OneDrive Placeholders: damn time they are making a comeback

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 14, 2017

Microsoft revealed yesterday that the OneDrive's Files On-Demand feature is rolling out to Windows Insiders on the Fast Ring on Windows 10.

Files On-Demand is a new placeholder system that Microsoft plans to integrate in OneDrive, and make available to all customers on Windows 10 when the Fall Creators Update is released.

Basically, what the feature does is list all files and folders that are on OneDrive, regardless of their sync status. This means, that you will always see all files that are on OneDrive, even if they are not synced with the local Windows PC.

Microsoft supported this feature already in Windows 8 and SkyDrive, and called it smart files back then. The feature was removed later on because it was "too confusing" to users, for "compatibility" and for "reliability" reasons according to Microsoft.

Dropbox announced that it would integrate a placeholder feature for its users as well.

OneDrive Files On-Demand

onedrive files on-demand

The main advantage that Files On-Demand offers is that you have always an overview of all your files stored on OneDrive regardless of Sync status. This is better, obviously, than either having to sync all files to the machine, or using a client or the OneDrive website to browse all available files.

Another benefit of this approach is that it may save bandwidth. You don't need to sync all files to the local system to know which are available. This is even better in situations where OneDrive storage is large, and cannot be synced completely to the local system.

OneDrive indicates the status of a file with an extra icon attached to it.

onedrive files on-demand statuses

The current iteration supports the following three statuses (from left to right):

  • Cloud -- These files are not on the local device, but only available online. Files are downloaded when you interact with them, provided that the device is connected to the Internet at that time.
  • Sync -- Files marked with this (temporary) icon are synced, and will become available on the local device.
  • Local -- These files are available locally. There is also a checkmark icon with full green background, which indicates files that are marked as "always keep on this device".

Enable OneDrive Files On-Demand

Files On-Demand is not enabled by default. Users and administrators who want to make use of it need to enable it first:

  1. Right-click on the OneDrive icon in the system tray.
  2. Select Settings.
  3. Check "save space and download files as you use them".

You can mark folders or files in two ways. A right-click on a folder lets you pick the "free up space" option which removes the content from the local system and marks the selection as cloud only. You only see placeholder images as a consequence.

The other option is to select the "always keep on this device" option. This option ensures that the files are always available on the local device.

Additional information

  • When you delete online-only files on a local system, you delete it from your OneDrive on all devices, and also online.
  • Online-only files can be moved just like any other file (within OneDrive).
  • Desktop search picks up online-only files, but does not support content-searches.

Closing Words

OneDrive Files On-Demand gives users more flexibility when it comes to interacting with files stored on OneDrive. OneDrive users can ignore the feature completely and use the service like they have done before.

Those who enable Files On-Demand however gain more flexibility in the process. They can sync some folders or files, make some available permanently, but save disk space at the same time by keeping others available online.

If such a file is needed, it is downloaded when you access it. This should not take long for small to medium sized files.

OneDrive Files On-Demand settings are unique for each device you use. You may configure OneDrive to sync all files with your main desktop PC, and make heavy use of Files On-Demand on your laptop to save space.

OneDrive Placeholders: damn time they are making a comeback
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OneDrive Placeholders: damn time they are making a comeback
Microsoft revealed yesterday that the OneDrive's Files On-Demand feature is rolling out to Windows Insiders on the Fast Ring on Windows 10.
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  1. jupe said on June 14, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Bring it on! This is the best “new” feature since “upgrading” from Win8, its so very useful for me and has been sorely missed.

  2. Hoarder said on June 14, 2017 at 7:45 am

    Since Amazon Cloud Drive stopped supporting the unlimited storage option for US consumers and with the return of placeholders, I guess I won’t be needing odrive any more.

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