkyDriveXYZ is already uploaded successfully to the SkyDrive server or still pending.
    In Windows 8.0 that was visible beside each file or folder but this feature disappeared completely.
    Not even file attributes show this info.
    Thanks
    Martin

  19. Mr. Dwayne Harris
    November 12, 2013 at 1:34 am

    New OS? Sure, let's integrate all the crap we have...

    Seriously, MS should work on consoles, phones, Office and don't fuck with Bing(garbage), Games for Windows Live(I know it's going to end soon, but was and still is trash) and Skydrive...Why not leave the old skydrive unotouched? I use Dropbox,Google Drive AND Skydrive at the same time(I sync a lot of different data that I like to keep separated)...

    MS looks like those kids that get phones and start adding tons of useless apps

  20. AMR1
    November 11, 2013 at 4:46 am

    Microsoft MUST allow Local Account users to have access to SkyDrive again. This was a horrible mistake cutting off access to multitudes who CANNOT USE A MS ACCOUNT as their primary login. If they don't return SkyDrive access soon, they will lose many customers to operating systems that are more responsive to user needs. The former way of allowing access via the desktop app is infinitely better, and did not prevent anybody from accessing the SkyDrive files. There was absolutely no reason to destroy our access; FIX IT NOW or let us go back to Win 8.0!

    • Joan
      February 4, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      Even if you use a MS account Skydrive isn't working the way it used to. I'm using Dropbox now - and I loved the old Skydrive.

  21. Josef
    November 10, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Why you ruined to me flawlessly working application in 8.1? 'Everywhere I am reading how MS engineers were making things better, the result is however different. Stupid ideas about smart files.

  22. Derek Dongray
    November 5, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    Microsoft seems to have completely broken SkyDrive. I used to use the Fetch feature a lot - now it's gone. Also I used to keep my SkyDrive folder sync'ed and shared in the same location on a dual boot Win 7/8 PC with no trouble. Now 8.1 can't even seem to find most of the files on my SkyDrive. I am seriously thinking of reverting to Windows 7 for most of my work!

    • KenGulick
      December 19, 2013 at 4:27 pm

      In the same boat here. Microsoft should add the Fetch feature back and quickly. I know of a lot of people that use this function (or did). I would like to know why they did this

  23. Craig
    November 5, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    This is an outbreak of stupid on MS part. There are so many reasons why one might need local accounts... admin vs. regular user for instance... using the same machine for business vs personal uses... clearly MS wants to "lock" me into their system and sell me stuff and force me to go through them... but this will only drive people to google, box... already my employer has dumped Outlook/Exchange in favor of Gmail (which I hate). MS has a lot of resources left but they are making decisions as if they were Comcast and even MS (even General Motors!) can wind up going down the tube. I want to use Skydrive--MY WAY. For MY purposes. I don't want to save EVERYTHING there! I want to use it as one of my tools. We are reaching the point where in five years there will be no NEED to use Windows, the only thing left in Office that is absolutely incomparable is Excel-- eventually people will decide whether to use good old MS based on preference and utility, if MS isn't able to offer this at a level people want they will truly be history. And it will be a shame, because they are a great company with incredible talent and resources. But they are trying to hold onto the past... This

    • Rick A
      November 13, 2013 at 1:38 am

      Time to sell your M$ stock-- what a pig this 8.1 is! What's more you can't even go back.

  24. Whatlogin
    October 30, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    All cool, but so far I see MS is as much into MS Accounts, as Google to Google+. Hell no. I am gonna loose SkyDrive and keep only backups there via Web. I did not asked for any MS Account and I don't want to. Shame as I had good old 25G.

    I don't want to put 130bit password any time I go for a coffee break (Win+L), nor simplier password to MS services nor no password to my windows (again coffee break :)).

    • Whatlogin
      October 31, 2013 at 12:16 pm

      I found some solution to my case - PIN. I am going to test it.

  25. Ben
    October 29, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    I hate that I'm forced to sync my PC account with microsoft account to use skydrive in W8.1. My home PC is shared by my whole family and I don't want to give them ALL my personal account access including authentication and my account password but still want to access easily my skydrive files on this PC without the browser trick (like on my work's PC running W7 and my windows phone running WP8...). I hope MS decouples this in W8.2 very soon. I didn't buy a Windows OS to end-up with a locked chromebook.

    • Gary Giles
      November 21, 2013 at 4:51 pm

      MS haven't broken Skydrive, they have completely nuked it. Since 8.1 it has been an absolute disaster for me, DropBox here I come, goodbye SkyDrive.

  26. Mike
    October 28, 2013 at 1:20 am

    Microsoft have really screwed SkyDrive up with the latest 8.1 update. Since updating, my files seem to decide for themselves if they will sync or not, even with "Available offline" checked. The old app was flawless, this new "service" is quite frankly too unpredictable to be worth relying on!

    • Larry
      November 1, 2013 at 6:31 am

      Totally agree. At this point I'm just going to write my own app and sync with my FTP. This is truly a downgrade. It's like MS fixes one thing then breaks another.

    • Anonymous
      December 21, 2013 at 4:43 am

      I agree, ever since I upgraded to 8.1 sync has mind of its own - some files sync other not

    • Wik
      February 14, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      Indeed!!!..
      For me it WAS a great service, using my email and sync and share things with others. But windows 8.1 screwed it completely!!
      Even when I select ‘available offline’ it does something, but whenever I open something it first downloads it and than opens it….
      I am just looking for another service, maybe dropbox etc…done with skydrive.

  27. Tam
    October 26, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    I use SkyDrive for college. Syncs across all my Microsoft devices.

  28. Joel L
    October 26, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    I used to use SkyDrive but now I can't remember why I stopped. I think it may have had something to do with syncing collisions between my desktop and netbook when both were running. I've since moved to SugarSync, and now back to Dropbox, but I'm tempted to try SkyDrive again.

    Hmm...

  29. likefunbutnot
    October 26, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    SkyDrive doesn't have an Android version. Even as a surface pro owner, that's far too great of a limitation for me to take out seriously. it's neat to sign on to a Windows 8 or Server 2012 machine and see all my wallpapers but the only files I keep in SkyDrive are the ones that let me set up the rest of my user environment properly, which means access to Google Drive and Owncloud.

    The best thing Microsoft could do is set up a unified cloud data sync app that want specifically tied to any one service,, or posted a plug in system to select an alternative.

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