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How to select which OneDrive folders to sync in Windows 10

Use OneDrive
Use OneDrive (Image credit: Windows Central)

OneDrive is a free online storage that comes with your Microsoft account. Files you store online can be synced across all your Windows devices, as well as devices on other platforms such as Android, iOS, and OS X. However, you don't need to sync everything on your OneDrive with your PC. You can select only some folders. We'll show you how.

  1. Right-click the OneDrive icon on the taskbar located on the lower right corner. If you don't see it, you'll need to tap or click the up arrow to show more icons.
  2. Tap or click Settings
  3. Select the Choose folders tab
  4. Tap or click Choose folders
  5. Select all or select just some of the folders and files you want to sync.

That's it! The folders you select will show up locally in your OneDrive folder, which you can see on the left pane when you open File Explorer. Any files you add to these folders will be synced to the cloud and become available for all your other devices.

For example, I've chosen to sync my Articles folder in OneDrive. This lets me start writing a Word document on my Surface 3 and do some quick edits on my Windows Phone when I'm on the train. I store several files on my OneDrive, but I don't need all of them to be stored locally on my devices. Selective syncing helps me work better and saves me hard drive space, too.

How do you feel about OneDrive on Windows 10? Let us know in the comments!

If you think this guide is helpful, we have many more posts like this in our Windows 10 help, tips and tricks page.

Mark Guim is Video Editor at Windows Central. He switched to Windows because the MacBook Pro isn't Pro enough. You can follow him on Twitter at @markguim.

69 Comments
  • I really miss the smart files function, I hope they bring that back very soon.
  • Totally agree. They were so ... so ... so smart!
  • BRING PLACEHOLDERS BACK!!!
  • It is upsetting to me that "Online-only" has disappeared. I don't have room for the 60GB of my pictures on my surface, but I wish I could still see them. Also, I miss being able to store onedrive somewhere other than the C drive (a microSD on the surface). I know there's workarounds, but why should I have to workaround something that was perfect before?
  • Totally agree with you 100%. I thought I was the only one who feels this way! I definitely want 'online only' option back! Than I could choose what to download on a file level instead of folder level! Please bring this back MS!
  • Okay people, start voting to bring the online-only feature back here: https://onedrive.uservoice.com/forums/262982-onedrive/suggestions/888806... Already above 4000 votes!  
  • Also take a look at voting for external storage for One Drive! (oh so useful for us Surface Owners!) https://onedrive.uservoice.com/forums/262982-onedrive/suggestions/6449138-allow-onedrive-to-sync-to-removable-media-on-windo    
  • I feel the exact same way and this is a problem for me...
  • You technically can see them without having them show in file explorer by using the Photo App, but that shoehorns every single photo file in one drive so far. Can't specific just for camera roll...
  • There is a way to block some folders from showing. Seems to work for the pc and not the phone. But there is a was on the web site to specify the folder content type. If you set it to documents is seems to keep them out of the photo app.
  • There is a way you can change the location of OneDrive. I had to look this up yesterday. Just use Bing to search "change the location of OneDrive" and a tutorial appears!
  • The new format totally sux. I basically only use as a backup drive now. Was no much more convenient to use as a "mapped" drive and just save a doc there and access from anywhere. I really only use for photos auto upload and backup now. I always get errors that folder already exist etc....Is Hate too strong? ;)
  • Those photos you can see from Photo app just you check it. I find all my picture on OneDrive there.
  • I dont understand why they have removed the smart file functionality.  How do they expect someone to sync a 32GB tablet to a 1+TB one drive? SO FRUSTRATING. 
  • I don't like how OneDrive works in WI 10. This was around before and it was called live mesh, then foldershare. I liked seeing all my files under win 8
  • My phone still won't sync with my OneDrive, even after the latest patch. At least I can finally login with my Microsoft account, but the phone still acts like it's on a local account.
  • OneDrive does not really work well as it is currently implemented. 8.1 system was better, but not perfect. You should be able to "see" all your files on OneDrive and "sync" easily those you want on the local device. The current system is really braindead. I am sure it is because of a technical issue giving how really expansive the OneDrive system is. But it will not be used if it remains as hard to understand as it now is, in my opinion. Lost opportunity.....
  • In 8.1, I used OneDrive all the time. In 10... once, because I absolutely had to. They need to fix it, like now.
  • it saved me even more time having files sync on demand only when I wanted them, not this useless process, now if I try to use it this way, I risk slowing everyone down connected to the same wifi somewhere, cause you know.. you are supposed to be moving around with your cloud files right? turns out I cant do that anymore, if I upload some files from home and then login on my laptop in a classroom with 1mb bandwidth, you know whats coming...
  • I know this is getting redundant, but like many other people, I think the removal of the "Online-Only" feature makes OneDrive pretty much worthless for me and made me look for alternatives, which I would have gone too if I didn't have free 1TB storage with my Office365 subscription. I don't understand how Microsoft hasn't fixed this yet. Like the perrson before me said, if I have a 32GB tablet (only a couple of GBs free), I am now limited to only choose a couple of folders to Sync, when before I could have all of 1 TB available and access everything on the fly. It pretty much my number 1 problem I have with Microsoft right now.
  • This new onedrive is a big failure. Onedrive has become a silly online backup tool instead of an daily used active storage. Ms needs to return place holders as an option, asap
  • I like your highlighting that Onedrive's usefulness is that it is NOT just a backup! I edit a word document in the office then go to a meeting and pull it up on my phone, and the changes I make are on the computer in the next room by the time I brew my coffee. Let's hope that asap is truly asap.  
  • I miss place holders so bad...
  • Me too, I looked but I could not find an option to view unsynced fodlers/files. Do you think it is coming?
  • I've had to re install windows 8.1 to get over this ridiculous issue Microsoft seems to have over looked.... Can't believe they didn't get feed back from the vast numbers of testers before launching... This is a laughable situation and Microsoft have let themselves down once again.... :'(
  • they did get feedback on it, and they know it's a big issue. The problem is they had multiple sync engines across a handful of implementations over various OS versions and it wasn't sustainable going forward. They took this step back away from the placeholders in order to create one sync engine and will build back up from this point, promising to bring back the core functionality of the placeholders (whatever that means) in the future. MS definitely knows this is a downgrade, but they felt it was necessary.
  • A big part of the problem with placeholders was that because the files look 'normal' to 'old' apps, it caused a lot of issues. When you wanted to access a file, it spawns a low-level process to kick off the long-running process to download the file. This is something that apps aren't intended to be able to handle - local storage should be very fast.
  • The windows 8.1 smart files were easy better. I want to see and action on those files regardless if there stored locally or online. I also want to be able to natively choose what is stored in the cloud and on my machine.
  • Is there a way point one drive to a different drive than the default? I'm really hampered on my Surface with only 30Gb of free space, but need easy access to several OneDrive folders that contain that amount or more each.
  • In a word. Shit. I have 8TB online and 100gb on surface pro as I share it. Wtf do I do. This has effectively become a doorstop
  • I agree with everyone's comments above... The only problem with windows 10 is OneDrive placeholder integration which was in windows 8.1
    Now I use OneDrive app on my phone in order to update a file because with windows 10 I have to download the whole folder...
    I really hope this feature come back otherwise I won't be able to keep my sp3 unless I start carrying an external HDD which makes OneDrive and the whole cloud useless ...
  • How do I feel about OneDrive in Windows 10? I hate it. I almost don't want to use it, but have to so I can get some of my files that are synced, but hate having to sync entire folders. Really want the placeholders back, or at least give as a universal app...
  • Definitely miss the online only option. Especially as I only have 64GB of storage on my Surface.
  • If you "un"sync the Music folder, the songs are not showing up in Groove music anymore
  • They butchered this. And I can't even find the universal app anywhere.
  • Bring back online only mode and I'll start using it again. MS always takes a step or two back in functionality when "updating" their products. It's getting ridiculous!
  • OneDrive is now relegated to simply backup duty. It can no longer be used as a natural extension of one's hard drive that is available on all of one's devices. Such a shame that a breakthrough service has now been crippled. What's even more disheartening is that Microsoft tries to sell this as an improvement. Do they think we're idiots?
  • I have a couple drives on my computer. The main OS drive is a smaller SSD, then there's the spinning platter for all the media and work files and such. I relocated OneDrive to the extra drive, but there's still stuff on the C:/ drive I might want synced to OneDrive ... or if I keep OneDrive folder on the C Drive, there's lots of stuff on the extra drive I want synced to OneDrive. Also, I do want to sync my music folder to oneDrive, but I don't want to relocate my music folder directly within the OneDrive folder ... so what's a boy to do?  Just searching around the other night I actually found an awesome solution. WIth some lines in the COmmand prompt, you can tell OneDrive to sync any folder you like without actually relocating it within the ONeDrive folder.  Hit up this link for the full post. The important bit from it:
    It probably works equally well with DropBox, GDrive etc. Just create an NTFS reparse point within your OneDrive folder, to your secondary drive. So, say for instance that you have OneDrive mapped to C:\Data\OneDrive, and you have a secondary disk with some big data in D:\BigData. Just open a command prompt, and go MKLINK /J C:\Data\OneDrive\BigData D:\BigData You data appears as a directory within C:\Data\OneDrive, and is synced to the cloud, but it actually resides on D: so no space is wasted on C:
    I am so indebted to this rather anonymous author - makes OneDrive much more usable for my purposes!
  • very curious to know why someone downvoted this post? It was a neat tip I'm super psyched to have found! What's not to like?
  • Dear Adam, Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with using MKLINK. I faced similar problem. I have One Drive on a typical spot in C drive. I have another drive with a huge amount of media. I didn't want to move all that over to C drive. So I used the MKLINK command on the command prompt as administrator, and I used the same form you gave as an example (adapted to my paths and all) and it worked.  But I am uploading manually through the browser to get it going, as the Windows Explorer is giving the folder a red x indicating that there seems to be syncing problems.  But hopefully the little flag will go away, perhaps with a reboot after uploading, I hope. A little strange. But hopeful everything will be alright.
  • Well, only one thing *to* do. Get on uservoice and vote to bring back the online-only feature...
  • What I cannot understand is why I cant just right-click any given folder and select "Sync with OneDrive". Really disappointed to realize theres only one physical location I have to put everything that should get synced.
  • there is a solution!  
  • Ah, great! Thanks a lot for the tip.. :)
  • Sucks. OneDrive in windows 10 is dam near useless to me. I mean they could have at least left us the app for some functionality. But nope they got rid of that too. I swear there must be some idiot at Microsoft that convinces everyone that addition by subtraction works all the time. Cuz this has happened to many times in the past. It's so annoying. Can't even threaten to leave cuz its not like Macs do this either (and I don't want a mac) but man this annoys me
  • I literally laughed out loud when you said let us know how you feel, about OneDrive on Windows 10...  It's a Crap Storm compared to 8.1
  • Luckily Office, the photo app and many 3rd party apps can use OneDrive directly. So even if I don't sync my documents folder i can still open Word or Excel and open them as if they were local.
  • While I also miss being able to see all of my OneDrive at once, it's not so bad for me that I want to dump it for something else.  Besides, I went all in on the "unlimited" OneDrive and uploaded my entire photo, music, and video library to it (over 7 TB worth).  Having those available to me in the cloud is invaluable for the way I use it.  I was able to move the location of my OneDrive to a larger hard drive but even there I don't have space for everything which is fine because even on 8.1 I liked to keep locally that which I used the most.  What I miss is being able to pause and resume OneDrive given that the process eats up a massive amount of bandwidth.  I like to sync overnight when no one is using my home network.  Plus the conflicts between what I had in my OneDrive before the upgrade and after are annoying. 
  • Major downgrade
  • Yes hate the way onedrive is, we dont even have a app like the other formats. For now thou you can use one of the file exploere apps such as File Manger HD or Files & Folders pro, both allow you to see all your Onedrive off line.
  • And Satya Nadella is supposed to be the MS cloud guru ?! 3 simple and urgent things to understand:
    1- bring back placeholders
    2- allow us to set a different default place for one drive
    3- set a universal OneDrive integration in universal apps ( for instance Groove app doesn't need me to sync my overdrive collection like in Win 8.1)
    I love onedrive but I think MS has broken it with Windows 10
  • Smart Files were king. Screw you Microsoft! Why did,you take,the nice things from us?
  • I´m still using Windows8.1 because of what MS did to onedrive. Did my research before upgrading and decided that it´s not worth upgrading until they fix it.
  • How can I view folders that are not synced in explorer? and the files that are stored in the cloud in those fodlers? thanks
  • This is the biggest downer on Windows 10. I hate OneDrive the way it's now on 10. It's just not usable. The smart files were good, I could see my files in the file explorer, and they don't have to be on my hdd and waste space. Getting the files on demand was good, what we got with 10 is just usable shit. I hope that they bring back this kind of feature, because I want to use OneDrive for working and storing some data, but when I have to put these on my PC, which wastes space, what's differentiates OneDrive from others? Syncing all the stuff is just stupid.
  • Well the Apple people aren't any better in this arena.  Tried to set my wife's photo's to sync across all of her apple devices, but you have keep all pictures on all devices....kind of hard to do with a stupied 16 gb phone. What the hell is wrong with Microsoft and Apple...don't they realize people have like thousands of pictures (duh they gave us freakin camera phones) that they don't want to keep on all of their devices!  (I know the alternatives...they are crap too).
  • I think you made a discovery that we were not thinking of. Microsoft and Apple might in a subtle way copying one another in certain ways and copying the same problems without realizing it  until a problem arise. Because it make's you wonder why Microsoft would have this functionality working great on the present OS and then all of a sudden go away from what works to now a problem in the new OS. Seems like it's saves alot of time to move what works over into the new OS with some added tweeks or functionality to make improvements. Why go backwards by scrapping what works?
  • I think the only discovery I made is that all of these programmers only have pictures of Princess Leia on their phones, so they never thought needing to sync thousands of pictures would be an issue. I'm giving Amazon Photo a try....unlimited storage, but you can't change the date of the pictures.  So my photo from 2000 that I scanned in 2013 shows up like it was taken in 2013. THEY ARE ALL FREAKIN MORONS!!!! 
  • You can also just right click on any file in OneDrive through file explorer.
  • I'm having issues on all 3 win 10 devices syncing and it's causing me the biggest head ache as I'm a huge OneDrive user. This on top of no online files. Others seem to be having the same issue on MS community and it seems to be a permission issue. Really hope this gets fixed soon as I'm having to work from the browser to download file, make changes and then upload. Argh!!
  • It's anything BUT a cloud first, mobile first implementation. It totally useless on tablets and laptops with smaller SSD drives. I would uninstall it if I could.
  • The loss of the online-only file placeholder functionality has ruined OneDrive for me on limit-storage devices. Worst decision Microsoft has made in a long time. I hope they fix this ASAP.
  • It's weird. Windows 10 brings some massive improvements, but as they have a vision of "Windows Everywhere" they have taken some weird choises. OneDrive was great on Windows 8. The placeholders gave me the illusion of having all files available everytime, and as long as I was connected to the web (and that's pretty close to "always") I could just navigate to it via the File Explorer and download it. Easy peazy! Now I actually have to choose? WHY?! I've been upgrading my computers for the last two weeks, and I've already at 10 devices connected to my Microsoft Account (remember, phones running Windows 10 also count, and I'm sure the Xbox will too). I have more computers I would like to upgrade, but at the moment it's like: Why bother? I'm won't be able to use the Store on those computers, and I fear for OneDrive/Note/Office syncing as well. Come on, Microsoft! Don't ruin OneDrive, give us placeholders! And don't ruin the Store either, set the limit cap to 100 devices. After all; we also want Windows to be "everywhere".
  • I get the same error occasionally
  • Bring placeholders back! Since updating last July 29, my sync are still in progress! >.
  • One Step into the wrong direction
  • I rolled back to windows 8.1 because of the loss of smart files / place holders. I can't be having onedrive use up all of my hard disk, let alone on my tablet, i can't acess anything in windows 10. I will likely roll back the tablet when I have the energy.
  • So let's say I am looking for a file that is online only in some directory. With placeholders I actually have a chance to search for it and download it. With an improved OneDrive I have nothing.
  • How can i mix and match folders from local drive and external drive to sync to OneDrive?