Skip to main content

How to sync your Windows 10 Desktop, Documents, and more to OneDrive

Every account on Windows 10 comes with a default set of folders — you know them: Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, and Videos — to organize your files. In addition, the operating system includes a OneDrive folder to store your synced files locally, which are always kept up to date automatically.

But what if we could merge the two, so your Desktop is still your Desktop, but it's constantly synced to the OneDrive cloud instead of manually backed up? Thankfully you can do just that, and it's easier than you might expect.

In this Windows 10 guide, we'll walk you through the easy steps to move the default user folders in your profile to OneDrive to keep all your files protected and backed up in the cloud.

How to move default user folders to OneDrive

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Navigate the following path:C:\Users\<AccountNane>Quick Tip: Alternatively, you can always use the Windows key + R to open the Run command, type %HOMEPATH%, and click OK to open the current home folder location.
  3. Open the OneDrive folder.
  4. Create a folder with a descriptive name (e.g., MyFiles) to group your folders you're about to move.
  5. Inside the newly created folder, create a folder for each location you want to move to OneDrive. For example, if you're moving the Documents folder, then create a new Documents folder inside of OneDrive.

  1. Go back to your account name the folder where all the default folders are currently located.
  2. Right-click Documents and select Properties.

  1. Click the Location tab.
  2. Click the Move button.

  1. Browse the OneDrive folder and open the newly created Documents folder.
  2. Click the Select Folder button, and you'll notice that the default location path has now changed.

  1. Click Apply.
  2. You'll be prompted to move any content from the old to the new location. Click Yes to continue.

  1. Click OK to complete the task.

It's that simple. You can now repeat the same steps mentioned above to move remaining folders, including Desktop, Downloads, Music, Pictures, and Videos to the new location.

If you download a lot of stuff from the internet, you probably may want to consider to skip moving the Downloads folder, as usually, they're not very important, and most of the time you can download them again.

You can always revert the process if you change your mind using the following steps:

  1. Open OneDrive.
  2. Navigate to the folders you want to restore their old location.
  3. Right-click the folder and select Properties.
  4. Click the Location tab.
  5. Click the Restore Default button.
  6. Click Apply.
  7. You'll be prompted to recreate the original folder in the old location. Click Yes to continue.

  1. Click Yes to confirm that you want to move the folder and its content from the old to the new location.

  1. Click OK to complete the task.
  2. Repeat the steps for each folder you want to move back to its original location.

Wrapping things up

There are a number of advantages using this solution. You will not only be able to keep all your files in the default folders seamlessly backed up in the cloud, but if you have the same configuration on other computers your files will be organized and synced across devices too, and accessible from any web browser through <OneDrive.com>.

Additionally, this will help you to prevent file duplication (which sometimes can be a nightmare) and apps that use the default save storage locations will now save directly to OneDrive without extra steps on your part.

While anyone with a free OneDrive account can follow these steps, the free 5GB will get eaten up quickly — so those with an Office 365 subscription or paid OneDrive storage plan will be best able to take advantage.

Do you think Microsoft should include an option in the Settings app to automate this process on Windows 10? Tell us in the comments!

More Windows 10 resources

For more help articles, coverage, and answers on Windows 10, you can visit the following resources:

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

35 Comments
  • Thanks for the tip! I'm going to try this for some of my folders.
  • Had this already, really useful feature.
  • Yeah I had orgasmed just looking at this article. Most power users already know this kind of thing :D
  • You need a woman.
  • It's about time this article comes about. I'm so glad other people will know this trick now!
  • Useful if you only have one desktop. What if you have two and you want each other to sync. No LAN Sync feature :( 
  • Then you name the folders differently.
    Its not that hard.
    OneDrive folder will download all folders from both
  • Whaaaat? So easy to have my desktop folder synced between devices? How could I not know this. I really don't care about anything else, I only have files back up physically, in the cloud, or on the desktop.
    What happens when you use the same desktop folder on several pcs? What happens to the positioning of the files in the desktop?
  • Suggestion for even better use - if you work on a number of different machines (I have a 17" laptop, 13" laptop, surface pro tablet, plus my workstation class developer machine at work), I suggest creating a different Documents folder for each machine. I tend to do different things on different machines, and so only synchronize the documents folder for that machine. This is especially useful if you have LOTS of stuff in your documents folder, and have some machines that have limited storage (like 64gb or 128gb).
  • This guide only works for people who use 1 computer and 1 phone.
  • Or, if you want to go in the opposite direction with multiple computers, so they are always sync'd and without having to wait to for transfers over a relatively slow Internet connection, do like the article says for one of the computers, then set the folder to shared, then just connect to the shared folder over the network, right-click, and select "Always available offline". One computer will sync with OneDrive, the rest will sync with the first at LAN speed.
  • ya but how do we get theme color to sync across desktop and mobile. THAT is the real question!
  • This is really only useful for people with PCs that have large capacity hard drives. If you have doc, music, and pictures folders with gigs already in onedrive... You don't want to do this on a 128 GB surface pro. I've made a single SYNC folder that I have on all my devices to keep the actual files synced locally. It works the best for any of your hardware with low SSD space. I then use the onedrive apps to move files from sync to the other folders. SYNC is basically an "active work folder" I do the same thing with my camera roll. Sync it to everything but every couple days or once a week I move the pics out to other proper folders or delete the crappy ones. it allows me to have the most recent pics and not chew up limited device space. When MS releases the next update to windows next spring, placeholders are supposedly making it back and ill have to re-evaluate this method. Have to wait and see how it works out.
  • While you *can* do this, a simpler and cleaner solution for most users is to enable the option to save Documents and Pictures to OneDrive by default in Settings. This adds these folders to the user's Windows Library paths and makes them the default location for new files. Using Libraries, users can do the same for any other folder in OneDrive, such as Music. One benefit of adding synced OneDrive folders to Library paths rather than syncing local profile folders to OneDrive is that some legacy Windows software writes machine specific configuration data to your local profile folders (ignoring Library pathing), and this can interfere with the same software used on other machines. Beyond that, it's just a more modern way to accomplish this goal.
  • I Loved the way Windows 8.1 was able to sync my desktop and installed apps. I hope they add this in windows 10
  • I've been doing this since Windows 8.  Except the Desktop.  I keep NOTHING on the desktop.  I keep nothing on the Task Bar.  What I WANT sync'd is my Start Menu.  I love that Windows 8 syncs my Start Screen.  W10 doesn't do that, and it's stupid not to.  It only syncs the color and background.  Idiotic Microsoft.
  • Yeah. I miss the start screen and app sync. At least give is the setting options to turn it on or off... And perhaps whic devices.
  • I'm glad this article was published, but one issue I've had, and have not been able to resolve, is duplicate Documents, Pictures, Music, etc. folders being created on the devices. I'll see an empty Documents folder, plus a documents folder in OneDrive - it's kind of annoying. Anyone seen this and have a solution?
  • Great tip. MS should have added a right click context menu to simply "backup to OneDrive" or "include in OneDrive".
  • My solution to divide local data and OneDrive data, personal and public data and to make everything visible to all apps.
    1. Add a new disc or create a new partition using the control panel disk management tool e.g. (data) D:.
    2. Go to settings/storage/positions, change the locations to the new disc/partition.
    Windows 10 will create relevant folders (e.g. documents...) under D:\"your account"\ and give them proper access rights (only you and "administrators" accounts).
    3. Go to the OneDrive desktop plugin settings and disconnect your account.
    4. Go to File Explorer, copy the OneDrive folder (and sub folders e.g. documents...) content under D:\"your account"\.
    Windows 10 will give the same access rights (only you and "administrators" accounts) to the newly created OneDrive folder and sub folders.
    5. Go to the OneDrive desktop plugin settings and connect again your account, picking the newly created folder as the new OneDrive folder.
    6. (optional) if the PC has multiple accounts go to File Explored and create new D:\Public\(sub folders e.g. documents...) folders.
    Windows 10 will give them access rights to all PC accounts.
    7. Go to File Explorer, under all "Collections"(I do not know the exact name in English)\properties add ( e.g. for documents) both D:\"your account"\documents\ and D:\"your account"\OneDrive\documents\ paths for all collections.
    8. (optional) if the PC has multiple accounts add D:\Public\(sub folders e.g. documents...) path for all collections.
    9. Select D:\"your account"\documents\ or D:\"your account"\OneDrive\documents\ as saving folder.
    10. Go to File Explorer, under "This PC" you can find the old "XP style" personal folders, properties/location, move to D:\"your account"\documents\ or to D:\"your account"\OneDrive\documents\ (as per step 9).
    Now everything is partitioned, divided between local and cloud data and between personal and public data and it is also visible to both legacy win32 apps and Store apps.
    I really do not understand why MS does not automate the above process in the Windows 10 installer...
  • @Carlo Giuseppe Cason When you say
    "3. Go to the OneDrive desktop plugin settings and disconnect your account."
    I am not sure how to go about this. Can you expand a little?
  • What if I want to backup everything on the Desktop, no specific folder ?
  • I just listened to Dan and Zac's weekly podcast (great job guys, Dan, still waiting to hear on WordFlow for tablets ;) and hopefully the upcoming Home Hub project will also address these issues of syncing data on multiple devices. I still use a Windows Home Server v1 and wish MS would bring some of that functionality back into a centralized machine.
  • I keep absolutely nothing in the default folders. I.e. Document, Music, Photos, etc. I create separate folders on the drive that are not "protected" by the logon password. I feel comfortable doing this on my private PC. I've had friends that had their Windows password become corrupt and those folders and their contents were gone forever - except for backups that they created.
  • Been doing this since 8.1 and we had proper placeholders so you could leave files on OneDrive but in your folder... It was the perfect combination!
  • For a while now I've been using a product called Allway Sync to make copies of my files.  It handles bi-directional synchronisation between multiple targets that can be local storage, network drives (e.g. NAS), servers (e.g. FTP), or on-line (cloud) storage (multiple providers, including OneDrive).  Has a comprehensive set of options for configuring automated synchronisation tasks or manual invocation if required.  Best synchronisation product I've come across yet.
  • How about the OneDrive settings for Documents and Pictures and those in Settings/Storage/Save Locations?!
  • This was one of the first things i did when Microsoft brought out OneDrive; sync desktops
  • I've been doing this for years, but my method is much easier. I simply right-click drag the original folders (you can move multiple folders at once) to my OneDrive folder, and select Move from the context menu that pops up. This not only moves the original folders, but also automatically updates their system location in Windows. It's the first thing I do in each new installation.
  • Wow I never knew you can right click drag something lol
  • Do you even power user, bruh? ;)
  • the 365Home 1TB storage allotment wasn't sufficient for Music and Videos. nice thought though.
  • Now I know! Thanks for the excellent article! (^_^)/
  • Been doing this since 8.1 actually. But in 8.1 I did it to keep from having duplicates on my hard drive. But in Windos 10 its a nessisity as my documents aren't automatically copied to one drive.
  • What about placeholders . Is that coming back or is it back for windows 10? I want to sync my onedrive, but I don't want to download all my stuff to my computer. Just know it's in the drive.