Enterprise Software

Microsoft SharePoint tip: Clean up OneDrive syncing to reduce confusion

Microsoft SharePoint is a great tool for collaboration, but it is dependent upon the proper operation of the OneDrive syncing app--which can act unreliably without proper maintenance.

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Image: iStock/MangoStar_Studio

One of the major benefits of using Microsoft SharePoint to create a central location where team members can collaborate on documents and other important tasks is file synchronization. Whenever a change in a document or other file is made in a SharePoint folder, it gets propagated to the cloud and every other device connected to that server. This important function is handled by the same syncing application that controls Microsoft OneDrive.

Unfortunately, there is more than one version of the OneDrive syncing app. This fact can sometimes create unnecessary and often frustrating confusion. Subscribers to Microsoft Office 365 have their version of OneDrive, while purchasers of the standalone version of Office 2016 are often using a version known as OneDrive for Business. Recently, Microsoft decided to remove some of the confusion by consolidating the syncing software into one version of OneDrive.

However, the transition to a single version of OneDrive has been, to put it politely, rough, which has caused even more confusion and frustration. As you can see in Figure A, I found myself in a situation where I had both the Office 365 OneDrive version and the OneDrive for Business version running at the same time. It led to major instability, long boot times, and general annoyance.

Figure A

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Of course, as an Office 365 subscriber, it would be best for me to use just the Office 365 OneDrive. But getting rid of the older version is not as simple as uninstalling it. Removing OneDrive for Business requires a bit of trickery. Here is how I did it.

SEE: Cost comparison calculator: G Suite vs. Office 365 (Tech Pro Research)

Getting OneDrive for Office 365

If you are using SharePoint with Office 365, which is what I recommend, you want to be using the Office 365 version of OneDrive. The easiest way to get it is to log into the online version of SharePoint, navigate to the folder you want to sync, and then click the sync button. If you are not using the latest OneDrive software, the system will prompt you for permission to upgrade.

But before you do, be sure to synchronize all your documents so that what is online is up to date and what you want propagated across devices. After that, uninstall whatever OneDrive you have installed on your devices. This is your best chance for a clean install of the software. If you don't, you could end up like me—inadvertently running two versions of OneDrive.

SEE: 30 things you should never do in Microsoft Office (free TechRepublic PDF)

Exorcising the ghost of OneDrive's Past

If you do find your device is running two versions of OneDrive, you may find that clicking the inviting Uninstall button in the Start Menu (Figure B) just doesn't work. In my case, that link just took me to the application list, where the only OneDrive application that could be removed was the new version—there was no separate entry for OneDrive for Business.

Figure B

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My assumption was that there were remnants of entries buried deep inside the Windows Registry that were continuing to call upon the old application. I tried changing the name of the old OneDrive app, but that just caused errors. My internet research suggested using a third-party app like CCleaner, but I was not sure which entries to delete and which to leave alone. Obviously, something else had to be done.

I decided to use the Group Policy Editor to try to reestablish the correct OneDrive parameters. Here are the steps to take.

First, right-click on the Windows 10 Start Menu and click the Command Prompt (Admin) menu entry. Type this application name at the prompt and press Enter:

gpedit.msc

That will open the Group Editor. Next, navigate to this entry:

Computer Configuration | Administrative Templates | Windows Components | OneDrive

You should see a screen similar to Figure C.

Figure C

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Double-click Prevent The Usage Of OneDrive For File Storage to reach the dialog box shown in Figure D.

Figure D

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Click the Enabled button, click OK, and reboot your device. When that reboot is complete, there should be no OneDrive application running and no icon in the system tray.

Now repeat the process but change the dialog box setting shown in Figure D back to Not Configured and reboot again. This little trick fixed my ghost in the machine problem and left me running just one version, the correct Office 365 version of OneDrive.

SEE: Five ways Microsoft SharePoint can help teams collaborate (TechRepublic)

Smooth sailing

After I removed the extra version of the syncing software, SharePoint became more responsive, files no longer failed to sync for unexplained reasons, and the computer began booting in a reasonable amount of time. I finally feel like I can actually take advantage of SharePoint's full range of features. If you are having problems with SharePoint or OneDrive, perhaps you should check to see whether you have more than one cloud icon in the system tray—you may have a conflict to sort out.

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Your take

Have you run into any issues with OneDrive syncing? Share your advice and experiences with fellow TechRepublic members.

About Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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