Microsoft’s new SkyDrive is a great entry in the cloud storage wars — it competes toe-to-toe with Dropbox, Google Drive, and the rest. However, it has some limitations – like many cloud storage services, SkyDrive doesn’t allow you to synchronize any folder on your computer, only folders inside a special SkyDrive folder. It also doesn’t run on Windows XP, leaving a lot of users out in the cold. We’ll show you how to overcome these limitations and use SkyDrive the way you want to.
The tricks here aren’t officially supported, so they may stop working in the future. However, we tested them ourselves and they work well today.
Sync Any Folder to SkyDrive
Perhaps the easiest way to synchronize any folder with SkyDrive is with the third-party SkyShellEx utility. It adds a special right-click option to folders that allows you to quickly synchronize that folder with SkyDrive. Download the x64 version if you’re using a 64-bit version of Windows or the x86 version if you’re using a 32-bit version of Windows. (See our post here for instructions on determining which version of Windows you’re using.)
After installing SkyShellEx, right-click any folder and select Sync to SkyDrive. A special link to that folder will appear in your SkyDrive folder and SkyDrive will begin to sync it. To stop syncing the folder, right-click the special link folder inside your SkyDrive folder and click Stop Sync to SkyDrive.
You don’t need a third-party utility, though. You can do the dirty work yourself with a single command from the Windows Command Prompt. The SkyShellEx utility creates a “directory junction” on the Windows NTFS file system – the junction points to a directory elsewhere on the system. From SkyDrive’s point of view, the directory itself appears in the SkyDrive directory, so SkyDrive syncs it normally.
For example, to sync the folder located at D:\Folder with SkyDrive, you’d run the following command in a Command Prompt window:
mklink /J “C:\Users\USERNAME\SkyDrive\Folder” “D:\Folder”
Remember to replace USERNAME in the command above with your Windows username.
Set up directory junctions on all your computers and SkyDrive will sync files between those folders – for example, if you have some files in C:\YourDocuments, it will keep the files in sync between the C:\YourDocuments directories on each of your computers. If you don’t set up directory junctions on each computer, you’ll still find your files available in the SkyDrive folder – a good backup solution.
Use SkyDrive on Windows XP
Microsoft won’t allow you to install the official SkyDrive application on Windows XP, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use SkyDrive anyway. We recommend using SDExplorer, a third-party program. The free version doesn’t have all the additional features offered in the paid version, known as SDExplorer Advanced, but it should still serve you fine. After you install SDExplorer, double-click its icon in the My Computer window – SDExplorer exposes your SkyDrive as an actual drive on your system.
After you double-click it, you’ll be prompted to log in with your Windows Live ID (soon to be known as a “Microsoft account”). After you do, you’ll see the contents of your SkyDrive in SDExplorer.
If you’d prefer an officially supported solution, you may want to try one of SkyDrive’s competitors – both Dropbox and Google Drive work on Windows XP, as do many other cloud storage solutions. Microsoft is uniquely invested in pushing you to upgrade from Windows XP.
Do you know any other tips and tricks for SkyDrive? Leave a comment and share them!