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One of the key aspects in which Windows 8 differs from previous releases is its provision of access to cloud storage, particularly SkyDrive.
In case you weren’t already aware, SkyDrive is the free online storage provided by Microsoft to Windows Live account owners. If you have a Hotmail account, an Xbox Live account, a Windows Live Messenger account or one associated with any other Microsoft service then you can easily signup and use the SkyDrive, which offers 25 GB of personal storage.
While earlier versions of Windows require you to access SkyDrive via your browser or Windows Live Mesh, in Windows 8 you can browse it as readily as you would any local drive.
What Is “The Cloud”?
“The cloud” is the term given to storage provided remotely on a web server, thereby making it accessible and available to the user anywhere an Internet connection can be established.
For instance you might have some documents that you need to work on but want to travel light, perhaps using a tablet computer. Rather than save the documents to the tablet and fuss around with changing file formats, etc., it is simpler to save them in a popular cloud solution (or in the case of Google Docs or Microsoft Office Live, compose in the cloud) and access them from any device you have to hand.
The benefit of cloud storage is that you don’t need to back it up; it is accessible almost permanently and can provide a useful option for restoring lost documents.
Windows Live SkyDrive and Windows 8
In the case of SkyDrive, you might use it for documents, photos, music, video or any other data under 100 MB per file.
If you own a Windows Phone, for instance, you can take photos and have them instantly upload to SkyDrive, ready to be viewed on a computer, tablet or any other suitable Internet-connected device. With Windows 8 this functionality is extended thanks to the use of a Windows Live account as a primary profile option.
While a local profile can be created, using a Windows Live account will increase the functionality, enhancing the possibilities of cloud storage as well as integration with other Microsoft services.
Accessing SkyDrive from Windows 8
So how do you access the SkyDrive in Windows 8?
The first step is to ensure you have a Windows Live account setup on your computer. If you installed Windows 8 and opted for a local account don’t worry – you can configure a new account by clicking or tapping in the lower-right corner of the Start screen, selecting Settings then Users > Add a user.
With the credentials from your Windows Live account added, you will be able to access cloud storage via the SkyDrive tile in the Start menu.
Should the tile be missing, right-click an empty portion of the screen, select All Apps and right-click the SkyDrive option, selecting Pin to Start to finish.
Browsing Documents, Previewing
After tapping or clicking the SkyDrive tile to open, you will be ready to start browsing its contents.
Different file types will be displayed accordingly. For instance a folder full of images will appear with a preview displayed to remind you about what is stored inside. Photos and other data can be opened locally if required, allowing you to fully enjoy the content stored in your cloud.
Similarly, files in a recognized format such as PowerPoint, Excel or any other Microsoft Office application will be displayed with the corresponding icon. These can be opened whether you have Microsoft Office installed or not as the Microsoft Office Live browser-based tool can be opened in the browser, allowing you to read and edit the files.
Download and Save Locally
What if you need to copy data from your SkyDrive to your Windows 8 computer or tablet?
Fortunately this is very easy. Simply browse to the correct directory in your SkyDrive and find the file required. Right-click to select and then proceed to use the Save local button in the lower-right corner.
This will enable you to then save the data to your computer in your preferred directory. You will be able to quickly access this location by selecting the Windows Explorer option (automatically switching you to the Desktop view) and browsing the folder as you would under Windows Vista or 7.
With a Windows Live SkyDrive and a Windows 8 tablet computer or laptop you don’t need to worry about misplacing or losing data as the files you store in the cloud can be easily retrieved, enjoyed and edited.
There is more to cloud storage under Windows 8 than acting as a versatile repository for vital data, however. By visiting Settings > Sync your settings you can save the way Windows 8 looks and feels to your SkyDrive, associating the configuration with your Windows Live account so that it can be applied to any Windows 8 computer that you sign into!
Windows 8 is probably the most flexible version of Microsoft’s operating system yet, and with these great cloud syncing options you can see why.