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OneDrive of Microsoft 365: What it is and how it works

What is OneDrive? It's a cloud-based storage service from Microsoft 365 that allows users to store files online, access them from different platforms, and share them.

Advantages include automatic data backup, integration with Microsoft Office applications, and easy file sharing. It provides storage space to team members and seamlessly integrates with SharePoint.

In this article, we'll show you what OneDrive is, how to use it, and its key features to help you make the most of it in your work.

What is OneDrive

No matter where you are, you can share resources with whoever you want from any platform you're working on: this is the underlying principle of OneDrive, the cloud storage system of Microsoft 365.

But what is a cloud storage system?

In a nutshell, it's a virtual location where you can save all your documents and files on the Internet.

You can save your files in OneDrive and have them automatically synchronized across other devices, facilitating access and collaboration on the same document from multiple locations. It offers straightforward access to cloud storage space and provides options for sharing content with others.

Everyone with a Microsoft account has access to OneDrive. You can opt for any OneDrive plan, offering 5GB of free storage, or as a Microsoft 365 subscriber, you'll enjoy 1TB of storage.

This is particularly appealing to enterprises requiring substantial data storage capacity. Although primarily a cloud storage platform, OneDrive offers more versatility once you delve into its features. Some organizations utilize it for document management systems or as a backup solution for critical files, among other uses.

Let's go deeper into the advantages of Microsoft OneDrive.

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The main advantages of OneDrive

The main features of OneDrive are, as anticipated, its cross-platform sync and compatibility.

OneDrive allows you to create files on your computer and edit them on a tablet or smartphone while saving all of your changes. Windows Phone, Android, iOS, and Xbox are all supported.

You can access the same file from any device without having to send it via email or save it to a memory stick. Furthermore, you can track changes in real time and access all previous versions of a document.
Changes can also be made by another person with whom you've shared the file, allowing you to easily collaborate on the same project.

Another significant feature of OneDrive is the ability to quickly create and edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote documents using online versions of these programs.
All you need is a device and an internet connection.

However, after you've synchronized the cloud folder to your desktop, you can access all your stored files even offline.
You won't have to worry about backing up your data because any changes you make will be automatically saved on all synchronized devices. To avoid data loss, all you have to do is enable the autosave option.

Another feature, called Personal Vault, allows users to store important files with additional protection. Personal Vault allows users to access stored files only with a strong authentication method or adding another layer of identity verification. For example, biometric authentication, PIN, or a code sent to the user via email or SMS.

How OneDrive works

To make the most of OneDrive, users can seamlessly access Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents directly from the platform without downloading, especially since it's typically integrated into Windows 11.

You'll need a Microsoft account and an Outlook, Hotmail, or Live email address to use OneDrive.

If you have a Windows 10 or Windows 11 operating system, your Microsoft account is already set up. All you have to do is click on the white cloud next to the date and time on your desktop. Alternatively, go to Start and select OneDrive from the drop-down menu.

Then, enter your Microsoft account information (email address and password), and Microsoft OneDrive will be immediately available.

Click Sign in, log in to your Microsoft account, and select the default location on your computer for the OneDrive folder. This folder contains all of the documents and files that are synchronized with your computer and stored in the cloud. You can choose between storing data on OneDrive or File Explorer and using it as a backup platform.


What is OneDrive used for?

OneDrive for Business

OneDrive for Business caters to companies' specific needs in efficiently managing their objectives. Thanks to OneDrive, organizations can seamlessly organize, store, and share documents among team members, fostering smooth real-time collaboration and ensuring the utmost security for sensitive business data.

Within OneDrive for Business, each member of the company's team is allocated storage space, ranging from 1 TB to unlimited storage per user, based on the type of Microsoft 365 license acquired. The integration with SharePoint in Microsoft 365 not only enhances storage capabilities but also optimizes collaboration processes, empowering teams to collaborate effectively on diverse projects and documents.

Personal use: OneDrive on your smartphone or tablet

For added personal convenience, OneDrive extends its features to smartphones and tablets via dedicated applications for Android and iOS devices. Users can simply download the app, log in with their business accounts, and unlock the full potential of OneDrive on their mobile devices. This seamless mobile integration empowers users to effortlessly create new folders, upload or edit files on the fly, and efficiently manage data directly from their smartphones or tablets.

The OneDrive mobile app enables users to expand collaboration beyond traditional office settings. With just a few taps, users can invite others to view or collaborate on files directly from their mobile devices. This smooth integration of mobile capabilities not only boosts productivity but also cultivates a culture of collaboration and adaptability within the organization.

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The 7 key features of OneDrive

OneDrive is a fantastic tool. We've identified 7 features that you must know to get the most out of it!

1. Create a link to the files

With OneDrive of Microsoft 365, it is simple to share a document with anyone.

Simply enter a document URL, sit back and relax.

It's effective and quick, and you won't get the dreaded "I can't open the document" message.

You can send documents through Teams too, but there is no true "Share" option. You can copy the file link, but make sure the recipient has permission to view the document in the Teams library before sending it.

OneDrive, on the other hand, has a "Share" option that allows you to send a URL to anyone and is one of the most useful features. You can also refine your sharing options on OneDrive by clicking "Anyone with a link".

2. Get more free space

Most Microsoft 365 and Office 365 plans include 1 TB of storage per user on OneDrive.

Administrators can increase the storage space up to 5TB if there are more than 5 users on the same plan. By submitting a support ticket with Microsoft, you can even go up to 25TB per user if needed.

To increase the storage limit for all users, go to OneDrive's "Administration" and select "Storage," then change the 1024MB setting to the new limit.

There are no extra costs associated with increasing capacity.

3. Request a file that you need

You may occasionally require documents from other users.

A useful feature in OneDrive allows you to make a request.

Users can indeed contact others to request that they upload certain files to a specific folder.

Select a folder on the OneDrive main screen, click on the three dots to the right of the name, and select "Request File" to create a request. A screen similar to the one below will appear:



The "Send File Request" window will appear after you click "Next". The URL for uploading content to the OneDrive folder is included in the email sent from the form.

In this way, you will be able to gather and concentrate all of the files you need for processing in one place.

4. Enable synchronization

The ability to sync files from a user's PC or laptop is one of the most appreciated features of OneDrive.

Users can work on files locally while the synch service is running, and changes are pushed to the cloud. Furthermore, Documents folder locations can be synchronized, ensuring that important documents are available both locally and in the cloud.

Because the sync service is built into Windows 10, you won't need to download it separately. If this happens, however, you can install the service by going to Start and typing in "OneDrive".

To begin the setup process, click on the OneDrive app. The cloud icon in the system tray will then allow you to access OneDrive.

Alternatively, go to and click "Sync" to enable the client.

You'll also appreciate OneDrive's integration with Windows File Explorer once it's installed.

5. Pay attention to the "File on-demand" function

Imagine this scenario.

A colleague posts several important files on the Teams workgroup. You have to quit urgently, but you have installed the sync client, so you think, "No problem, I synchronized them to my laptop, and I can see them while I'm outside". You open the laptop and see a cloud icon next to the files. However, by clicking on a file, it is not accessible.

What happened?

The "File On-Demand" feature is enabled by default, which is what happened.

Content that appears in the cloud is marked as only available in the cloud by the "Files On-Demand" feature. As a result, adding a file to a Teams file repository will not automatically sync.

It won't be available offline until you open the file.

However, if you want to keep an important file or folder on your computer, right-click on it and choose "Always keep on this device". You can also disable the Files On-Demand function in the OneDrive client by opening it and going to "Help & Settings" -> "Settings", then unchecking the function's checkbox.

6. Set the download speed

You may need to control the flow of data being downloaded at first, especially if OneDrive is being introduced to the company for the first time.

Several companies have experienced issues with critical services slowing down when hundreds or even thousands of new users activate synchronization and begin downloading content at the same time.

Because files stored in the cloud are not automatically downloaded to clients when "File On-Demand" is enabled, it significantly reduces network impact. The OneDrive sync client has built-in bandwidth controls to help you manage your network.

To view the settings, right-click the OneDrive for Business sync client and select "Settings" -> "Network".

7. Protect data on mobile devices

To make a long story short, OneDrive allows you to protect your files without using third-party apps. Simply choose a password for your mobile devices and enjoy Microsoft's highest levels of security.


In summary, what is Microsoft OneDrive?

OneDrive stands out as an online storage solution within Microsoft 365, boasting a range of powerful features.

It facilitates real-time collaboration on documents and ensures seamless file synchronization across multiple devices, all while maintaining top-notch security for your data.

A standout feature is its capability to generate shareable links for files, simplifying the process of sharing documents with others. Moreover, the option to request folders streamlines the gathering of essential files in one centralized location.

With automatic synchronization of local files to the cloud, you're guaranteed access to your documents from any device, at any time.

The 'Files On-Demand' feature further enhances user experience by allowing for efficient management of offline file availability, while download speed settings and bandwidth control offer additional control over network usage.

Lastly, OneDrive offers robust mobile device data protection, ensuring high-level security for your valuable data.

In summary, here's a breakdown of OneDrive's key features:

The best features of Microsoft OneDrive


Feature of Microsoft OneDrive Description of the feature
Create a link to the files Easily share documents by generating a URL link. Provides a quick and efficient way to share files without the hassle of sending via email.
Get more free space Microsoft 365 and Office 365 plans typically include 1 TB of storage per user on OneDrive. Administrators can increase storage space to 5 TB or even 25 TB per user if needed.
Request a file that you need Users can request specific files from others by sending a request through OneDrive. Simplifies the process of gathering necessary documents in one central location.
Enable synchronization Sync files from PC or laptop to the cloud, ensuring changes made locally are pushed to the cloud. Enhances accessibility and ensures data consistency across devices.
Pay attention to the "File on-demand" function Manage offline file availability efficiently. Content marked as available only in the cloud with the Files On-Demand feature. Users can control which files to keep locally.
Set the download speed Control the flow of data being downloaded, especially during initial deployment. Built-in bandwidth controls help manage network impact for smoother synchronization.
Protect data on mobile devices Enhance security by setting up password protection for files on mobile devices. Offers robust mobile device data protection without relying on third-party apps.

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Giuseppe Marchi


Microsoft MVP for SharePoint and Microsoft 365 since 2010.

Giuseppe is the founder of and one of the leading experts in Italy in all matters related to Microsoft 365. For years, he has been assisting companies in creating their digital workplace environment on the Microsoft cloud, focusing on people's experience.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about what OneDrive is and how to use it

1. What is OneDrive and do I need it?

OneDrive is a cloud-based storage service provided by Microsoft 365, allowing users to store files online, access them from different platforms, and share them with others. Whether you need OneDrive depends on your requirements for storing and accessing files across multiple devices and collaborating with others remotely.

2. What is the benefit of using OneDrive?

The primary benefits of using OneDrive include automatic data backup, seamless integration with Microsoft Office applications, easy file sharing, and synchronization across devices. It provides a convenient and secure way to access and collaborate on documents from anywhere with an internet connection.

3. How does Microsoft OneDrive work?

OneDrive allows users to save files in a virtual location online, providing automatic synchronization across different devices. Users can access, edit, and collaborate on documents from multiple locations, ensuring easy access to cloud storage space.

4. What are the key features of OneDrive?

The key features of OneDrive include:

  1. Creating Shareable Links: Easily share documents with others by generating shareable URLs.

  2. Expanding Storage Space: Administrators can increase storage space for users, up to 5TB per user, without additional costs.

  3. Requesting Files: Users can request files from others by sending a request through OneDrive, simplifying collaboration.

  4. Synchronization: OneDrive enables synchronization of files from PCs or laptops, ensuring access to important documents both locally and in the cloud.

  5. File On-Demand: This feature allows efficient management of offline file availability, ensuring essential files are accessible when needed.

  6. Download Speed Settings: Users can control the download speed of files, preventing network slowdowns during synchronization.

  7. Mobile Device Data Protection: OneDrive offers robust security features for mobile devices, ensuring the protection of valuable data.

5. What is OneDrive used for?

OneDrive serves various purposes, including personal use for individuals and businesses, document management, real-time collaboration, and secure file sharing among team members.

6. How can I access OneDrive?

To access OneDrive, users need a Microsoft account and can sign in through the OneDrive app or website using their credentials. OneDrive is typically integrated into Windows systems, making it easily accessible.

7. Is OneDrive compatible with mobile devices?

Yes, OneDrive offers dedicated applications for Android and iOS devices, allowing users to access and manage files on smartphones and tablets efficiently.

8. What happens if I don't use OneDrive?

If you choose not to use OneDrive, you may rely on other methods for storing and sharing files, such as local storage, external drives, or alternative cloud storage services. However, you may miss out on the advantages of automatic synchronization, integration with Microsoft Office, and seamless collaboration offered by OneDrive.

9. What is a disadvantage of using OneDrive?

One potential disadvantage of using OneDrive is dependency on internet connectivity for accessing and syncing files. Additionally, users may encounter storage limitations based on their subscription plan, although administrators can increase storage space for users as needed. Users should also be mindful of privacy and security considerations when storing sensitive information in the cloud.

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