OneDrive get started on Windows 10Source: Windows Central

OneDrive is the cloud storage service developed by Microsoft that allows you to store all your important files securely in one place and then access them virtually anywhere.

The service works similarly to a traditional hard drive, but it's available through the internet with additional features. For instance, because of its cross-device and cross-platform design, you can create a file on one device and pick up where you left off on your laptop, tablet, or phone without having to save a copy on a USB flash drive or email it to yourself. Also, OneDrive makes it easy to share content with other people and collaborate in real-time using the Microsoft 365 integration.

Windows 10 users get even more benefits. When your computer is connected using a Microsoft account, you're not only able to store files in the cloud, but it makes it possible to sync and roam Windows 10 preferences across your devices, and store BitLocker recovery keys and other data. Files On-Demand is another feature that lets you access files without having to download them, saving a lot of local storage. Also, since the data is in the cloud, it works as a data recovery mechanism if your device breaks or gets stolen.

Best VPN providers 2020: Learn about ExpressVPN, NordVPN & more

In this Windows 10 guide, we'll walk you through the process to create an account, set up the application, perform everyday tasks, and customize OneDrive.

How to create account for OneDrive

If you want to use OneDrive, you'll need a Microsoft account. If you already have a @outlook.com, @hotmail.com, or @live.com email address, or Xbox Live or Skype account, you already have a Microsoft account, and you can use that info to access the cloud storage service.

To create a new OneDrive account, when you don't have a Microsoft account, use these steps:

  1. Open OneDrive website.
  2. Click the Sign up for free button.

    OneDrive sign up optionSource: Windows Central

  3. Click the Get a new email address option.

    Create new Microsoft account for OneDriveSource: Windows Central

    Quick tip: If you have an email from another service, such as Gmail, you can use it to create an account instead of getting a new address.

  4. Create a new email address.

    OneDrive choose new email addressSource: Windows Central

  5. Select the @outlook.com option.
  6. Click the Next button.
  7. Continue with the on-screen directions to complete the process.

Once you complete the steps, you can connect the account to Windows 10 and start using the cloud service.

How to set up OneDrive on Windows 10

Setting up OneDrive on your computer is a straightforward process. Here's how:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search OneDrive and click the top result to open the app.

    Quick tip: If you don't find OneDrive on your computer, download the OneDrive client from Microsoft and double-click the file to install it. Also, if the setup process doesn't appear, right-click the cloud icon from the notification area and select the Sign in button.

  3. Confirm your Microsoft account address.
  4. Click the Sign in button.

    OneDrive sign in optionSource: Windows Central

  5. Confirm your account password.
  6. Click the Sign in button.

    OneDrive confirm passwordSource: Windows Central

  7. (Optional) Click the Change location option if you want to specify a different path for the folder. (Usually, the default location is preferred.)
  8. Click the Next button.

    OneDrive setup default folderSource: Windows Central

  9. (Optional) Clear the Desktop, Documents, and Pictures options.

    OneDrive backup folders optionSource: Windows Central

    Quick note: OneDrive offers the ability to backup your system profile folders. Although it is recommended to use this option, if you're using the free version of the service, you may not have enough space to protect your files in the cloud. If this is the case, it could be good to skip backing up the folders until you get a subscription plan. You can always access the backup settings from the Backup tab in the OneDrive settings.

  10. Click the Skip button (or Continue button).
  11. Click the Not now button.
  12. Click the Next button.
  13. Continue with the on-screen directions for a quick tour or click the Close (X) button.

After you complete the steps, you can start uploading files to OneDrive.

How to upload files to OneDrive

OneDrive integrates with File Explorer to make the process of uploading files straightforward.

To upload files to OneDrive on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Click on OneDrive from the left pane.

    Quick note: If you have multiple accounts configured on your computer, the folders will be named accordingly: "OneDrive - Personal" for your regular account, and "OneDrive - Family" for business accounts.

  3. Snap the OneDrive folder to the left side (while the window is in focus use the Windows key + left arrow).
  4. Open the folder with the content you want to upload.
  5. Snap the folder with the local files to the right side (while the window is in focus, use the Windows key + right arrow).
  6. Drag and drop each file and folder you want to upload to the OneDrive folder (left).

    OneDrive upload files manuallySource: Windows Central

After placing the new files and folders in the OneDrive folder, the client will automatically sync them to the account in the background.

In the future, instead of continually making transfers manually, remember that within the application, you can always save the files you're working on directly to the OneDrive folder.

If you have a lot of files, the 5GB of storage with the free version may not be enough. If you need more space, we recommend opting into one of the Microsoft 365 plans as it includes 1TB of OneDrive storage and additional perks. Examples include Office apps, Microsoft Family Safety, Microsoft Teams (consumer), and other features like Microsoft Editor, PowerPoint Presenter Coach, and Money in Excel for a low-cost of ownership.

Furthermore, with the subscription, you can also purchase an addition 1TB of storage for a total of 2TB.

Get subscribed

Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 (Office 365) gives you full access to all the apps and perks, such as 1TB OneDrive storage and Skype minutes. You can also install Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and other apps on up to five devices, and depending on the subscription, you can share the account with up to six people.

How to choose folders available locally in OneDrive

If you have a lot of folders stored in the cloud, you can design which ones are available through the app locally from File Explorer.

To choose the OneDrive folders available through File Explorer, use these steps:

  1. Click the OneDrive (cloud) button from the notification area.
  2. Click the Help & Settings menu.
  3. Select the Settings option.

    OneDrive menu with Settings optionSource: Windows Central

  4. Click the Account tab.
  5. Click the Choose folders button.

    OneDrive choose folders buttonSource: Windows Central

  6. Clear the folder that you don't want to see in File Explorer.

    Onedrive folder visibility in File ExplorerSource: Windows Central

  7. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, only the folders you selected will be available as files on-demand.

If you're backing up the Desktop, Documents, and Pictures folders, you won't be able to clear those options. If this is the case, you'll need to stop the OneDrive backup for those folders first before removing them.

How to determine sync status badges in OneDrive

OneDrive uses at least ten different badges to inform you about the app's status and file syncing.

OneDrive icon status

  • Solid white cloud icon — OneDrive is running without problems, and sync is up-to-date.

    OneDrive white cloud iconSource: Windows Central

  • Solid blue cloud icon — Indicates an "OneDrive for Business" account is configured. The sync is up-to-date, and there are no problems.

    OneDrive for Business iconSource: Windows Central

  • Solid gray cloud icon — OneDrive is running but is not connected to any account, or account is signed out.

    OneDrive signed out iconSource: Windows Central

  • Cloud icon with arrows forming a circle — OneDrive is actively downloading or uploading files to the cloud.

    OneDrive syncing iconSource: Windows Central

  • Solid red with white X icon — OneDrive is running, but there are sync problems.

    OneDrive sync problem iconSource: Windows Central

Files and folders statuses

  • White cloud with blue borders icon — Indicates the file is only available with an internet connection, and it's not using space on the hard drive. You'll need to double-click the file to finish the download and open it with an app.
  • White icon with green borders and checkmark icon — File is available offline, you can open them without an internet connection, and they're taking up local storage space on the hard drive.
  • Solid green with white checkmark icon — Indicates that you're using the "Always keep on this device" option to ensure important files are available offline.
  • Solid red with white X icon — It's an alert when there's a problem trying to sync a particular folder or file.
  • Cloud icon with arrows forming a circle — Indicates a file is currently syncing.

    OneDrive Files On-Demand statusSource: Windows Central

How to use Files On-Demand with OneDrive

OneDrive Files On-Demand is a feature that allows you to access your entire collection of files stored in the cloud using File Explorer without having to download them to your computer.

In other words, Files On-Demand will only download small pieces of information to make the content visible, allowing you to quickly sync hundreds of gigabytes without using space on your computer. However, you'll need an internet connection to open files that you don't explicitly make available offline, or you didn't already open.

OneDrive comes with the Files On-Demand enabled by default, but if it's not, you can enable it with these steps:

  1. Click the OneDrive (cloud) button from the notification area.
  2. Click the Help & Settings menu.
  3. Select the Settings option.

    OneDrive menu with Settings optionSource: Windows Central

  4. Click the Settings tab.
  5. Under the "Files On-Demand" section, check the Save space and download files as you use them option.

    Onedrive enable Files On-DemandSource: Windows Central

  6. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, OneDrive Files On-Demand will be enabled on the device.

Manage Files On-Demand

After enabling the feature, you can manage your files in different ways. Here's how:

  1. Open OneDrive folder.
  2. Right-click the file or folder and choose one of the options:

    • Select the Free up space option to make a file only available with an internet connection while saving hard drive space.
    • Select the Always keep on this device option to ensure the content is always available offline, but it'll use hard drive space.

    Onedrive offline optionSource: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, you'll understand how to clean up some space on your device and make essential files always available even without an internet connection.

How to share files with OneDrive

On Windows 10, you can also use OneDrive to quickly share files with family, friends, or colleagues.

Instead of making a copy of the file using a USB flash drive or sending emails to other people, OneDrive allows you to share virtually any files. This is possible by creating a secure link that others can use to access the content, which you can also revoke at any time.

  1. Open OneDrive folder.
  2. Browse to the folder with files.
  3. Right-click the file and select the Share option.

    Onedrive share files on Windows 10Source: Windows Central

  4. (Optional) Click the Anyone with the link can edit option.
  5. Clear the Allow editing option if you only want someone else to view the file.

    OneDrive sharing options on Windows 10Source: Windows Central

    Quick tip: If you have a Microsoft 365 subscription or OneDrive plan, you can also set the expiration date and password for the link.

  6. Click the Apply button.
  7. Specify the email address if you'll be sending the link to another person. Or click the Copy Link option to copy the link to the clipboard.

    OneDrive share linkSource: Windows Central

  8. Click the Send button.

After you complete the steps, the recipient will receive the link to access the shared files.

Stop sharing file in OneDrive

To stop sharing a file, use these steps:

  1. Open OneDrive folder.
  2. Browse to the folder with files.
  3. Right-click the shared file and select the Share option.

    Onedrive share files on Windows 10Source: Windows Central

  4. Click the three-dotted button in the top-right corner.
  5. Select the Manage Access option.

    OneDrive manage access optionSource: Windows Central

  6. Click the Remove link (X) button.

    OneDrive stop file sharingSource: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, the files will no longer be accessible by other people.

How to set up Personal Vault with OneDrive

OneDrive's Personal Vault is a feature to provide a protected area within the cloud storage to store sensitive files (such as confidential documents, personal records, pictures, etc.) using more robust security with two-factor authentication like fingerprint, face recognition, PIN, as well as email or phone code, in addition to the typical sign-in process to access OneDrive.

To set up Personal Vault, use these steps:

  1. Click the OneDrive (cloud) button from the notification area.
  2. Click the Help & Settings menu.
  3. Click the Unlock Personal Vault menu.

    OneDrive unlock personal vaultSource: Windows Central

    Quick note: You may also see a Get started button when opening the OneDrive app, which can also help you set up the feature.

  4. Click the Next button.

    Personal Vault SetupSource: Windows Central

  5. Click the Allow button.

    OneDrive personal vault allow optionSource: Windows Central

  6. Continue with the on-screen directions to verify your account.

After you complete the steps, you can start syncing files to the secure area of OneDrive. If you have more devices, you'll need to repeat the steps anywhere you want to access the files. Although the Personal Vault is available for free, you will need an Microsoft 265 subscription to store more than three files. (You can always get around this limiation using this workaround.)

The feature should be already available with the sync client, but if it's not, then you'll need to check and enable Personal Vault on your OneDrive account.

If you want to reaccess your files, you can open Personal Vault by double-clicking the icon inside the OneDrive folder and following the on-screen directions. The folder will eventually close automatically, but you can lock it by right-clicking the icon and selecting the Lock Personal Vault option. (You can learn more about using this security feature with this guide.)

How to check storage usage in OneDrive

The free version of OneDrive only allows you to upload up to 5GB of space. If you need more space, you can always upgrade your account to 100GB by opting into a $1.99 per-month subscription.

Alternatively, if you need even more storage, you can purchase a Microsoft 365 Personal subscription, which includes 1TB of OneDrive storage and access the suite of Office applications and many other perks.

To confirm your current storage usage, use these steps:

  1. Click the OneDrive (cloud) button from the notification area.
  2. Click the Help & Settings menu.
  3. Click on Settings.
  4. Click the Account tab.

    OneDrive menu with Settings optionSource: Windows Central

  5. Under the OneDrive section, confirm the storage usage.

    Onedrive Storage UsageSource: Windows Central

If you're running low on space, click the Get more storage link to open OneDrive on the web to select the subscription plan that best fits your scenario.

More Windows 10 resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10, visit the following resources:

We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.