What is the OneDrive Files On-Demand feature and how to use it

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What is OneDrive’s Files On-Demand feature and how to use it UP

One of the best things about the OneDrive app for Windows 11 and Windows 10 is a feature called Files On-Demand. It helps you save storage space on your computer by downloading and keeping local copies of your OneDrive files only if you access them or manually specify that you want them to always be available offline. If you want to learn all there is to know about it, including how to enable or disable OneDrive Files On-Demand, how to use and identify which files are local or online-only, read this guide:

NOTES: To make this guide, I use Windows 11 version 22H2 and Windows 10 version 22H2. The OneDrive app looks and works the same on both operating systems. To keep things simple, the screenshots I used to illustrate the tutorial were taken on Windows 11. If you have an older version of Windows 11 or Windows 10, make sure you update it to take advantage of all the features and options available today. It should also ensure that you avoid issues like OneDrive Files On-Demand not showing up.

What is OneDrive Files On-Demand?

Files On Demand is a feature that lets you access all the files in the OneDrive cloud with File Explorer, regardless of whether they are downloaded or not on your Windows computer or device. In other words, you can see all of your OneDrive files, even those only available online, in File Explorer, like any other.

OneDrive in Windows 11 File Explorer

The question now is, of course: How do you differentiate online-only files from those available locally on your computer or device? Also, can you enable or disable Files On-Demand? Can you choose which files and folders are always available on your drive for offline use? Here’s the answer:

OneDrive Files On Demand: How to see which files are available offline (locally) and online only

In File Explorer, files and folders from OneDrive have different status indicators depending on where they’re stored:

Online files and folders only-own blue cloud icon. These are files that you have stored in your OneDrive storage but not downloaded locally on your Windows PC. They do not occupy space on your computer’s storage drive (SSD or HDD), but take up space in your OneDrive cloud space. While you can view all files online even if you don’t have an active internet connection, you can only open them if you have internet access. Files available locally and folder-have white icon with a green checkmark. These are files from the OneDrive space that you have open, and File Explorer downloads and stores locally on your computer. Thus, you can reopen and use these files even without a working internet connection. These files take up space on your hard drive. You can reverse this whole process and reclaim your local storage space by making files online only again. Files and folders marked as”Always keep on this device”(always available) -own green icon with a white tick. These are files from your OneDrive that you always explicitly set to be available offline, stored locally on your Windows computer or device. They permanently take up space on your hard drive, but have the advantage of being always available for use, regardless of whether you have a working internet connection. If you choose not to set it so that these files and folders are not always available, you can free up space on your drive.

Here’s what the three states for Files On-Demand look like in Windows 11’s File Explorer:

OneDrive Files On Demand: always available, locally available, and online-only files

In Windows 10, the status indicators are the same, although the File Explorer app’s user interface is slightly different:

OneDrive Files On-Demand in Windows 10

And now, without further ado, here’s how to work with OneDrive Files On-Demand:

How to disable OneDrive Files On Demand for your important files

If you have important files that you need to access even when you’re offline, you may want to set them to always be available locally on your computer. Choosing whether certain files or folders are configured for download and always available is easy.

In File Explorer, navigate to your OneDrive and find the folder or file in question. Then, right-click on them (or press and hold if you have a touch screen) and select “Always keep on this device” so they are always available locally.

Mark files or folders to Always keep on this device

If you change your mind and no longer want some of your files or folders to always be available locally, follow the same steps, but this time uncheck the “Always keep on this device” option.

Mark files or folders to stop them always being available offline

TIPS: If you want File Explorer to load OneDrive as soon as you open it, read: Set Windows Explorer to open OneDrive or Dropbox (or other folders) on startup.

How to enable Files On Demand in OneDrive for specific files and free up disk space

If you have limited local storage space, you may want to keep your OneDrive files only available online. That way, they don’t take up space on your Windows computer or device. However, you can use it, but only as long as you are connected to the internet.

To configure some (or even all) files or folders to be available only when you’re online, open File Explorer, navigate to your OneDrive, and then find the file or folder that you want to make available online only. Select them and then right click on them (or press and hold if you have a touch screen). In the contextual menu, click or tap on the option called “Free up space”.

Choose Free up space to save storage space with OneDrive Files On-Demand

Windows then deletes the locally stored copy of the file or folder but keeps the online original in place, unchanged. This can be a great way to recover storage space on your computer, especially if you have large files stored on OneDrive.

How to configure Files On Demand in the OneDrive app

While OneDrive doesn’t allow you to completely enable or disable the Files On Demand feature, it does allow you to free up disk space by making all of your files only available when you’re online. Similarly, it also lets you download all the OneDrive files on your computer for permanent offline access to them. Other than that, it’s the same regardless of whether you use OneDrive on Windows 11 or Windows 10. Here’s how it works:

To configure Files On Demand, you must first open the OneDrive settings on your Windows computer. To do this, on the taskbar system tray, click or tap the OneDrive icon.

The OneDrive icon from the system tray

If you don’t see the OneDrive icon in the system tray, click or tap ^ then the OneDrive icon.

The OneDrive icon is hidden in the system tray application list

On the OneDrive flyout, click or tap “Help & Settings.”

The Help & Settings button from the OneDrive flyout

OneDrive displays a list of options. Click or tap on the first option: Settings.

The Settings option from the OneDrive menu

Clicking or tapping Settings will launch the OneDrive Settings window. Here, select “Sync and backup” on the left sidebar and then click or tap on Advanced settings at the bottom of the right panel.

Go to Sync and backup > Advanced settings

NOTES: The OneDrive Settings window looks and works the same in Windows 10 as it does in Windows 11. If your window looks different, make sure you’ve updated your system.

Scroll if you need to see all of the Advanced settings. At the bottom of the list, you will find a section called Files On-Demand. This section has two buttons: Free disk space and Download all files.

OneDrive Files On Demand: Free up disk space or Download all files

Here’s what they do:

How to enable Files On Demand in the OneDrive app

The Free disk space button sets all your OneDrive files to online only. In other words, it enables Files On-Demand in OneDrive. Click or tap the Free up space button if you want OneDrive to delete all local copies of your files, keeping them only in the cloud.

Click or tap the Free up disk space button in OneDrive Settings

OneDrive lets you know that if you choose to free up space on your computer by making all your files online-only, you’ll need internet access when you try to open files stored on OneDrive. If you’re sure that’s what you want, press Continue to confirm action.

Go ahead and set all your OneDrive files as online only

As soon as you do, OneDrive starts making the requested changes. Everything happens in the background and won’t take long.

How to turn off Files On Demand in the OneDrive app

If what you want is all your OneDrive files available locally, choose the second option: Download all files. This button turns off Files On-Demand in OneDrive, meaning all your cloud files will be downloaded and stored on your computer. Although they will take up disk space on your PC, the advantage is that they will be available at all times, regardless of whether you are connected to the internet or not.

Click or tap the Download all files button in OneDrive Settings

OneDrive asks you to confirm your choice to Download all files and notifies you that “It will use up to […] GB on this PC.” If you have enough space on your computer to store all of your OneDrive files locally and want to continue, click or tap Continue.

Go ahead and download all files (turn off Files-On Demand)

Depending on how many files you have on OneDrive and how big they are, it may take a while while the app finishes downloading everything on your Windows PC. However, you can continue to use the computer as usual. OneDrive will perform all necessary operations in the background.

What do you think about OneDrive’s Files On-Demand feature?

Now you know what happens if you disable OneDrive Files On-Demand? Demand, and you also know how to stop OneDrive storing files locally. As you have seen, enabling and working with OneDrive’s Files On-Demand feature of Windows is very easy. With just a few clicks or taps, you can make File Explorer show all of your OneDrive files, regardless of whether they’re available locally or only online. Should you use OneDrive Files On-Demand? I’d say yes, because it’s a very helpful feature when disk space is a problem. After all, let’s be honest, how often do you need offline access to all your OneDrive files? How do you use Files On Demand with your OneDrive? Do you like it? Let me know in the comments section below.

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