windows 8.1 onedrive desktop

Windows 8.1 integrates OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) everywhere, even on the desktop. You may want to save all your personal files to OneDrive so they’ll be accessible everywhere, but Windows doesn’t always save to OneDrive by default.

We’ll walk you through setting things up so you can more easily save to OneDrive and won’t accidentally save your important files to your local storage. These tips could also be used to save files to Dropbox, Google Drive, or another cloud storage service.

Move Folders From This PC to OneDrive

By default, programs will save many files to the folders under This PC in File Explorer — that is, the Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos folders. You can move these folders to your OneDrive folder and Windows will continue to display them under This PC. Files you save to these folders under This PC will automatically be saved to your OneDrive storage. You can’t just drag and drop the folders to your OneDrive folder, however — you have to move them in a special way.

To do this, open File Explorer and right-click one of your user data folders under This PC — the Documents folder, for example. Select Properties in the menu. Click the Location tab in the Properties window, click the Move button, and choose a new location for the folder inside your OneDrive account. You may need to create a new folder inside OneDrive for the folder. For example, below we’re moving the Documents folder under This PC to the Documents folder inside our OneDrive account. Click the OK button and Windows will move the folder and the files in it to OneDrive.

You’ll have to repeat this process for each folder you want to move. You may want to skip some folders — for example, you probably don’t want to move your Downloads folder to OneDrive, as it’s a temporary location for downloads, and you don’t want to upload each file you download.

If you have other Windows 8.1 PCs, repeat this process on each of them and the user data folders under This PC will be kept in sync between your PCs and your OneDrive storage.

Point Your Libraries at OneDrive

RELATED: How to Bring Libraries Back on Windows 8.1 and 10's File Explorer

This second trick is somewhat redundant if you’ve used the above trick. Libraries are apparently being phased out of Windows — they’re now hidden by default in Windows 8.1 — even though many “Store apps” still depend on them. With some tweaking to your libraries, files you save to your Documents, Pictures, Music, or Videos libraries will be automatically saved to OneDrive. This method also allows you to split your files between OneDrive and your local storage. You could have some files in the library saved to a local folder and some saved to your cloud storage.

To do this, you’ll first need to show the hidden libraries in File Explorer. In File Explorer, click the View tab on the ribbon, click the Navigation pane button, and enable the Show libraries checkbox.

Libraries will appear in File Explorer’s navigation pane. Right-click one of the libraries and select Properties. Click the Add button to add a new folder and select a folder in your OneDrive folder. You may need to create a new folder in OneDrive for this. Add that folder to the library, then select it and click Set save location. Files you save to the library will now automatically be saved to the folder on OneDrive and synchronized across your computers.

Repeat this process on each of your computers and the files in your OneDrive account will show up in your libraries. Note that files already in the library won’t be moved to OneDrive — you’ll have to open the library and move them between folders to move them to your OneDrive storage.

Change Your Save Location in Each Program

RELATED: How to Change the Default Save Location for Office 2013

Many programs have their own options for where to save files by default. If an individual program isn’t saving files to OneDrive by default, open its options and look for a “Default Save Location”-type option to change. Office 2013 saves your files to OneDrive by default, so you won’t need to do anything for it.

Note that you may not have to adjust this option if you moved one of your user data folders to OneDrive. For example, if you moved your Documents folder to OneDrive, programs that attempt to save to your standard Documents folder will automatically save to OneDrive.

Link Other Folders to OneDrive

RELATED: How to Sync Any Folder With SkyDrive on Windows 8.1

OneDrive no longer supports symbolic links on Windows 8.1, so you can’t create a link to an external folder inside your OneDrive folder and have OneDrive automatically sync that folder. OneDrive will only sync files and folders located within in the OneDrive folder itself.

Luckily, there’s still a trick that works for programs that insist on saving their files to a specific location outside your OneDrive folder. Follow our guide to syncing any folder with OneDrive on Windows 8.1 if you need to synchronize any folder or file outside your OneDrive folder.

Microsoft wants people to save their files to OneDrive instead of local storage, so expect them to make this even easier in future versions of Windows. For now, it’s easy to automatically save files to your cloud storage service of choice with a few tweaks.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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