How to use OneDrive with Microsoft 365 desktop

Windows 10 saves your Microsoft 365 files locally and on OneDrive. You don't have to do a thing to take advantage of the setup.

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Image: Microsoft

If you've been in the workforce as long as I have, you've seen a lot of technological changes. Once, working outside of regular hours meant driving back to work. Now, we can work from anywhere on several different devices; we're no longer stuck in one location to access our work files. If you're using Microsoft 365, that's never been truer than now. 

On a Windows 10 system, Microsoft 365 and OneDrive work together seamlessly, but if you don't understand how they work together, you might be confused: Do you have to do something to make it all work? Why does OneDrive show up in File Explorer? In this article, I'll show you how this integration works together to sync files between your local system and OneDrive. 

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I'm using Microsoft 365 on a Windows 10 64-bit system. OneDrive comes with Windows 10. To install OneDrive for older versions, visit Install and Set Up, but this article provides instructions for only Windows 10. If you're using an enterprise version of Office 365, an administrator has already configured access, and your experience probably won't match the Home or School user, which is what this article reviews.

How to use OneDrive cloud on your desktop

OneDrive is a cloud storage service from Microsoft. You store (and protect) files in the cloud so you can share them with others and access them from anywhere. With your Microsoft 365 license you have at least 1TB of cloud storage; however, your organization's administrator can change that. All files that you store in OneDrive are private, but you can share files and folders with co-workers.

The easiest way to access OneDrive from your local system is to open a Microsoft 365 file (or app)—OneDrive by default, is enabled when working with desktop apps. By the way, the term local refers to the desktop computer you consider your main work station. It's in your home or work office and stays there. If you use a laptop as your main system, it probably travels with you a lot, but it's still your local system. Local, within the context of this discussion refers to the physical system and not its geographical location. 

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Once inside Microsoft 365, your account name appears in the top-right section of the app's title bar, as shown in Figure A. Click your account name to see the information below. Here, you can sign out or sign into another account. When you're signed out, Microsoft 365 will display "Sign In" instead of your account name. Simply click it to sign into your account. (You should already have an account; acquiring an account is part of the installation process.)

Figure A

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  You'll see your Microsoft account name when signed in and interacting with OneDrive (Windows 10).

Microsoft 365 will save files to OneDrive and your local drive if you choose OneDrive. To do so, click the File tab and choose Save As in the left pane. Doing so will display your OneDrive account(s) and your local system (Figure B). Once you've saved a file in OneDrive, Save As becomes Save A Copy, your clue that you are saving to both OneDrive and your local system. 

Figure B

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  Microsoft 365 saves a file to OneDrive and your local system.

It all just works; you don't have to upload a file, save a file twice, save a copy … just save the file to your OneDrive account. This is where a lot of users get lost: They don't realize that when saving to OneDrive, Microsoft 365 is also saving the file to the local system. If you don't want a document in the cloud, browse to a folder on the local system by choosing This PC and save the file.

If you're still not sure (or convinced), use the OneDrive cloud icon in the Windows taskbar notification area. (If you don't see it, click the Show Hidden Icons arrow to the left.) Right-click the cloud icon and choose Settings (Figure C). In the resulting dialog, click the Office tab, check (if necessary) the Use Office Applications to Sync Office Files That I Open option (Figure D), and click OK.

Figure C

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  Check OneDrive settings.

Figure D

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  Check this option to sync Microsoft 365 files and OneDrive.

Syncing files between your local system and OneDrive is the key to accessing files from anywhere and from any (supporting) mobile device. When you're online, changes sync automatically. When you don't have access to the files via your local system, you can access files by visiting OneDrive.com and signing into your account.

How to use OneDrive on the go

Now that you know how to save files to OneDrive so you can access them using other devices, you need to know how to get into your Microsoft OneDrive account. Using your device browser, access OneDrive.com. If you're signed in, your files will pop right up, as shown in Figure E. Be sure to bookmark this location in your device browser. With a quick click, you have your files at your fingertips using a table, a phone or most any other device.

Figure E

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  Access your files through the OneDrive site.

The only place this gets a bit shaky is if you sign out of the online account and later forget your password. I stay signed in because it's easier, but that's a choice for you and your organization to make. If the worst happens, reset your password for device access to your files on OneDrive.

While working, OneDrive syncs your local files with OneDrive. It'll do the same when working at OneDrive.com. If you don't see that happening, refresh the local folder using File Explorer. If you still don't see it, you probably need to specifically tell your local system to sync that folder as follows:

  1. Right-click the cloud option and choose settings.
  2. Click the Account tab.
  3. Click Choose Folders.
  4. In the resulting dialog, check the appropriate folder (Figure F), and click OK.

Figure F

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  All my folders are syncing with OneDrive.

Now that you understand how the pieces all work together out of the box. You don't need to do a thing. However, I have showed you where to check and reset options if things aren't working as you expect. 

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