With Windows 8.1 there was a cool little feature with OneDrive where you could set a file to be online-only. This would, essentially, move the file to your OneDrive cloud storage and leave behind a shortcut. You could tap or click this shortcut and your Surface (or other Windows computer) would go onto the network and download the file to your local machine. This feature was called Onedrive Online Only Files.
As you can imagine, OneDrive online only files were a great way to save space on your Surface because you could move everything you didn’t use often to the cloud but still be able to access it with a click.
Unfortunately, some people were confused by the shortcuts and others didn’t like how long it took to retrieve the files over a slow WiFi connection. So, with Windows 10, Microsoft simply removed the option.
Now, you have to select what files and folders are synced between your Surface and your OneDrive. If you want to access a file that’s not currently synced on your Surface, you need to either go into OneDrive options and sync the folder where it is (and wait until All the files sync) or go to the OneDrive web page and download/access the file(s) via your web browser. Not very convenient right?
Access OneDrive Online Only Files: A Different Way
So, what if you want to be able to easily access the files in your entire OneDrive without keeping all of your folders synced and possibly running out of disk space on your Surface?
Fortunately, there’s an old workaround that will do the trick…. You can map a drive.
Basically, mapping a drive mounts your OneDrive with a drive letter (much like when you connect a USB drive), so you can easily open files, copy them, move them, etc. Better yet, these files don’t take up any space on your Surface.
While this is a pretty easy way to access the entirety of your OneDrive, it’s not perfect. There are a few things you need to know about it:
- It requires you have internet access to access the OneDrive.
- The speed will be slow. This is because everything is happening over the network.
- You will need to make sure you know the password to your Microsoft Account (a PIN, Picture Password, or Windows Hello won’t work)
- Some (many) people have re-connection problems, especially after a restart.
Most of the instructions for doing this you’ll find by Googling will walk you through using the Map Network Drive wizard in File Manager to map to your OneDrive. The problem with doing this is that the wizard is not very robust and often has problems retaining the necessary credentials.
The result is that your OneDrive mapping may disconnect frequently and/or you will be prompted for a username and password frequently when you try to access the mapped drive.
However, the procedure below, while a bit more cumbersome to implement if you don’t have a keyboard, is MUCH more robust and will result in a lot fewer headaches when using the mapping.
- Make sure you have a good connection to the internet.
- Open a web browser and go to https://onedrive.live.com. When prompted, login with your Microsoft Account.
- Capture your CID by copying the long alphanumeric string that appears after “CID=” from the URL in your browsers Address Bar. It will look something like the one in the example (C002C192F607A5D4).
- Next, start a Command Window by typing cmd in the search bar and selecting Command Window.
- Enter (or cut/paste/modify) the following command: net use Z: https://d.docs.live.net/<YOUR CID> /savecred /persistent:yes – be sure you replace <YOUR CID> with the long number you obtained in the steps above. Then press Enter. Be aware that the process might take up to 60 seconds depending on network speed.
- You will probably be prompted for your username then your password. You need to use your Microsoft Account username and password. If you aren’t prompted, don’t worry, it’s because Windows already has your credentials cached properly.
- Your OneDrive is now mapped to “Z drive”.
- If you want to use a different drive letter than “Z” go ahead and change it but, don’t try to use “C” and don’t omit the colon.
- Also, Make sure you replace <YOUR CID> with the alphanumeric string you got from the third step, otherwise it won’t work.
- Finally, if you don’t want the drive to be automatically remapped after a restart, omit the “/persistent:yes” portion of the command.
If you followed the directions as shown, you should now see a Z:\ drive when you go into File Explorer that opens your entire OneDrive. Better yet, while you will be able to see all of the files in your OneDrive (not just the ones you have synced) and they will not take up any precious hard drive space on your Surface.
Also, as an added benefit, if you ever accidentally un-map the drive (or didn’t set it to be persistent) your Surface will now have your credentials cached and you’ll be able to use the Map Network Drive function in File Explorer to easily map or reconnect the drive without the need to go into the command line again.
Joanna is a former IT Director for a major public university, who gave up a high paying career to blog full time. She is proud to be a professional geek. Joanna loves all things technology and Surface tablets are her passion. She and Tim created LoveMySurface.net to help others be more productive using these awesome tablets.