Microsoft Skydrive Gets Big Update – 25GB Of Cloud Storage

James Bruce 05-02-2012

Microsoft SkyDrive has been around for a while, but was recently given a fairly significant update. We took some time to talk to Microsoft about the new features and play with it all, so here’s a breakdown of what you can expect.


You’ll need a Windows Live account to start making full use of SkyDrive. For those too lazy to read – there’s 25gb of storage, web-based versions of popular Office apps, collaborative editing, and an iPhone app you should probably avoid for now.

Web-Based Office Apps

In SkyDrive, you now have access to cut-down versions of popular Office apps, to both create and edit documents without the need for a full offline Office suite (though you can at any point open your SkyDrive files in regular Office apps, then seamlessly save back again). Personally, I’m not a fan of Google Docs, so if your documents are predominantly MS formats and you’d like to move into the cloud without the hassle of importing and exporting etc, this is a great solution – and free.

cloud storage

The web-based versions work across OS, taking advantages of new HTML5 standards rather than Silverlight, so that’s something to keep in mind if someone mails a Word document to your shiny iMac when you don’t have Office for Mac.

free cloud storage


Collaborative Editing

You’ll be pleased to know that the cloud versions of Office now support collaborative editing, or at least a hybrid form of it. First up – this feature isn’t as advanced as say Google Docs, where you can see collaborators typing in real time and changes are done at a character level. Instead, SkyDrive takes the approach of locking certain parts of the document – a paragraph will be marked as being edited for instance. Once changes are available to view, you need to manually click the update changes button.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a huge step forward in a world where Office documents are still the norm in many companies – and changes at the paragraph level are more than sufficient for most of us. It’s a shame it doesn’t work asynchronously though as manually refreshing things is quite tedious.

Public Share Links and Edit Privileges

Along with collaborative editing comes an easy way to share your files and folders. Three levels of links are available – public, can edit, and view only. You can either share this straight out to your Facebook and Linked In status, or get a regular URL to share in Twitter etc.

free cloud storage


Although links can be freely shared and anyone given the link can view the documents, users wishing to edit the document will still need to either have or create a Windows Live ID (and the link will need to have been set with edit privileges enabled).

On the downside, the share links are ridiculously lengthy. I can’t help thinking that some kind of automated link shortening service would have been really easy to add. As it is, a simple view-only link to a photo comes out like this link: view-only link

25GB Totally Free Storage

Even if you don’t need collaborative features, SkyDrive’s free 25gb is a generous cloud storage locker. It doesn’t sync with your files, so you can offload files totally to the cloud if you want, or just use it for backup. The interface is very Explorer-like so Windows users will feel right at home, but it also works just fine on a Mac. We had a few issues during testing with Chrome though, so stick to Firefox or Safari (or Explorer if you insist).

iPhone App

Unlike Apple’s iCloud service, Microsoft has made a big effort to make the SkyDrive available on other devices. Unfortunately, the SkyDrive app for iPhone is decidedly under-developed – the user interface is confusing at best; files must be uploaded one by one as there’s no mass-upload feature; a manual refresh is often needed to keep it in sync with the web-based version; and worst of all – if you take a photo directly within the app, and it fails to upload (as it often did in my testing), the photo is lost forever – it doesn’t get saved to your Camera Roll as you would expect. I’m afraid I really can’t recommend the iPhone side of SkyDrive until a good update is released. If you must, take the photos with the Camera app first, then do the Choose Existing dialog to upload it.


If you have ventured to try the app out, and can’t for the life of you figure out how to delete a photo from the SkyDrive iPhone app – you need to click the “share” button in the top right and change the thumbnail view to a “Details view“, then you can swipe left to right to reveal Delete on the item.

cloud storage

Though I didn’t get a chance to play with SkyDrive integration on Windows Phone 7, I think it’s safe to assume it’s a more fulfilling experience than the iPhone app; and I think we can also say that SkyDrive is likely to be strongly integrated into the upcoming Windows 8.

SkyDrive is obviously Microsoft’s answer to iCloud and Google Docs, and while iCloud is still the stronger platform in my opinion, it’s limited to Apple devices. SkyDrive is cross-platform for the most part, and has made a valiant attempt to integrate with iPhones too – hopefully an update will tackle the problems I’ve outlined.


For Windows users and Windows Phone 7 owners – SkyDrive is a clear winner. Even if you’re not a big fan of Microsoft stuff, you can’t argue with 25GB free space. The collaborative editing feature may not be as intricate as Google Docs, but it’s a welcome feature none the less and more than sufficient for most users.

Have you had a chance to play with the new SkyDrive yet? What do you think? How do you compare it to Google Docs, or iCloud?

**Editor’s note, 14th February 2012 : some details in this article have been edited after further information was received from Microsoft**

Related topics: Cloud Computing, Cloud Storage, Microsoft, Microsoft SkyDrive.

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  1. Oscar Rainford
    June 8, 2012 at 11:03 am

    I dont really like skydrive, I prefer dropbox alot, looks cool though, I like that its HTML5

  2. nancy
    March 30, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    How long can you keep files stored on Skydrive? Is it indefinetly until they start charging or for two weeks, like


    • muotechguy
      March 31, 2012 at 8:28 am

      I dont believe there is a time limit, no.

  3. Sam01
    February 8, 2012 at 11:41 am

    my problem is when i upload a 5mb jpg file when i download it to another computer it goes down to 830kb so loses file size and quality, anyone know a solution? if not ill stick to dropbox 

  4. Anonymous
    February 7, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    I'm really confused. Skydrive has had 25 GBs of storage for like...years. Like, 2008 or maybe even earlier than that.

    Skydrive did do a series of updates, but those were last year. Mostly occurring in June and then more in November when they pushed out dedicated apps to iOS, android, and wp7.

    • James Bruce
      February 8, 2012 at 8:49 am

      How about web app version of office integrated with it?

      • Anonymous
        February 8, 2012 at 1:35 pm

         I'm pretty sure that's been the case since day 1 of web app office being available. What's the point of being able to create/edit documents online if you can't save them?

        I don't have the exact date, but I think web apps has been available for almost two years.

  5. DexterP17
    February 7, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Haha take that Google Docs. But I use Ubuntu and have an Ubuntu One account and I'm happy with it.

  6. PC Hiccups
    February 6, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Do you know - this is really old news. 

    • James Bruce
      February 7, 2012 at 8:24 am

      Well I'm sorry, Microsoft only just told me about it. 

      • Anonymous
        February 7, 2012 at 9:21 pm

         Not to be mean...but isn't your job to get the news, not wait for companies to tell you their news?

        • James Bruce
          February 8, 2012 at 8:49 am

          I felt this was a service some of our readers would appreciate knowing about, or being reminded of, and evidently so did Microsoft. 

        • Anonymous
          February 8, 2012 at 1:49 pm

           Right, I can understand that. But you're presenting the entire article as something that's brand new when in fact most of these features are years old.

          Nothing wrong with telling people what a great service skydrive is, but maybe make the title a lot less misleading.

  7. Bill
    February 6, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    I see no way to do any editing without Skydrive forcing the editor to log in. The recipient can view the doc, but attempts to edit require login. Even an attempt to open the document in Word requires a login. And I cannot believe how slow it is!

    • James Bruce
      February 7, 2012 at 8:28 am

      Following up with the product team now. 

      • James Bruce
        February 7, 2012 at 9:36 am

        Apologies, looks like someone made a mistake during the briefing. I'll edit the post now to reflect that. 

  8. digideth
    February 6, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Skydrive is pretty useless for anything except documents and small pictures.

    I won't use it until they remove the stupid 50mb upload limit.

  9. Mutant Master
    February 6, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Here's my question. Megaupload was taken down for Criminal Copyright INfringement and Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Copyright Infrigement and they were also used for legal purposes that people used to store their personal files and pictures. How long before the government decides to take down the free Cloud storage companies? And no, Microsoft is not so big that they can't be taken down.

    • James Bruce
      February 7, 2012 at 8:23 am

      The difference being that Microsoft and Dropbox and whoever else we care to mention aren't paying the best pirate content uploaders - that's what's meant by "conspiracy to commit copyright infringement". 

  10. Aaron Couch
    February 6, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Still the biggest clincher for me is that there is no simple integration with Windows Live Mesh and Skydrive. YES YES... I know you can use 5gb to sync to Skydrive, but I'm referring to INTEGRATION, NOT synchronization. There's no easy way to edit docs synced from WLM to Skydrive in Office Web Apps.

    It's like they are so CLOSE, but yet just haven't made the final decision to completely give the best backup/sync service online. What's stopping them?! And it hands down, WOULD be the best if they just did that.

  11. Greg
    February 6, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Oh Windows Live SkyDrive is one of the best cloud storages out there, I don't think there's any other online storage provider that offers 25GB of free storage space to upload any type of digital files. That's pretty impressive.

  12. Dr Evan Mitchell Stark PhD
    February 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Skydrive always had 25G storage.  When you upload from, say, Word to Skydrive, at least with me, I had to wait for Word to open—a  l-o-n-g time‚—and there seems to be some kind of app that mediates the process, which makes the process even longer.

    This said, I liked the online interface more than Google Docs and plan to use it more as I wean myself from The Adobe BuzzWord word processor, which has a slick interface but not much storage.

  13. Chris Hoffman
    February 5, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    Nice to see Microsoft catching up and actually embracing standards. A few years ago, something like this would have required Silverlight and Internet Explorer.

    I'm a big fan of Google Docs. Even if I wasn't, I can't see myself using this -- there's not even an Android app. Given what you said about the iPhone app, I suppose I should be glad it's not available for Android.

    Hopefully Google will compete and offer more free Docs storage!

  14. Trevor Lenten
    February 5, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    Too bad they cap uploads at 100 MBs

  15. MD Runner
    February 5, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    There has been 25 GB of storage since SkyDrive came out.  I have been using it all for three years.

    • James Bruce
      February 6, 2012 at 9:06 am

      Gotcha. Sorry, I thought that was new, but apparently not. 

  16. GuestReader
    February 5, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    I think skydrive always had 25GB ...
    here's integration to explorer

    • James Bruce
      February 6, 2012 at 9:06 am

      Wow, thanks! I think everyone will apreciate that utility. Hopefully MS don't break it with future updates..

  17. Lee
    February 5, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    I wish there was a better way to integrate it with Windows Explorer. If there was, I'd use it a LOT more.

    • James Bruce
      February 6, 2012 at 9:07 am

      See link posted above! 

      • AndyB
        February 6, 2012 at 3:38 pm

        Which link above, can you be more specific?  I know there is a third party app out there that has been around for a long time that offers this (it changed it's name at one point) but the full app has a charge (or did last time I looked), and not to sound cheap, but Drop Box does a stellar job of Explorer integration, and for free.  If MSFT offered something comparable for no charge I would change, but until then, looks interesting but still too much of a pain in the posterior to keep going to my web browser or Office doc to get to a file.  Oh, and I noted your suggestion that they will likely integrate to Win8, which I am sure will be super slick, but they really need something today.

        BTW, small world James, I went to Richard Challoner and had friends at Tiffin (boys and girls), but I live in the States now :-)

        • James Bruce
          February 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm

          sorry, here:

          Whoa, how did you know I went to Tiffins?! Should I remember you? You've got a good memory for random names, I guess...

        • Anthony Boone
          February 7, 2012 at 5:30 am

          Presumably that is your resume up towards the top, correct? Heh. I feel smart today.

        • AndyB
          February 7, 2012 at 1:09 pm

           Yup, Anthony got it, it was your CV ;-)

  18. Raphael M
    February 5, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    I think it`s great the skydrive web interface is HTML5. Kudos to microsoft. 

    I'll stick with dropbox, though.