Making the most of cloud storage with SkyDrive on your Windows Phone

Cloud storage is becoming more and more mainstream, especially among smartphone and tablet owners where local storage is limited. Storing data in the clouds (remotely hosted servers) enables the owner to access data from any supported location. DropBox is probably the best known example of cloud storage for PC users with native clients available for both Windows and Mac.

Microsoft has its own cloud storage solution, but how does SkyDrive compare to competitors? We'll take a quick glance at some features of Microsoft's product against Dropbox, Apple's iCloud and Google Drive. Microsoft has also published a chart of their own, which offers a more in-depth comparison.

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Free Storage7GB*2.5GB5GB5GB
Price+20GB - $10/yr
+50GB - $25/yr
+100GB - $50/yr
50GB - $99/yr
100GB - $199/yr
10GB - $20/yr
20GB - $40/yr
50GB - $100/yr
25GB - $2.49/mo
100GB - $4.99/mo
~16TB available
PlatformsiOS, Mac, PC, WPDroid, iOS, Mac, PC, WPiOS, MacDroid, Mac, PC

*25GB is available for existing users.

According to the table above, SkyDrive is a more attractive option compared to competitors, but what about Windows Phone? Microsoft has developed its own cloud storage solution that was formed with the Live umbrella of products, and its fully integrated into Windows Phone with a complimentary app to go with. But where exactly is this integration?

Windows Phone

As well as contacts, email and calendar being handled by the cloud backend of the Live service, SkyDrive can be found within a number of stock apps on Windows Phone. Once the Live ID has been setup on the phone and connected to Microsoft's servers via an Internet connection, the Windows Phone will be able to pull down all content stored on that account.

The Microsoft Office hub synchronises notes with those stored on SkyDrive, which can also be read and edited using the native clients for Windows and Mac. We published a OneNote tutorial that will prove useful should you encounter issues with synchronisation between SkyDrive and Windows Phone. We don't halt at just notes though as the Office hub can also pull down Microsoft Office documents from SkyDrive for local editing while on the go.

The other location in Windows Phone that makes use of SkyDrive integration is the Pictures hub, which -as you probably have guessed already- brings down photos from your SkyDrive account. As well as this, the camera app can be configured to automatically upload snaps straight to the cloud for secure storage. 

Tip: 'Settings > applications > pictures + camera', then select "Automatically upload to SkyDrive" to enable Windows Phone to upload photos to SkyDrive as soon as the shot has been saved locally on the device.

Integration is not the only way to access SkyDrive as Microsoft has released a dedicated SkyDrive app for Windows Phone, which keeps everything in one place. It's the one stop for browsing everything that's stored on the account once logged in. A handy feature of the app is different Live IDs can log in for access to different account. This isn't possible with the built-in functionality as the single Live ID is integrated into the Windows Phone.

Once download, the SkyDrive app enables users to browse their account in its entirety. Photos can be viewed as one would expect in the Pictures Hub. As Windows Phone sports Microsoft Office built-in, supported documents can be opened, edited and saved while on the go without using a third-party app. Permission settings can be configured within the app for folders and files. For more convenient access, recently viewed files are displayed in their own pane and any shared files are viewable as an added bonus.

This wouldn't be a particularly useful official offering from Microsoft if management of files and folders weren't possible. Users can move, delete, rename and create new folders in the SkyDrive app that will then take effect on the account. Should you use SkyDrive enough, you'll need this app.

Windows & Mac

Microsoft has developed two native desktop clients for SkyDrive - one for Windows and the other for Mac. The software giant has done an exceptional job at enabling Mac users to come aboard the Windows Phone train with not only a SkyDrive app, but the Windows Phone Connector too. Both SkyDrive apps for Windows and Mac work in similar ways. SkyDrive creates a folder where all contents on that Live ID are displayed for browsing / editing and more.

Once the app is installed and the Live ID is attached, the app will synchronise all folders and files from the cloud to the computer for local access. All changes made using these clients will reflect on both the web and Windows Phone, making editing and sharing Microsoft Office documents a breeze. You can download the Windows and Mac clients from the SkyDrive website. 

To sum up SkyDrive as a service, it can prove invaluable to those who enjoy keeping personal files safe in the cloud, which can be accessed from multiple locations and devices. With the competitive pricing, clients for popular platforms and the large brand name to back the service, SkyDrive is a perfect cloud storage solution for Windows Phone users.

You can find more on Microsoft's SkyDrive services here at the SkyDrive website (opens in new tab) and download the SkyDrive app (free) here at the (opens in new tab) Windows Phone Marketplace.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • I have 2 accounts with 25gb each, then I have 0.1kb upload on my WiFi what am I going to upload
  • There is skydrive for android, jsut not official app, MS provides API
  • Unlike Pandora with WP
  • If I was MS, I'd be asking to pull any 3rd party apps with it's brands on it from the android market. I also wouldn't make any official apps for them since google wants to play that game
  • Microsoft wants people to use and enjoy SkyDrive so that it becomes more relevant to people. Publicity is good, even if it doesn't immediately earn money. There are several Windows Phone apps, such as Video Journal and rememberReel that use SkyDrive. Microsoft isn't getting paid for that. They offer it for free.
  • I understand that but if google isn't offering anything on our platform, then why should MS offer anything on theirs? MS services will do just fine on Windows Phone and iOS only
  • Windows Phone's biggest issues on trying to get converts is helping people out of the tech ecosystem. Making all their products available for iOS and Android just makes it easier for people to convert to a Windows Phone. Just because Google doesn't want to play nice doesn't mean MS should do the same. It may be in Google's best interest, but not MS's. More platforms = more customers, even if its not your own platform.  
  • Yup, and at the end of the day we lose cause they get our apps but we get none of theirs. So there would be no reason to want to come to Windows Phone since android gets our apps plus have google apps.
    Honestly, I really don't care about google apps. I don't even use any of their services but it's just unfair. That's one of the reasons why WP isn't doing as well as it should be. A lot of people use google services and if they can't get them with WP then why get WP? That's just more ammo for android fans to use against WP. Even Apple wins cause they are getting apps from both google and MS. So why would anyone want to use a Windows Phone if it's not getting same treatment as iOS and android? It gives people no reason to get a Windows Phone over android and iOS at all
  • Hell FN yeah!!!!!!! I feel you.
  • well Microsoft is NOT google. maybe they are not a "nice company" sometimes, but Microsoft usually plays fair. and they want their ecosystem to grow even if they dont make the official app. anyway thats why they opened APIs and that stuff available for any developer
  • Great explanation of the Skydrive, Microsoft needs to promote the OneNote/SkyDrive relationship more it is really useful for work and school projects
  • I've convinced 3 students to get Windows Phone based solely on One Note integration with SkyDrive.
  • Skydrive is useless when uploading your pictures since it downscales them automatically to the horribly low resolution ones. It also makes your uploaded videos tiny and grainy instead of 720p.
    The worst thing is that it ALWAYS rapes you this way, even when you are doing it on Wi-Fi. Which makes no sense at all. Why can't I upload high-quality stuff when I'm on my home Wi-Fi? WTF Microsoft??
    Shame on you MS for this stupidity! One has to find third party apps that allow uploading pics to SkyDrive in full resolution.
    And video? Forget about this, I just use youtube directly from my PC, WP7 is so retarded it can't upload 720p videos to youtube directly over Wi-Fi.
    MS did very lousy job with Skydrive on WP7 and they'll pay for their stupidity. This "integration" with Skydrive is a useless joke. Hopefully they'll make it properly in WP8 or maybe in WP9. You just have to wait a few more years until they wake up. So sad.
  • When you upload a picture through Windows Live it asks you if you want to scale it down to a certain level. While this is on by default, you can just uncheck the box and it won't do it anymore.
  • True, but it will still scale your photos taken with your WP device.
  • They did a lousy job on Windows Phone?! Which mobile OS has better native SkyDrive integration than WP?
  • I think the OP's point is that other platforms, e.g. iPhone with iCloud, don't have these limitations, not that WP7 doesn't have good Skydrive integration.
  • ya this plus when i mail a picture attached from my phone it also compresses the image even if i'm on wifi wth is this atleast give us a choice as you give on PC..... i love WP but i just hate these silly limitations on WP which are definately not obvious
  • SkyDrive's primary purpose is fast and easy sharing. That is exactly what Windows Phone's built-in SkyDrive functionality offers.
    The down-scaled pictures in SkyDrive are perfect for posting to a blog or sharing with friends. Other than myself, no one I know has a screen large with anywhere near enough resolution to view a 5 MP photo. The down-scaled version fits almost everyone just right.
    Syncing with Zune desktop takes care of backing up originals to your computer. And if you want or need full-resolution photos uploaded to your SkyDrive space, it's a pretty quick operation via the SkyDrive app.
  • What a useless ignorant rant
  • then uploaded your photos "manually" with skydrive desktop app and stop complaining.
  • Yeah, but then wtf is my WP7 phone for? I can just shoot pics with my point and shoot one, then upload them "manually". No need using piss poor MS software whatsoever :)
  • Hopefully they will add music streaming asap...
  • You can stream music from Skydrive right now, but it's implemented in such a piss poor way that the MS guys who have done that must be shot or something. Just try to use it, you'll cry after a minute. I couldn't believe this when I saw it... it's just beyond words
  • you could do this now.. And better way is an app like skymusic ( It works like a classic integrated zune player.
  • I went with Cloud Music as it was promoted here and boy was that the WORST app experience I have ever had.  So horrible.  This is most likely much better I'd imagine.
  • Being able to listen to your music through Skydrive is key..will save a lot of space on the phone and get users to migrate to skydrive with larger space.
  • Anyone know if theres a way to select and delete a large number of pictures from a folder on Skydrive? Last time I tried it was limited to one at a time.
  • U can use SkyDrive app on WP7 to delete more then one at a time.
  • Thanks! That got it. Strange that you can't do that when logged in on a PC.
  • I haven't tried it on the desktop client (and I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be there) but on the website you have to look at the top right corner and click on the list view. That gives you a box to check in front of every picture, video, documents, files etc. so  you can check and delete them.
  • I absolutely love my windows phone.
  • One question: is there a way to make Office documents saved on SkyDrive available offline? So that I can view and edit them while I have no Wi-fi connection? I mean a bit like the desktop SkyDrive app which makes files available offline and syncs them when there's a connection available.
  • If you are using the office hub, open the file before you are going to be without internet and it stores a local copy for you, if the online copy had changed since you last opened it, the phone will ask you whether to download the new version or continue with the old when you next open it.
  • Thank you for the tip. But still think there should be a proper option called "make this file available offline".
  • When editing the file from office hub be sure to use tile displaying "SkyDrive" otherwise if you edit the same file tile marked "phone" the file will NOT sync when connected to SkyDrive, it will be a second file with same name! Editing is possible when offline and will sync to SkyDrive after connection is established.
  • "once download, the Skydrive..."
    Should be "downloaded"
  • Biggest problem is that Live Control for WP fails to upload files greater than 20 mb...Also lacks progress event, mp4 videos shots from phone are not always recognised as videos, etc etc...
  • SkyDrive is great. I use oneNote with my college kid and also to save screen and audio clippings using OneNote clipping tool and recording. I then access oneNote using my wp7 to access files from SkyDrive..I Share a music and a photo folder on fb. I share a folder with work manuals and timesheet with boss. I share photos with and various documents with friends and family. I save all voice notes and my training videos there as well. With the SkyDrive PC app I have mounted folders from my server which I can access via the remote connection via windows live.. I use it everyday and its very useful.. Just like anything improvements are always needed.
  • Is the SkyDrive software available for us Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6.8) users yet or still only for Lion (OS X 10.7+)? I have NO desire to "update" to Lion.
  • When will cloud music storage come to windows phone?
  • There is a way to stream music from SkyDrive, but it's implemented in such a piss poor way you will cry when you see it :D
  • deleted
  • Stop trolling
  • Stop defending idiots writing lousy software
  • The prices for the other services are hilarious.
  • They can send a big F-U to Google by making a Zune app for Android. Yes I know some people talk smack about Zune but you shoold have seen the fury over Microsoft making  a Office app  for iOS and not Android
  • I love skydrive... :)
  • SkyDrive exist since I remember in the earliest 2k, but they never make a party announcing that.