Technology Training

One Drive Explained

What is One Drive?

OneDrive is an internet-based storage platform with a significant chunk of space offered for free by Microsoft to anyone with a Microsoft account. Think of it as a hard drive in the cloud, which you can share, with a few extra benefits thrown in. One of the primary benefits: OneDrive hooks into Windows 10, at least in fits and starts.

Microsoft, of course, wants you to buy more storage, but you’re under no obligation to do so. It’s similar to Apple’s icloud storage.

How much storage can you get?

As of this writing, OneDrive gives everyone with a Microsoft account 5GB of free storage, with 50GB for $2/month. Many Office 365 subscription levels provide 1TB (1,024GB) of OneDrive storage, free, for as long as you’re an Office 365 subscriber.

Microsoft’s offers change from time to time, but the general trend is down — prices are going down, fast, and it won’t be too long before most online storage approaches free.

The free storage is there, regardless of whether you use your Microsoft account to log in to Windows, and even if you never use OneDrive. In fact, if you have a Microsoft account, you’re all signed up for OneDrive.

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OneDrive can be confusing

Many people find OneDrive — at least the Windows 7, 8, and 10 versions of OneDrive — very confusing because, in essence, OneDrive keeps two sets of books. (Windows 8.1 OneDrive, by contrast is quite upfront about the whole process.) In Windows 10’s OneDrive, there’s the whole OneDrive enchilada stored on the web. But there’s a second, shadow, subset of OneDrive folders that are stored on your computer.

Some OneDrive users have all their web-based files and folders stored on their computers, and OneDrive syncs the folders quite quickly — what you see in File Explorer is what’s stored in the cloud, and vice versa. But other OneDrive users have only some of their OneDrive folders on their computers. File Explorer shows them only this subset of folders and hides all the others that are sitting in the cloud.

If you aren’t confused, you obviously don’t understand.

What OneDrive does for you

OneDrive does what all the other cloud storage services do — it gives you a place to put your files on the internet. You need to log in to OneDrive with your Microsoft account (or, equivalently, log in to Windows with your Microsoft account) to access your data.

If you log in to a different Windows 10 computer using the same Microsoft account, you have access to all your OneDrive data through the web but, surprisingly, not necessarily through File Explorer. In fact, if you look only at Windows File Explorer, you might not even know what data is sitting in your OneDrive storage.

This is one of the most confusing and dangerous parts of Windows 10. Realize that Windows File Explorer, when looking at OneDrive, is lying to you.

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File Explorer offers a very simple process for copying files from your computer into OneDrive, as long as you want to put the file in a folder that’s visible to File Explorer. File Explorer lets you move files in the other direction, from OneDrive storage on to your local hard drive, but again you must be able to see the file or folder in File Explorer before you can move it.

You can share files or folders that are stored in OneDrive by sending or posting a link to the file or folder to whomever you want. So, for example, if you want Aunt Martha to be able to see the folder full of pictures of Little Billy, OneDrive creates a link for you that you can email to Aunt Martha. You can also specify that a file or folder is Public, so anyone can see it.

To work with the OneDrive platform on a mobile device, you can download and install one of the OneDrive programs — OneDrive for Mac, OneDrive for iPhone, iPad, or Android. The mobile apps have many of the same problems that you find in File Explorer in Windows 10.

In Windows 10, you don’t need to download or install a special program for OneDrive — it’s already baked into Windows.


If you have the program installed, OneDrive syncs data among computers, phones, and/or tablets that are set up using the same Microsoft account, as soon as you connect to a network. If you change a OneDrive file on your iPad, for example, when you save it, the modified file is put in your OneDrive storage area on the Internet. From there, the new version of the file is available to all other computers with access to the file. Ditto for Android devices.

How to disable OneDrive

If you’re a Windows 10 user, you’ll probably notice OneDrive sitting in the notifications area on your taskbar. It’s hard to disable OneDrive, but there are ways to hide it and switch it off if the service isn’t for you, especially if you’re using a service like Dropbox instead.

Why you should consider disabling OneDrive

There are a few reasons why you might want to consider disabling OneDrive. We’ll start with the most basic—control. With every installation of Windows 10, OneDrive is installed and ready to begin syncing your Documents, Pictures, and Desktop folders.

Many users may not realize that OneDrive is doing this. By disabling OneDrive, you’re gaining back control of your own files, rather than storing them on a Microsoft-based server. 


If that sounds unappealing, other cloud storage solutions are available for you to use instead, such as Google Drive or Dropbox, or you can build your own cloud storage to store your files.

If that doesn’t bother you, the impact of OneDrive on your system and network resources might. It might seem obvious, but OneDrive uses your internet connection to upload files to Microsoft servers. If your connection is slow, OneDrive file syncing could have an impact on your network performance or use up your data allowance.


You should also be aware that the OneDrive app starts automatically and will run in the background unless you disable it. This will have more of a noticeable impact on low-resource PCs, so disabling OneDrive could be a good way to claw back some CPU and RAM usage.

How to disable OneDrive file syncing

If you only want to disable OneDrive temporarily, the best option is to pause file syncing. This will stop the OneDrive app from uploading any changes to your local files to OneDrive servers, or from retrieving any changes from your online OneDrive storage.


  • To pause OneDrive syncing, press the OneDrive icon in the notifications area of the Windows taskbar. Alternatively, launch the OneDrive app from the Start menu.
  • In the pop-up OneDrive menu, press the More button, then click the Pause Syncing option. You can choose to disable it for 2 hours, 8 hours, or 24 hours—click on one of the options to proceed.

To pause file syncing for longer than 24 hours, you’ll need to repeat the steps above to disable it again once the initial 24-hour period is complete. Alternatively, you can stop OneDrive from syncing files from your PC by removing all of the folders that it monitors.

  • To disable OneDrive file syncing this way, press the OneDrive icon > More > Settings. In the Account tab, press Choose folders.
  • Disable all of the checkboxes in the Choose folders menu, including Make all files available, then press OK to save.

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This will leave OneDrive signed in, but it will stop it from automatically syncing files from your PC to your OneDrive storage. You can then stop OneDrive from appearing in the taskbar by disabling it from automatically starting when you sign in to Windows.


  • To stop OneDrive from appearing in the taskbar, click the OneDrive icon > More > Settings, then head to the Settings tab. From there, click to disable the Start OneDrive automatically when I sign in to Windows option, then press OK to save.

Once disabled, OneDrive won’t load when you next restart up your PC. With file syncing and automatic start-up disabled, OneDrive is as good as disabled, but you can go even further by unlinking your account.

How to unlink OneDrive in Windows 10

If you want to disable OneDrive quickly, you can choose to unlink it. This removes your Microsoft account from OneDrive, logging you out and preventing files from your OneDrive account from syncing to your PC (and vice versa) at all.


  • To start, press the OneDrive icon in the notifications area of the Windows taskbar. Click the More option in the pop-up menu, then click the Settings option.
  • In the Account tab of the Microsoft OneDrive settings window, press the Unlink this PC option.
  • OneDrive will ask you to confirm that you want to unlink your PC from your OneDrive storage. If you’re happy to proceed, press the Unlink account button.
  • OneDrive will ask you to confirm that you want to unlink your PC from your OneDrive storage. If you’re happy to proceed, press the Unlink account button.

Once confirmed, OneDrive will sign out on your PC. Any files that are currently synced to your PC will remain, but any changes won’t be uploaded to your OneDrive storage—you’ll need to sign back in for this to resume.

How to disable OneDrive on Windows 10

OneDrive usually comes pre-installed with Windows 10, and some versions of Windows don’t allow you to uninstall it. If the option is available to you, however, you can choose to disable OneDrive completely by uninstalling it from your PC.


  • To do this, right-click the Windows Start menu icon and press Settings. In the Settings menu, press Apps > Apps & Features to access your list of installed software.
  • In the Apps & Features tab, locate or search for Microsoft OneDrive, then click on it. To uninstall OneDrive, press the Uninstall option.
  • In the Apps & Features tab, locate or search for Microsoft OneDrive, then click on it. To uninstall OneDrive, press the Uninstall option.
  • Windows will ask you to confirm if you want to proceed with the removal. Press the Uninstall button to remove OneDrive from your PC.