Microsoft OneDrive is a hot mess on Windows 10


    Microsoft’s OneDrive has been built into Windows since Windows 8, back in 2012. By the time Windows 8.1 rolled around, Microsoft made it the default storage location to make sure your files were synced to the cloud and available from any device. What was a fantastic feature a few years ago has now become a resource hungry, error prone excuse for a sync engine.

    Files stored on your PC are always at risk of device failure, but having files synced to free online storage made the problem go away. For those who never remember to backup, this was a long-running problem finally solved. That was of course until Windows 10.

    The OneDrive team decided they’d make fundamental changes to the way files were managed with OneDrive. In the scenario where you have a large drive in your PC and can sync all OneDrive files between the PC and the cloud, the system will likely function fine. In reality, with an increase in mobile devices, the storage capacites of our devices are much smaller than our online storage, particularly if you pay for Office 365 and have extra GBs on OneDrive.

    Users are now faced with a choice of which files and folders need to be synced locally and which are fine to live in the cloud only. In the Windows 8 implementation of OneDrive, you’re entire folder structure of OneDrive was available in Windows Explorer. Simply right click and choose to sync locally or leave the files online-only. This was simple, easy to understand and easy to control should you change your mind, or have a project you need offline for a flight.

    The OneDrive team decided to change this brilliant model for two core reasons. Their first was a fear that users would see the files and folders in Explorer and think they are local, then would be dissapointed when they found they were not. This should have been solved with icon overlays that clearly indicated the locaton of the files and folders.

    The second problem was the sync engine itself. Because Microsoft builds Windows, they are in a unique position of implementing the syncing into the OS in a very intergrated way. However the strategy to make OneDrive available on more platforms, like iOS, Android and others, meant they wanted to standardise on the sync platform, therefore making the Windows version the outlier, despite its superior placeholder model.

    Naturally maintaining multiple versions is more resource intesive for a company, but such an important feature, being able to promote ‘backup built-in’, Microsoft should have spent the money and got it sorted. Instead they backed away from the simplicity that was the placeholder access model on Windows, that let users see any file they had stored, click on the placeholder and access the file.

    OneDrive was brilliant, it just worked and was an easy feature for power users and influencers to promote to friends, family and co-workers and also something never successfully done on the Mac.

    Fast forward to 6 months after Windows 10 shipped and OneDrive is a complete mess. I don’t know what happens in the OneDrive division at Microsoft on a daily basis, but they should be in crisis meetings to find out how to save their jobs. This product has gone from geniuinely awesome to a horrible disaster in a few short years. Nobody can be this tone deaf to the feedback (and hate) online for what they’ve done to the service.

    On a daily basis I turn on my Surface Pro 3 to see the OneDrive app with a red x overlayed on the icon. This indicates there were sync issues.

    With constrainted storage on this device, I am forced to select a tiny percentage of the dozens of gigabytes I have stored on OneDrive over the years. Take photos for example, since 2002 I’ve been shooting digitally and have taken tens fo thousands of photos. For techAU I have pretty complicated structures to manage assets for the site and for posts. After selecting just the essential folders to sync, I then go to work, which means adding and creating new assets in new folders.

    Being a creature of habbit, I end up creating folders with the same name ones that already live on OneDrive. Here’s where the problems start. If placeholders were still around, I’d know the folder exists at the time of creation and call it something different.

    Right now I have 2,322 files that can’t be synced because of this reason. The dialog I get from OneDrive on Windows 10 tells me which the problematic files are, yet offers absolutely no way to resolve the conflict. Since the earliest versions of Windows, file copy dialogs have provided a copy and replace or skip function, yet in 2016, we still get this.


    To add fuel to the fire, I often experience buffering on online video streams and at times generally slow performance of the OS. After firing up Task Manager, the application guilty of stealing CPU, Memory, Disk access and internet speed is of course Microsoft OneDrive. This application isn’t intelligent, it should detect bandwith usage and slow or pause syncing if there’s a video stream running, it doesn’t. It should slow or pause syncing if the drive access is high, it doesn’t. It certainly shouldn’t ever be at the top of the list of CPU or RAM usage.

    If I shut down OneDrive, the internet streams play flawlessly and performance resumes to normal speeds.

    To the developers who work on OneDrive, you should be in crisis meetings to understand how this was every allowed to happen and develop a fix immediately. Its simply unacceptable for a Microsoft service to work this way, especially one that’s built into the OS and recommended as the default storage solution.


    To add insult to injury, this morning I wanted to make changes to the folders synced locally to my Surface Pro 3. Making one modiifcation (removing the sync for a sub folder in Photos) resulted in the following error ‘Sorry, your changes couldn’t be saved’. There’s no way to resolve this, just try again later. I’ve tried later, rebooted to get the same outcome. This means a folder that’s 6.66GB in size, can’t be removed from my drive.

    Looks like its not time to throw out that home server.


    There are certainly other alternatives to online storage, like DropBox, Box, Google Drive and more. The problem isn’t solved by power users moving to other services, that leaves regular users without the confidence to store their files and know their safe. Its easy for users to think their files are backed up, so they’ll just delete the file from their computer, not realising the delete will sync and the files will be lost.

    OneDrive is an absolutely joke right now and instead of it being a showcase feature of Windows 10, its the acillies heal.

    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwright
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021


    1. Yes.. I agree. And the issue with moving to other programs is, for those of us that would like our xbox screenshots and video clips on our computer, that isn’t really an option. I’ve got folders backing up with private stuff that I don’t really want on the internet and it won’t even let me remove them from onedrive. I moved the files out of onedrive but it will continue to be an issue so long as the folders are a part of onedrive. Also one of those folders is desktop and the pictures it saves to onedrive, won’t show tumbnails(icons) half the time, it’s really irritating..

    2. Thanks for the article which helped me understand how destructive OneDrive is (I have Windows 10). I lost all my photos files and I thought I did something wrong. I couldn’t recover them on OneDrive so I signed up for easeUS in desperation. easeUS did recover my lost photo folders on OneDrive, but the photos inside each folder were not the original photos that was supposed to be in them. What’s more, some photos can’t be opened, and some photos were from over 10 years ago, and some photos were all screwed up with just a block of color. So I asked easeUS to cancel my subscription and give me my refund and they dragged their feet trying to tell me what I might have been doing wrong. I called my credit card company and reversed the charge and blocked them from re-charging the fee. I just deleted my OneDrive Account and from now on, I am saving files in flash drives.

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