OneDrive placeholders to return as 'On-Demand Sync'

Use OneDrive
Use OneDrive (Image credit: Windows Central)

The first day of Microsoft Ignite has been full of reveals, but one in particular should catch the attention of OneDrive fans: the return of placeholders. During the conference, Microsoft revealed (via Neowin) that placeholders will return, though the feature will now be known as "On-Demand Sync."

For those unfamiliar, placeholders allowed OneDrive users to reserve a spot on their PC for specific files and folders stored in the cloud without taking up any storage space. This let you continue to browse and see all of the files stored in the cloud from your PC's OneDrive folder without eating into your local storage. When you needed to access the files, you could click on them and OneDrive would then download them to your PC.

While the feature was available as far back as Windows 8, Microsoft deemed the feature confusing and it was removed on Windows 10. However, there have been several hints over the past year that placeholders could return, and now we have confirmation — albeit under a different name.

There's no word on when we should expect to see On-Demand Sync arrive in OneDrive on Windows 10, but one would expect it wouldn't be too far off due to its recent reveal. In the meantime, be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

  • YES !!!
  • FINALLY!!!
  • My pants are tight.
  • YES! Microsoft is finally giving us a feature we really want! And used to have! Until they took it away from us! YES!
  • At least they're giving the feature back to us! That's reason enough to celebrate!!! :)
  • Yes, but the point is that it should never have been removed in the first place. If they wanted to make a better version, that's fine, but leave the existing version until the new one is ready. Microsoft has done this repeatedly across several product lines: introduce a great feature, take it away, then reintroduce it later. Often, the reintroduced version isn't even as good as the first version, and you have to wait months or years for it to catch up to where it used to be in the first place.
  • Oh I totally agree, I should have left one of these   /s     after my initial post. I know Microsoft does this consistently. Everything good that Microsoft does they take away only to find out that it was a stupid idea to take it away and so they half-heartedly give it back in a lesser form. It is one aspect of Microsoft that I just can't figure out
  • Yep. That's Microsoft in a nutshell. Posted via the Windows Central App for MS-DOS
  • Is it confirmed 100% this will apply to consumer OneDrive too? In theory it should since it's all one client and sync engine now....But AFAIK it was mentioned in the context of OneDrive for Business at the time.
  • Although I did read the claim they thought it was "confusing" for users - In a more technical blog post they explained that Placeholders were dropped because the base client they went back to wasn't the version that supported placeholders. At one point they had multiple sync clients even in Windows PCs, and moving to a single sync client they had to choose one of those to use as the base...It was the version not built into Windows (i.e the one that didn't support placeholders) Maybe it was due to both reasons partially, but the technical explanation makes the most sense to me personally.
  • They also mentioned that the initial implementation, to make it as transparent as possible to the OS, was built in a way that it could often be slow and lock up, especially with larger files, especially in things like File Open dialogs. They wanted to have time to better integrate it into the OS so this is not as much of an issue.
  • OneDrive for business and Office 365 groups(Sharepoint sites) still require two sync clients wiht the Sharepoint sync client being horrible annoying 
  • The preview coming soon will allow you to sync normal SharePoint libraries in the same client. Like the old OneDrive for business used to allow, which will be great. Also has a new feature that shows all recent activity such s newly synced files when you click on the OneDrive icon in the system tray. Can't wait
  • I found it confusing, like if i take a file from local storage and put it into the OneDrive folder, it syncs to online. But my storage gets used up cz it stays on my HD and OneDrive at the same time, now every time i want to upload i have to use the browser and then view the file locally so i can save space. I just wish every time i drag and drop a file into the OneDrive folder, it asks me if i want to remove it from my local hard drive
  • If you drag a folder or file into the OneDrive 'folder' on your PC using File Explorer, it moves that folder from where you had it to the 'hidden' OneDrive folder in Windows/Users/YourName/OneDrive. It also sets up the sync relationship for that folder/file. So, the folder/file is both on your PC and the cloud, by design. After you do that, you should be able to right click the OneDrive icon in File Explorer, select Choose OneDrive Folders to sync, and uncheck that folder. The files will be removed from your local system, and retained in the cloud.  If you drag a floder into OneDrive via the web interface, it doesn't establish a sync relationship, but it also doesn't delete the folder from your local PC automatically.
  • I think they mentioned that feature in conjunction with SharePoint / OneDrive for business. But once they have it, it makes sense to use the same feature for "normal" consumer OneDrive as well.
    I hope.
  • I also hope. Big news... We're having back past things Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Great. My next request is phone Photo archive, where old files already in OneDrive can be deleted from the photo to clear space. I.e. Tidy saved photos over x months old.
  • I can do that on the latest insider build.
  • Is that something you had to enable in the OneDrive app? I wasn't aware that was possible.
  • No. It's done in the Photos app. When you delete a photo the prompt to confirm has a check box now asking if you want to delete the OneDrive copy as well. Currently only Insiders have this build iirc.
  • I've been waiting for this feature for a while. I'm considering rejoining insider program for this. Is this limited to a specific ring?
  • At the moment I believe fast and slow.
  • Thanks
  • I'm now seeing this feature on release preview ring as well.
  • I've had this feature on my Lumia 950 for some time now. After the anniversary update I switched back to production builds.
  • I have it as well on release preview.
  • and release preview ring so 14393 Builds 
  • I'm on the "release preview" ring (the slowest one), and I've had this feature for a while now.
  • I heard of this implemented, but even though I am on the fast ring I do not get the prompt. I guess the store is not properly working for me to update the insider apps. I also am unable to install any new apps. Guess a reset is needed :-/
  • I have this on my phone L930 AU and it is not registered for insider releases, I have it since the AU!
  • Yes! If Ignite brings one like these every day, it's going to be a great conference! :)
  • Personally I loved it and hopefully it will be a selectable option
  • Woohoo
  • This is the best MS related news I have heard in a long time.
  • Same here. I've barely used OneDrive on my Surface 3 since they removed that feature. I planned to give up the subscription entirely. But this definitely changes things. Hopefully it'll arrive quickly and with the same functionality as before.
  • Removing this feature was one of the biggest mistakes MS has made with OneDrive.  (only after calling it SkyDrive and getting sued by Sky UK Limited)
  • I liked the SkyDrive name better. Sad that Sky won that battle...
  • But it doesn't fit with their one theme. One core, onenote, Xbox one, etc..
  • Chicken and the egg though. The only product I remember at the time was OneNote
  • SkyDrive was the BEST name for a cloud storage service.  I'm so sad they couldn't keep it.
  • They didn't even try to fight for it. They could've kept SkyDrive for sure in most territories in the world, and they could've fought it harder in the few territories that Sky had a legal presence in, and, if they lost again, they could've simply called it "Microsoft SkyDrive", formally, and informally everyone would've kept calling it SkyDrive. SkyDrive was a much better name than OneDrive.
  • Apart from the "customer confusion" reason, it wasn't well integrated at the File System level, it was more a UI implementation which apps or tools couldn't utilise or understand.  I would have preferred it continued to be developed to iron out the kinks but of course, being built-in to Windows 8, it would have been difficult to update the mechanism using the previous OS development model anyway.  At least with Windows 10, it can be brought back and refined much more easily, ring by ring.
  • You are forgetting their decision of reducing free storage from 15 to 5 GB AND also not letting us use the 'unlimited' storage as it was supposed to be.
  • Next months news : Microsoft postponded the one drtive "On-Demand Sync"
  • I believe it's coming in preview form first (soon). Not a joke btw, they talked about some other OneDrive features in a video posted today that will be available in preview shortly. I'd guess this will also be in there
  • Finally....
  • sweet relief!
  • Bet!
  • Great news! This was a feature that I missed quite a bit since I have quite a bit of big files and I used to be able to store them without them taking up space on my laptop.
  • +1
  • I know Microsoft will eventually incorporate all the features I could ever possibly want, I just hope at least some of them come before I die...
  • Made me lol irl
  • About time!! Next they need to reverse their unlimited storage decision.
  • My account is still listed as 10TB (which to me effectively means unlimited). Not that I use the space owing to no placeholder support.
  • Finally! Hated full sync since I have obviously more data on OneDrive then I have available on my Surface but I want my OneDrive folder to be complete on every device.
  • Yay.... so happy to read this
  • Hahaha. The ever famous "Microsoft Flip-Flop Applesauce"
  • What I find more useful is to sync overdrive to my sd card. Then it takes up none of my 'imited storage on my surface 3. This allowed me to sync music too
  • Ops, since I doubt consumers will get this feature. It's all enterprise for MS now
  • It's true this was talked about in the context of OneDrive for business, but the sync client is a single application now - So there's a high chance this is coming to both
  • FINALLY! The days when Ultrabooks, 2-in-1s and smartphones will come with 1 or 2 Terrabytes of FLASH memory
    may not be so far away, but the regular portable gadgets these days have to cope with 64, 128, 256 or sometimes even 512 MB of SSD capacity. That the placeholder / sync on demand disappeared is an more than odd thing anyway.  
  • About time. Removing the place Holders was the hight of stupidity. I never understood how anyone could have possibly found them confusing.
  • I do. Using third party software could fail when trying to access your files, which could be confusing if you forgot they were not stored locally. Ideally, it would be integrated in the file system, so they'd look like regular folders and files to any app, and download as needed.
  • I pity you
  • Basically instead of Microsoft fixing that issue they just removed placeholders altogether. They were clearly being lazy. Posted via the Windows Central App for MS-DOS
  • And instead of fixing the technicalities and making it less confusing, such as having cloud icon overlay indicating its a placeholder. Unfortunately they decided to remove it altogether. Glad its back even its long overdue.
  • Well I'm assuming they took it away to improve on it. I don't think it'll come back in the exact same form as it once was.
  • As long as its legitimately an improvement from the old one then I'm perfectly welcome it. I'm still crossing my fingers that it won't be inferior or some sort of limitation. This feature is a must especially since many ultrabooks and tablets have pretty limited storage compared to what OneDrive offers minus the "unlimited" storage and the middle-ground storage tier that are gone.
  • Given that OneDrive is a cloud service I don't see how anyone with a brain could be confused.
  • Please don't speak for everyone/other people. You're entitled to your opinions, but don't generalize them to everyone else.
  • Believe me there are stupid users out there. They get confused about how to push a power button to start a computer. They don't understand the concepts. We're really in the minority of users that understand this tech. If there is something that Microsoft has implemented to make it more intuitive then that will only help their user base. Still sad that it has been gone for so long, but after having to "help" several family members and friends with "computer issues" and having to explain how the cloud works (which they still don't understand and were afraid the files would vanish) I completely understand why they could be confusing.
  • Great news!
  • Tomorrow, Apple will announce the return of the audio jack. Oh, wait... that was another conference.
  • they will call the Audio Jack the iJack or iPort, or the iSomethingorother and they will have invented it.  the iPhone8 will have the iMellenials frothing at the mouth. menawhile for those of you who can't/won't upgrade your headsets to bluetooth, you are waiting for the official $79 adapter.  just hope you dont want to be charging your phone and listening through your old headphones at the same time....
  • Maybe people need to move on from analogue.
  • From what I've read, there really is no perceptible sound difference. But there will now be a rush to buy wireless headphones...meaning a new wave of electronic waste. If there's no tangible benefit to removing something, then it shouldn't be removed. For environmental reasons if nothing else.
  • Analogue degrades, it also requires a DAC so it is more costly.
  • Digital can also degrade... Solid state drives for example. Posted via the Windows Central App for MS-DOS
  • ijack, ujack, wejack!
  • Ah finally. A lot of people will be happy. I hope they change this branding for non enterprise customers though because this name reeks of additional subscription service.
  • Awesome Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Trying not to get my hopes up until it's live. Oh please, oh please, oh please.
  • I can't wait I stopped using one drive as much when I lost this feature, thank god they are bringing it back.
  • I love that I discovered the wonders of NTFS Junctions to use with OneDrive, I've always thought it seemed incredible stupid to have to have two copies of the same thing taking up space! Now I have my 130GB music library synced to the cloud.
  • Finally!!!!! How could they take them away from us! That was the main reason to love the Cloud.
  • YES, YES, YES!!
  • This is a welcome return!!
  • When is it coming?
    Redstone 2?
  • Finally! The lack of placeholders has made these low storage notebooks useful as a paper mache umbrella...awesome to look at but useless.
  • Isn't that the truth. My Asus TransformerBook only has 2GB left of internal storage, and that's thanks to my 40GB in OneDrive files
  • Finally, the best feature of Windows 10 is coming back. Since they removed this feature I've barely used OneDrive and started carrying USB drives just to be able to access files easily on my SP3. I just hope this feature comes back sooner than later as it is a heavily needed feature.
  • I can't wait for this. That was a great feature. It has missed and I grunt evertime I have to ad a new folder to the synced ones... In fact I had to change my structure some. Now I can use it how I used to with 8.1. Keep up the good work MS Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Excelsior! So happy about this!
  • AWWW YEAH!!!!!
  • Waiting for the day that OneDrive replaces file explorer as the file management in Windows and allows users to sync files and the entire system over the cloud
  • You'll be waiting a looooong time! Microsoft have made it clear that a users files should never exceed 1TB on their service
  • I feel a little ashamed about how excited I am by this.
  • Microsoft was probably spooked by Apple's implementation of the same thing in iCloud Drive on the Mac, simple.
  • JOY
  • Woohoo! I can get my 100GB of space back!
  • Woohoo!!!
  • i would like to see them also bring back the start screen  and app syncing feature from Windows 8
  • Hell YEAH! Been missing those enormously ! :D
  • Finally! Been waiting for their return for a while now!
  • This is great I just wish Microsoft would learn to stop killing things off before the replacement is ready, placeholders may have been confusing to some but I have a feeling it was useful to everyone so to take that away for even a month let alone years is just dumb.
  • Re: mbrdev,
    I agree. Please stop removing features before a replacement is ready and issued.
  • Great news! I've learned to live without place holders but it will make life easier when they come back.
  • Yup. Same here. After place holders come back, I can say goodbye to only having 2GB left of storage space
  • just think of all the photos and files that you forgot you had.  people will burn up the OneDrive servers just looking through thier new OneDrive On-demand files.  It'll be a greate time waster for sure.. can't wait to have it back. I thought it was a bonehead decision to not have it after WIn8.1 version.
  • I can't wait
  • Love it! Great news, and the conference has been awesome so far.
  • Well i just hope that when one drive it's offline/closed out won't show the X icons on the folders i have for sync.
  • Confusing to who?  As it stands right now I don't know why all pictures have to be downloaded my laptop just because they are in the cloud which I thought was there as a storage medium. Seems like someone in Microsoft always finds a way or path to screw things up including removing those functions/features that are liked very much.
  • This is really good news.  I have many instances where I want to use File Explorer to quickly update a number of files stored in a OneDrive folder(s) and I don't want to have to sync the entire structure in order to do it or launch the separate app.  Not sure about the awkward naming, "On-Demand Sync" - that needs some de-nerding applied to it.
  • Of course they changed the name! This will solve the "consumer confusion".
  • Consumer confusion by Microsoft, Patent Pending.
  • I am new to this feature but i use onedrive a lot. What is the difference between this and the onedrive win10 app? The app also lets us access files from onedrive online without eating up space. Can somebody explain plz. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Be able to save to it and access any file through file explorer rather than an app.
  • ALLELUIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't even think about how amazing that makes me feel.
  • Why no call it "OneDemand Sync"?  Seems obvious.
  • lovely features  
  • Yes! Now just add folder syncing on Mobile and everything will be great!
  • Partof the problem was placeholders DID take up storage space. Not a lot comparatively, but enough. It became more of a problem, or potential problem, as more devices had smaller storage capacities and cloud storage became ever cheaper. People were getting 16G SSD tablets and 10 Tb cloud storage. As they started filling up their cloud storage, their placeholders were filling up the little available storage they had on their devices. There was some reported confusion about what files were actually local (and in the cloud, sync'd) and which were only placeholders (visible but not available off line) but that should have been easily remedied by a little icon badge like is on shortcuts. Something like white cloud for placeholders, blue cloud for local and sync'd files. Folders could have used the same options for whether the entire folder was available locally, or just some of he files.
  • Deleted my Microsoft Account. No point waiting. Had to stabilize my workflow on non-volatile solutions designed for my section of the market as a priority, not Enterprise users. But, good for those who slogged it out.
  • I made $750 today by working instead of wasting time in forums.
  • Pretty please with sugar on it!
  • THANK YOU, MICROSOFT! This was the only remaining feature I wanted in Windows 10. I'm officially done with Windows 8.1.
  • remove it, add, We could experience new features all the time
  • We use Box at my workplace.  I can confirm that this is the number one requested feature for Box's Sync app.  If Box Sync had this it would drive user adoption from 10% to 98%.   My coworkers don't want to leave Windows Explorer and open a web browser and would rather use email and complain about having too many emails and it being too much work to keep having resending files when sharing.  They also don't want to have to use the file server for sharing files.  
  • FINALLY what a miracle! Now only the functions of Picture Manager are still missing in Windows 10. And  then Microsoft should STOP to (destroy)  develop Windows, just to prevent Windows from destroyment again.