OneDrive is Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s iCloud and Google Drive. Well, that’s not entirely accurate since OneDrive preceded those cloud storage and syncing services by at least five years. OneDrive’s functionality and design have reached a point of slick usability and reliability. It has a rich feature set, online office apps, and wide platform support. OneDrive has attractive and capable web and mobile interfaces, photo AI tagging, real-time collaborative editing, and powerful search. The service’s deep integration with Windows and Microsoft 365, alongside its completeness, maturity, and polish, earn not only an Editors’ Choice award but also a rare five-out-of-five rating.
OneDrive has apps not only for Windows PCs but also for macOS, Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, and Xbox. Everything it stores is available in any web browser you log in to. OneDrive integrates seamlessly with Microsoft 365 apps and includes rich photo-management features. Apple’s competing iCloud has no app for Android (the most popular OS(Opens in a new window) in the world), and its website lacks basic functions like search. Recent OneDrive feature adds include online photo editing and the ability to cast photos to a TV via Chromecast, to organize photos by date or source, and to filter by folder.
What Does OneDrive Do?
OneDrive is a versatile online storage service that can be used for accessing documents and media files, syncing between devices, backing up device settings, and more. It is especially useful For Windows 10 and 11 users because it backs up images displayed on the lock screen, desktop backgrounds, and Favorites in browsers. Additionally, it enables coauthoring of Microsoft 365 documents.
In 2023, OneDrive will receive a number of updates, including redesigned home screens and support for offline web syncing. Additional sharing options include file favoriting and Teams integration. A private shared photo (and video) story feature is also coming soon.
There are a number of different ways to view the service: by type of data, client, or function. The data types include documents, photos, videos, music, and settings. The clients include computers (desktop/laptop), mobile devices (smartphones/tablets), and web browsers. Functions covered in this article include syncing (between computers/devices), viewing content (on various platforms), playing media files (.mp3/.m4a/, etc.), and simple file storage.
How Much Does OneDrive Cost?
If you have a Microsoft account, that includes any email accounts you’ve ever had (including Hotmail, Live, or Outlook.com) and any other providers you choose to sign up with.
Free users have access to 5GB of free storage space, while some smartphones and PCs offer additional OneDrive storage for free. In comparison, iCloud offers 1GB of free storage unless you own an Apple device, which gives you 5 GB. Dropbox grants 2 GB of free storage. IDrive offers 10GB as a default with no ads or limits on file size. Google Drive provides 15 GB of shared storage, though this amount is also shared with Gmail accounts. Other smaller players like Mega and PCloud also offer more generous amounts of free online storage but fewer features.
With the $6.99-per-month Personal subscription, Microsoft 365 users receive 1TB more storage space than they would with a Standard subscription. Along with features like password-protected share links and ransomware protection, this tier also includes downloadable Microsoft 365 programs. The $9.99 monthly Home subscription provides 6TB of storage for six users (1TB each). Another option is to add 200GB of OneDrive storage for $1.99 per month, but that comes at the cost of losing some benefits included in the Personal plan, such as password-protected share links and downloadable software programs… Apple charges $9.99 monthly for 2TB of iCloud Storage, while Dropbox.
How OneDrive Syncing Works
OneDrive desktop and mobile app syncing are available on Windows 7 through 11, macOS 10.12 or later, and Android 6.0 or later. There is no native client for Linux at this time; however, there are workarounds that allow you to use it. The OneDrive mobile app has been released for Android and iOS devices with a release date of January 5th, 2019. It can also be found in the Amazon App Store for Kindle Fire users as of November 14th, 2018. The desktop syncing setup wizard will guide you through creating an account if needed and places a blue cloud icon in your system tray from which you can open your synced folder or change settings.
One of the great features of OneDrive is that it automatically uploads files stored on your computer to the cloud and makes them available for viewing or editing on any other devices you can access. You can now upload up to 250GB in size, which is larger than most people will ever need but smaller than Google Drive’s 5TB limit (though for some file types, this size may be much smaller). Shared files and folders with privileges can also be password-protected. Paid users of OneDrive don’t get these features at any plan level without third-party add-ins. Apple’s iCloud service doesn’t offer similar flexibility, requiring workarounds or additional paid services.
I installed OneDrive on an iMac and a Windows desktop to test cross-platform syncing. Within the OneDrive app, I then created a new folder. This process worked perfectly in Mac OS X; the newly created folder appeared instantly in my Windows PC’s OneDrive folder. Similarly, using the built-in features of various applications like Dropbox can save files directly to your cloud storage without needing to visit a separate website or application. However, it should be noted that iCloud and Google Drive also offer similar functionality.
OneDrive offers a variety of features and functions, some more important than others. Some key highlights include device synchronization, file syncing between folders and files, Personal Vault for storing sensitive data securely, folder backup functionality to keep your work area safe, and support for Microsoft 365 collaboration tools.
Device syncing allows users of all devices to access files stored in OneDrive’s online folders. This includes Windows laptops and desktops, iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, and macOS computers.
OneDrive offers an automatic mobile photo backup feature for iPhone and Android users that allows photos and videos taken with the phone’s camera to be uploaded automatically to OneDrive. This is available through other services as well, such as iCloud, Dropbox, and Windows Photos app. With this feature, your images and videos are quickly accessible online in a OneDrive folder on any PC or device you have installed the app.
Microsoft’s new OneDrive file and folder syncing service is similar to competing services from Dropbox and SugarSync. Previously, Microsoft had separate storage and syncing systems; now, they’ve merged them into one cloud-based system that is more user-friendly than ever before.
Adding extra security to your files stored on OneDrive with Personal Vault requires multi-factor authentication. This can take the form of a security code sent to your email, phone, or app (such as Authy) that helps secure your account. Your files are locally encrypted by BitLocker and will automatically lock after a set amount of time if you don’t use them. You cannot share these files accidentally or without authorization from the user.
OneDrive backup options let you protect files located on your computer in three specific folders: Desktop, Documents, and Pictures. These folders do not have to be stored within OneDrive itself; they can also reside outside the app.
Microsoft 365 collaboration is synced across devices and the web, making it easy for team members to collaboratively edit documents in Word or Excel stored in their OneDrive folders.
OneDrive in Windows 11
With Windows 11, OneDrive is integrated more deeply into the operating system than a separate web service. You can find it in File Explorer and select which folders are synchronized. This also affects searches on the Windows desktop and Cortana’s search capabilities; results include files from your synced OneDrive folder(s). The Windows 11 Media Player can play music files you upload to it.
Starting in September 2022, Windows 11 users will have access to a new Settings panel with options for Files On Demand, PC backup, and more.
Files on Demand
One of the greatest features to ever be added to OneDrive is its implementation of Files on Demand. This enables you to save files onto your computer without having them fill up every connected device’s drive. Instead, as needed, they are only downloaded when you open them. Files on Demand is available in both the macOS and Windows versions of OneDrive’s client too!
You can still download files for offline use by designating folders and files in File Explorer with the “Status” column showing an online icon and a checkmark next to items stored locally. Files that are waiting to be uploaded have a circular-arrows icon. Google Drive also has this feature, but Apple’s iCloud Drive does not currently have an on-demand capability for its Windows client; it works automatically when downloading via Mac or iOS devices.
OneDrive mobile apps are now available on Apple Watch and Wear OS devices, which let you view recent photos or documents on the watch face. Tablet versions of iPadOS, Windows 10, and Android can also use OneDrive apps. If that is not convenient enough for you, there’s always the web interface option to access your files.
The mobile apps let you access and view any files stored in your OneDrive account and upload new files to compatible applications. You can also find photos grouped by automatically generated tags like “people,” “animal,” and so on.
I tested out mobile access to OneDrive on iPhone and Android devices. The OneDrive apps are clearly designed to focus on the cloud, showing folder icons and the files stored in the cloud. You can also view and edit documents (including spreadsheets and PDFs) within the app. Additionally, you can share any items in your folders via email links or copy them to the phone’s clipboard for offline use.
Windows 10 Mobile has a new search feature that is available in all of the mobile apps. You can also use the Automatically Upload to OneDrive option, which automatically lets you upload photos and videos taken on your phone. In addition, you can watch videos on your phone too! This is great because it allows you to easily access photos and videos from your iPhone’s camera roll or other galleries.
One of the new features of Microsoft 365 is the availability of mobile apps for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. They are available on Android, iOS, and Windows 10 (desktop and mobile) and through web browsers. When you open a document in an Office app such as Word or Excel on your phone or computer, you can view it and launch the editing app if necessary. Documents you create in these applications are automatically synced to all your Microsoft 365 accounts.
Microsoft’s cloud storage service offers a variety of file types, including documents, music, photos, and videos. Here is an overview of how each one is handled.
One of the great features of using OneDrive with Microsoft 365 Online apps is that you can download and upload files and view and edit them online. In fact, everything stored in OneDrive takes on the same hierarchy as if it were a document on your computer. This makes working together in groups much easier; everyone knows where all the information is located without having to search through folders. Additionally, Microsoft 365 Online offers better formatting fidelity than Docs does. This means that documents look more like they would when viewed on a desktop or laptop rather than being formatted for mobile devices.
I could easily work with Microsoft file formats like Word Documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations using the online Microsoft 365 apps. I could also view PDFs and Windows-recognized Zip files on my desktop as a default save location. OneDrive is also built-in to Microsoft 365 apps, making it easy to keep your workarounds and project files on hand while working at home.
Windows 10’s Media Player and Windows 11’s Groove app lets you play songs stored on OneDrive. Unlike streaming music, which requires the files to be downloaded before playing, these apps allow users to access songs directly via streaming. Google Play Music does this for Android users as well. iCloud has similar capabilities, but Apple Music doesn’t have access to songs stored on iCloud Drive.
Photos and Video
OneDrive excels in its ability to display photos and videos online. Like Flickr, it also auto-tags images using artificial intelligence, grouping them together based on such things as tags like “dogs,” “crowds,” or “buildings.” Google Photos offers a similar search capability and the ability to see a map of where the photo was taken (if it is geotagged) and EXIF data from the camera. Apple iCloud doesn’t include any of these features; you have to share photos manually by tagging them and then granting permission for your recipient to view them.
One of the benefits of sharing videos using OneDrive is that it transcodes the video on the fly to match the capabilities of the receiver’s bandwidth. This way, if you’re sharing a video with someone with limited cellular data connectivity, they won’t have to download an unnecessarily large file which could potentially cause buffering issues. I tested this out by trying to share a movie over an LTE connection with just three bars remaining in my battery life- and thankfully, everything played smoothly without any interruption!
OneDrive’s photo tricks include Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology which allows you to cut and paste text that you’ve saved in a picture. If you save a photo with text in it to your cloud storage, the Info panel on its OneDrive profile includes an OCR text area which you can accidentally or intentionally click to cut and paste wherever. However, Google Drive does include OCR benefits on images you save in a document.
OneDrive includes many tools that allow you to edit the photos you keep in your account. Edited images in GIF, PNG, or JPEG format can be viewed and saved for sharing. There are also many editing options, such as cropping, rotation, lighting, and color adjustments. But one constraint of editing images on OneDrive is that you can only work with JPEG and PNG formats. When I tried editing a photo that had been saved in the HEIC (High-Efficiency Image File Format) format, I couldn’t view or edit it in a OneDrive editing interface, even though it is fully compatible with other mobile photo editing apps.
Using OneDrive With Other Apps
OneDrive for Windows is no longer really necessary. It doesn’t offer anything that can’t be done in File Explorer or on the website, and it looks good in dark mode. The app is a functional utility for viewing and uploading files, but I don’t think it’s worth using over File Explorer or the website. Recent updates to the app add an easy way to switch between accounts.
OneDrive is integrated with many different Windows applications and web services, making it easy for developers to use. For example, ACDSee Photo Studio lets you save edited images to OneDrive.
Is Your Data Safe in OneDrive?
Microsoft said data backed up with OneDrive is covered by “advanced encryption, compliance, and other enterprise-grade security features.” To maintain privacy, OneDrive supports multi-factor authentication and has at-rest and in-transit encryption for all users and file types. People with access must go through a process to set up a personal code that only the intended recipient knows. According to the company’s documentation, it “maintains a 0-standing access” policy, which means that technical staff is not permitted access to the key unless specific.
The company also proactively monitors for threats such as unauthorized attempts to gain access to customer data or improper data transfer out of the service. After 15 years in operation, there have been no major breaches of OneDrive, so there is confidence in the service. OneDrive is the official file storage of Windows. If privacy for your cloud files is your main concern, check out Proton Drive, which is also 100% secure.
The Personal Vault is a new feature of OneDrive that requires additional authentication whenever you want to access its contents.
One Place for Your Digital Life
Microsoft’s cloud solution, OneDrive, has come together well regarding file syncing and storage. The cross-platform support is a smart move on Microsoft’s part, as is the inclusion of Android, iOS, macOS/OS X devices, and Xbox platforms. Google Drive remains an excellent service with its 15GB free storage (which can also be shared with Gmail), while IDrive receives PCMag Editors’ Choice accolades for its large feature set—particularly when it comes to backup and archiving—and low price.
Microsoft OneDrive is a cloud-based storage and syncing service that received positive reviews from reviewers due to its integration with Microsoft 365, collaborative features, security options, strong photo tools, and wide platform support. It’s rated 5 out of 5 stars by users and was awarded an Editors’ Choice award for cloud storage.
If you’re looking to maximize the value of OneDrive, be sure to read our guide on managing, syncing, and sharing files.
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Title: Microsoft OneDrive is the best online storage and syncing service, providing a great way to store your files and keep them synchronized across multiple devices