OneDrive Tip: Use a Third Party Sync Utility


In OneDrive Tip: Map Your Cloud Storage as a Drive in File Explorer, I explained how you can use built-in functionality in Windows to access all of your OneDrive storage. But this approach has limitations. It can be slow and unreliable, and you have to be online to access your files. But another approach—albeit it one with its own downsides—is to use a third party utility to access your OneDrive storage from File Explorer.

These utilities have been around since the days of SkyDrive, and some will also let you access multiple cloud storage services, including Dropbox, Google Drive and others. And as with the approach of mapping your OneDrive as a drive letter in Explorer, these utilities aren’t perfect, especially from a performance perspective, and each comes with its own variety of features, requiring you to really do your homework.

I had stopped looking at third party OneDrive sync utilities with the arrival of Windows 8.1. To me, the placeholder functionality in the OneDrive sync client in Windows 8.1 is just about perfect. And while I accept and understand there are some technical issues that apparently only impact Microsoft, I’ve never had any issues with it. If you’re using Windows 8.1, just stick with the built-in sync client. It works great.

But as noted previously, Windows 10 is going back to the old way of doing things and is working off the sync client that Microsoft uses in Windows 7 and 8.0 (and on the Mac). Which means you can’t just browse through your entire OneDrive cloud storage from the Windows shell. Instead, you must manually choose which folders to sync, and only those folders will show up in the shell. The rest are hidden.

If you only use a small amount of OneDrive storage, this may not matter to you. But I’m using over 1 TB of storage, and none of my portable PCs are beefy enough to sync all of my OneDrive. So I need to be selective. Or stick with Windows 8.1.

If only there were a way to browse all of your OneDrive storage from any PC, including the folders and files that are not synced locally.

As it turns out, there is such a solution. Actually, there are probably several of them. But the one I’m highlighting here has been recommended by a number of readers, and after tooling around with it over the past day or so, I’m starting to like how it works. It’s called Odrive.

Like some other third party utilities, Odrive lets you access your entire OneDrive storage from the Windows shell. It uses its own flavor of placeholder files, called CLOUDX files, to indicate files and folders that have not yet synced locally, so you do get that desired Windows 8.1-like view of your OneDrive. It’s slow than the native sync client, but it works.


Indeed, the first time you navigate into a folder, things can go pretty slowly, especially if that folder has a lot of files in it. So if there is some part of your OneDrive folder hierarchy you’re going to use regularly, you might want to prime the pump, so to speak, by navigating into those folders up front.

As you might expect Odrive lets you arbitrarily mark folders and files for offline use. In the free version, when you navigate into a folder, all of the standalone files in that folders are synced for offline use. And nicely marked as being synced. How useful.


Or, you can right-click and choose “Odrive” and then “Sync.” (A Sync All function requires a paid Odrive Plus account, which costs $4.99 per month.)


You can also of course “unsync” files so that they are only available in the cloud.

Odrive is an interesting possibility, and if you are using other cloud storage accounts, the free version lets you configure up to five of them, which is pretty impressive. The Plus account bumps this limit to 10 accounts, and, as useful, lets you use multiple accounts from the same service(s). A Pro account, at $9.99 per month, pushes the limit to 20 accounts.

Since you can test-drive Odrive for free, it’s worth checking out. And as I noted in OneDrive Tip: Map Your Cloud Storage as a Drive in File Explorer, I’m always interested in any other useful solutions you know about. With Windows 10 really dropping the ball here, it’s time to look at other options.

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