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Files on Demand

If you’re one of the millions of Windows 10 users mourning the demise of Windows 8.1 placeholders for online files, there is good news.

Microsoft is bringing placeholders back later in the year, but with a new name, and new and improved features.

OneDrive Files on Demand brings back the selective syncing capability that was popular (but confusing for some) in Windows 8.1. It means you’ll no longer have to download entire folders.

The news is even better for Windows Insiders running Windows 10 build 16215. You can immediately download and install the OneDrive update that enables Files on Demand, and use it today.

Why Files on Demand Matters

Not everyone wants to download entire folders to their hard drive in order to access specific files offline. Typically, files stored in the cloud require the user to be online in order to access those files. This is inconvenient if you’re working remotely with a patchy or a slow Internet connection. It’s equally annoying if you have to download the entire folder in order to access the file you want.

Windows 8.1 had what Microsoft called ‘placeholders’. These allowed a user to download only the file or files they wanted, leaving the rest in the cloud. Windows 8.1 had a lot of faults, but it also had many nifty features.

Windows 10 is brilliant, but Microsoft didn’t get it entirely right in the initial development, leaving out some things that people loved about Windows 8.1. Placeholders was one of those things.

Now it’s back. Files on Demand is easy to set up and works just like placeholders did, except it’s easier to see which files are synced, which are available offline, and which are still in the cloud.

New Features in OneDrive Files on Demand

Configuring Files on Demand is simple. The previous version in Windows 8.1 confused some people, which is why Microsoft excluded it in Windows 10. However, OneDrive’s new and improved Files on Demand is much simpler and clearer.

A first-run window appears after installation (if you miss this you can configure it later via the OneDrive settings), and you’ll see a new Files on Demand tab where you can check the box to ‘save space and download files as you use them’.

You can see at a glance what’s happening with your files.

After syncing with OneDrive, you can access files via File Explorer just as previously in Windows 8.1. New Icons in a status column show clearly whether files are downloaded or available only in the cloud:

  • A green checkmark indicates a downloaded file, available offline.
  • An empty cloud icon indicates files or folders only available from the cloud.
  • Two arrows circling each other indicate a file that’s marked for sync and will be available offline when sync is complete.

Double-clicking an online file will download it. From then, it will always be available offline. When you no longer need the downloaded file on your device, you can right-click and choose ‘free up space’.

Another handy feature in Files on Demand is the icons are visible regardless of which view you’re in. Handy if you’re looking at images and want thumbnails rather than text descriptors or file names.

OneDrive Files on Demand rolls out to everyone this autumn when the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update comes out but, as mentioned, is available to Windows Insiders who can install it now.

Need some help or more info? Get in touch, we’re happy to help!

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