Before Windows 8.1, it was possible to sync any folder on your computer with SkyDrive using symbolic links. This method no longer works now that SkyDrive is baked into Windows 8.1, but there are other tricks you can use.
Creating a symbolic link or directory junction inside your SkyDrive folder will give you an empty folder in your SkyDrive cloud storage. Confusingly, the files will appear inside the SkyDrive Modern app as if they were being synced, but they aren’t.
With SkyDrive refusing to understand and accept symbolic links in its own folder, the best option is probably to use symbolic links anyway — but in reverse.
For example, let’s say you have a program that automatically saves important data to a folder anywhere on your hard drive — whether it’s C:\Users\USER\Documents\, C:\Program\Data, or anywhere else. Rather than trying to trick SkyDrive into understanding a symbolic link, we could instead move the actual folder itself to SkyDrive and then use a symbolic link at the folder’s original location to trick the original program.
This may not work for every single program out there. But it will likely work for most programs, which use standard Windows API calls to access folders and save files.
We’re just flipping the old solution here — we can’t trick SkyDrive anymore, so let’s try to trick other programs instead.
Moving a Folder and Creating a Symbolic Link
First, ensure no program is using the external folder. For example, if it’s a program data or settings folder, close the program that’s using the folder.
Next, simply move the folder to your SkyDrive folder. Right-click the external folder, select Cut, go to the SkyDrive folder, right-click and select Paste. The folder will now be located in the SkyDrive folder itself, so it will sync normally.
Next, open a Command Prompt window as Administrator. Right-click the Start button on the taskbar or press Windows Key + X and select Command Prompt (Administrator) to open it.
Run the following command to create a symbolic link at the original location of the folder:
mklink /d “C:\Original\Folder\Location” “C:\Users\NAME\SkyDrive\FOLDERNAME\”
Enter the correct paths for the exact location of the original folder and the current location of the folder in your SkyDrive.
Windows will then create a symbolic link at the folder’s original location. Most programs should hopefully be tricked by this symbolic location, saving their files directly to SkyDrive.
You can test this yourself. Put a file into the folder at its original location. It will be saved to SkyDrive and sync normally, appearing in your SkyDrive storage online.
One downside here is that you won’t be able to save a file onto SkyDrive without it taking up space on the same hard drive SkyDrive is on. You won’t be able to scatter folders across multiple hard drives and sync them all. However, you could always change the location of the SkyDrive folder on Windows 8.1 and put it on a drive with a larger amount of free space. To do this, right-click the SkyDrive folder in File Explorer, select Properties, and use the options on the Location tab.
You could even use Storage Spaces to combine the drives into one larger drive.
Automatically Copy the Original Files to SkyDrive
Another option would be to run a program that automatically copies files from another folder on your computer to your SkyDrive folder. For example, let’s say you want to sync copies of important log files that a program creates in a specific folder. You could use a program that allows you to schedule automatic folder-mirroring, configuring the program to regularly copy the contents of your log folder to your SkyDrive folder.
This may be a useful alternative for some use cases, although it isn’t the same as standard syncing. You’ll end up with two copies of the files taking up space on your system, which won’t be ideal for large files. The files also won’t be instantly uploaded to your SkyDrive storage after they’re created, but only after the scheduled task runs. There are many options for this, including Microsoft’s own SyncToy, which continues to work on Windows 8.
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If you were using the symbolic link trick to automatically sync copies of PC game save files with SkyDrive, you could just install GameSave Manager. It can be configured to automatically create backup copies of your computer’s PC game save files on a schedule, saving them to SkyDrive where they’ll be synced and backed up online.
SkyDrive support was completely rewritten for Windows 8.1, so it’s not surprising that this trick no longer works. The ability to use symbolic links in previous versions of SkyDrive was never officially supported, so it’s not surprising to see it break after a rewrite.
None of the methods above are as convenient and quick as the old symbolic link method, but they’re the best we can do with the SkyDrive integration Microsoft has given us in Windows 8.1. It’s still possible to use symbolic links to easily sync other folders with competing cloud storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive, so you may want to consider switching away from SkyDrive if this feature is critical to you.