Free Up Space on Surface Tablets with OneDrive Options

Free Up Space on Surface Tablets with OneDrive Options

NOTE: This Doesn’t Work If You Upgraded To Windows 10.

A while back, I did a series of posts on how to free up space on Surface tablets (PART1, PART2, PART3). It’s been a popular series and has helped a lot of people.

However, since then, Microsoft has been making improvements to Windows and now there are a couple more things you can do to help free up space on your Surface tablet that weren’t covered in the original series.

  • Set OneDrive files to Online-Only so they don’t take up as much space on your hard drive (they will still take up some but it will be just a tiny fraction of the original amount)
  • Move your OneDrive files to a Micro SD card, so they don’t take up any space on your internal hard drive

OK, technically both of them are kind of the same thing (reduce the space taken up by OneDrive files) but the methods offer different advantages/disadvantages.

  • If you set your OneDrive (in full or in part) to online-only you will free up space conveniently and not need to buy any more local storage. However, in order to get to your OneDrive files, you will need to be connected to WiFi. If you don’t have a network connection, you simply won’t be able to see your files
  • If you move your OneDrive files to a Micro SD card you can keep all of your files with you and access them offline but you’ll need to buy a Micro SD card and keep it installed in your Surface (pretty much) permanently
  • There is the option of doing both. You can move your OneDrive files to a Micro SD card then set some or all of them to be online-only

I’ll leave it up to you to decide which way you want to go and just concentrate on what you need to know to make it work. Let’s start with a big gotcha you need to know about.

Free Up Space on Surface Tablets with OneDrive Options: IMPORTANT

Before you start trying to do any of the steps outlined in this article, check the amount of free space available on your internal drive. In order for any of the below procedures to work you MUST HAVE AT LEAST 200MB OF FREE INTERNAL DRIVE SPACE for OneDrive sync. Otherwise, nothing will happen when you try these procedures and it won’t be apparent why.

So, if your hard drive is already completely full because of OneDrive data, you are going to to want to free up at least 200MB of space before going any further. You can do this in several ways:

  • Empty your Recycle Bin
  • Move some files to a USB stick temporarily
  • Delete files you don’t need anymore
  • and so on and so forth…

Remember, 200MB is the minimum. I’d actually recommend making 500MB or even 1GB of free space available for OneDrive to work with. Now that you know about this gotcha, I’ll cover setting up online-only access to OneDrive files.

Free Up Space on Surface Tablets with OneDrive Options: Setup Online Only access

You can configure OneDrive to leave “stub files” on your Surface and move the actual files up to the cloud for storage. If you’re technically inclined and are wondering if this is, essentially, a HSM scheme – it is.

This is a pretty easy thing to setup but there are a couple of smaller gotchas you need to be aware of before doing so.

  • Once you make something online-only, you will need to have a network connection to open it. Otherwise you’ll get an error or the file simply won’t open.
  • Once you open an online-only file, it automatically becomes available offline (and starts using disk-space on your Surface)
  • If you create a file on your Surface and move it to OneDrive, it will not automatically be set to online-only. If you want it to be set to offline-only, you will need to do that manually for any files you create locally on your Surface

None of these are big gotchas but you need to keep them in mind, otherwise you could run out of space on your Surface even though you thought OneDrive files were set to online-only.

Here’s how you set one file or folder to Online-only access:

In some cases (for example if you just created a new file in OneDrive on your Surface) you may want to know how to set just that one item for online-only access. Here’s how to do it.

  • Start the OneDrive app from your Start Screen
  • Browse to the files or folders you want to make online-only and select them with a swipe
  • Tap the Make online-Only option

You can also use the same steps to set individual files or folders to be available offline. The option will just be Make offline instead of Make available online-only.

Free Up Space on Surface Tablets with OneDrive Options-Online-Only-Modern-one-file2
Also, if you look at the above screenshot or the one to the right, you’ll notice some of my files have a little computer/cloud icon next to them and some don’t.

That icon shows you the offline availability of the file. If the icon is present, the file is available offline. If the icon is missing, the file is available online-only. To me, it seems backwards but, it is what it is.

Here’s how you can easily set all of your files to Online-only access:

Setting your entire OneDrive to online-only is pretty easy, just do the following…

  • Open the OneDrive app Bring up the Charms Bar then pick Settings
  • Pick Options
  • Pick Make all files online-only

You’ll notice that there are two additional options available. The first, Access all my OneDrive files offline, is the opposite of the procedure we just did. It will only be available to you if you have sufficient local drive space to do it. Below is an example of what you will see if you had insufficient disk space to have all of your OneDrive files available offline.

The other option, Sync files, is how you turn file syncing on and off. If your OneDrive isnt syncing for some reason, make sure this setting is on. If that doesn’t work, check out this post on Troubleshooting OneDrive Sync Problems.

Finally, you can do all of these things from the desktop in File Explorer by simply doing a tap and hold (right-clicking) on OneDrive files and folders and selecting the Make available offline or Make online-only options.

However, I would highly recommend using the Modern interface if you are planning on setting all of your files to offline access, as it will help you prevent accidentally filling up your drive. This is because it will simple not allow you to turn it on if you don’t have enough local space.

Free Up Space on Surface Tablets with OneDrive Options: Move OneDrive Files to a Micro SD Card

If you don’t want to deal with online vs offline-only files in OneDrive and you have a Micro SD card installed, you can always simply move your OneDrive files to it to free up your internal hard drive space.

HERE’S HOW YOU CAN Move your OneDrive Files to a Micro SD Card:

  • Make sure your Micro SD card is installed and working correctly.
  • Make sure you know the path to the Micro SD card
  • From the desktop, open File Explorer
  • Tap and hold (right-click) on OneDrive to bring up the menu
  • Select Properties

  • When the OneDrive Properties window appears, select the Location tab

  • Type in the path to the Micro SD card and select Move. You’ll get a Select the Destination window

  • Pick the Micro SD card as the new destination then tap Select Folder
  • Wait. This will take quite a while.

If you’re having some space issues on your Surface because of too many OneDrive files taking up space, hopefully, this post will help you setup OneDrive to let you free up space on your Surface without needing to delete files.

As usual, if you have questions or comments, please let me know.


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