Microsoft OneDrive
Image: IB Photography/Adobe Stock

Microsoft OneDrive provides companies with a powerful cloud-based service users frequently employ to store, share and synchronize files. Included in every Microsoft 365 home and business plan, the file-storage service isn’t just for Windows users. Microsoft also provides device-specific apps for iPhones, iPads and Macs. Ensure you’re using OneDrive as efficiently and productively as possible when you use an Apple device by avoiding the following mistakes.

Mistake one: Avoid using illegal filenames and characters

Business professionals using OneDrive often depend upon the file storage feature to enable access to commonly used documents, spreadsheets, presentations, PDFs, photos and other files across multiple devices. But trouble arises when using folders or filenames that are incompatible with OneDrive.

Files — including white papers, data sheets, product specification brochures and similar items — downloaded from vendors and websites sometimes include illegal characters. Many folder and filenames are also incompatible with OneDrive.

SEE: iCloud vs. OneDrive: Which is best for Mac, iPad and iPhone users? (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The following illegal characters prevent OneDrive files from synchronizing: ”, *, :, <, >, ?, /, \ and |. Further, ~ only works properly when it is not the first character in a folder or filename.

Specific filenames can cause a problem, too. Avoid using AUX, PRN, NUL and CON, and COM and LPT with a numeral — as in COM1, COM2, etc. or LPT 1, LPT2, etc. — as they cause OneDrive sync trouble.

Mistake two: Don’t forget to employ the local OneDrive device-specific app

There’s an occasional temptation, especially when using a Mac, to just use Microsoft’s web-based OneDrive portal to access and store files. Loading the Mac-specific app and installing and configuring the iPhone- and iPad-specific program (Figure A) on those devices significantly extends the file storage service’s use and capabilities.

Figure A

The OneDrive iPad application provides quick access to files and integrates with iPadOS to permit easier sharing and forwarding of files and images.

With the OneDrive device-specific app loaded, the program’s usefulness increases. You can download files directly to OneDrive and more expediently share OneDrive files with colleagues. You can more readily access Markup to edit OneDrive files, and you can also store third-party app files directly within OneDrive, providing additional protection against potential data loss should the device become lost or its storage fail.

Mistake three: Periodically confirm proper operation

This lesson applies to all cloud-based file storage and synchronization applications, not just OneDrive. I’ve learned from first-hand experience over many years that occasionally file storage and sync providers’ wonkiness make this a legitimate step to prescribe: Don’t assume OneDrive synchronization is working properly.

Periodically check the OneDrive directories on your various devices to ensure they’re identical. Confirm there are no missing directories, and that the total number of files stored in critical folders matches.

As noted earlier, occasionally files are downloaded or created that contain illegal names or characters; those files won’t synchronize or back up to the cloud. In other cases, the service might corrupt on the local device and even compatible files won’t synchronize, sometimes necessitating uninstalling and reinstalling the OneDrive app.

Mistake four: Cautiously connect long-dormant devices

This lesson I learned the hard way. Whenever connecting a long-dormant device equipped with OneDrive and active account credentials, anomalies can occur. Beware and take a moment before firing up long ignored devices connected to your OneDrive account.

While rare, I’ve experienced cases where a laptop with a file storage and synchronization app was stored in a desk for an extended period, then powered up and reconnected to the Internet. Thousands of files’ status had changed in the interim, and some synchronization conflicts arose. Ultimately, newer files were overwritten by the legacy systems’ outdated counterparts.

When returning an older system to operation, consider disconnecting its Internet connection long enough to provide you time to pause OneDrive synchronization. Before re-enabling synchronization, you may wish to first review the device’s OneDrive status and confirm hundreds of changes won’t need to be synced, in which case it might just be easier to uninstall the outdated OneDrive app and its data and reinstall the service fresh. Be sure to first back up the local OneDrive folder to an external hard drive or other directory to protect any files created locally that may never be backed up to the cloud.

Mistake five: Ensure you’re using the correct account

As is becoming increasingly common for a variety of factors, including families tapping the power of Microsoft 365 consumer plans that include OneDrive, there’s the potential for you to log in to the wrong Microsoft account when prompted (Figure B). This risk is especially likely on an iPhone used both for business and personal reasons and on which you frequently take, forward and store images and videos.

Figure B

When associating a device with OneDrive, be sure to log in to the correct Microsoft account, should you be among the many that maintain both work and personal accounts.

Ensure highlights from your next vacation or night on the town aren’t inadvertently shared with your co-workers. Paying careful attention to which OneDrive account you’re logged in to when saving and storing files, particularly on your mobile devices, is always advisable.

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