Windows Insiders Can Now Test OneDrive Files on Demand

Posted on June 13, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in OneDrive, Windows 10 with 36 Comments

Windows Insiders Can Now Test OneDrive Files on Demand

Today, Microsoft is making an early version of OneDrive Files on Demand available to Windows Insiders who have installed Windows 10 build 16215. I’ve been testing this functionality for the past several days, and it appears to work exactly as expected.

“With Files On-Demand, you can access all your files in the cloud without having to download them and use storage space on your device,” Microsoft’s Dona Sarkar notes. “All your files—even online files—can be seen in File Explorer and work just like every other file on your device. You’ll be able to open online files from within desktop or Windows Store apps using the Windows file picker. And you’re covered in both your home and professional life since it works with your personal and work OneDrive, as well as your SharePoint Online team sites.”

OneDrive Files on Demand will begin rolling out to Insiders with build 16215 today, Microsoft says. But if you don’t want to wait—and you don’t—you can download and install this functionality now. (Yes, it still requires build 16215 or newer.)

I was given early access to OneDrive Files on Demand, and it appears to work well. You can enable it via a first-run window that appears after install. Or you can configure the functionality via the OneDrive Settings window at any time, of course. You’ll see a new Files On-Demand option in the Settings tab.

Once it’s enabled and has time to sync your OneDrive folder structure, you’ll see your entire OneDrive appear in File Explorer, which like it did in Windows 8.1 with OneDrive placeholders. Here, you can see my Work folder in OneDrive.

That Status column is new, and the icons there indicate the status of each item you can see. Available choices include:

Available on this device. The green checkmark icon next to the _Promo graphics to use folder indicates that that item (and its contents) are synced to the PC and are always available for use, even when offline.

Always available. This solid green checkmark icon, not shown in the shot above, indicates files or folders that you have manually marked as always being available offline. You do this via File Explorer (not OneDrive Settings) by right-clicking the item and choosing “Always keep on this device.”

Available when online. The empty cloud icon next to the 2012 folder indicates that that item (and in this case, its contents) are all in the cloud. So you will need to be online to see them from File Explorer.

Sync pending. The sync icon next to the 2017-06 folder indicates that that item is going to sync and will be made available while offline when it is done doing so.

If you double-click a file that is marked “Available when online,” it will automatically download so you can open it, and it will always be available offline after that. You can, of course, later right-click it and choose “Free up space” if you would prefer it to stay offline-only.

Also, the status icons will appear next to files and folders regardless of the view style.

And unlike with placeholders, all OneDrive files, even those that are not synced locally, should work with all apps, including legacy Win32 desktop applications. Yes, this is the placeholders replacement you’ve been waiting for.

OneDrive Files on Demand will debut publicly in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.


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Comments (36)

36 responses to “Windows Insiders Can Now Test OneDrive Files on Demand”

  1. psuchad

    The file and folder status icon is going to be confusing for Carbonite users.

  2. SRLRacing

    I have about 800GB in Onedrive in a mixture of larger video/photo files and documents and the feature seems to still take up a bit of storage space (about 100-200MB as far as I can tell) but its much better than Placeholders were in that regard.

  3. Rob_Wade

    I don't see the Status indicators at all.

  4. Davor Pihač

    I've been having problems with new OneDrive, almost 15GB ended up in Recycle Bin in OneDrive. Be careful and make sure you have backup of important files somewhere other than OneDrive. Restore has just finished, hope everything went okay.

  5. Gary C Forrester

    Do you think microsoft will suggest they use one drive files on demand to replace file history for backups since rumor is that file history is going to be history in the fall creators update.

  6. Rob_Wade

    Wow, the number of people whining about paying for additional storage. I like 'free' options as much as anyone else, but I don't there's anyone left who provides unlimited or near-unlimited storage for free. Because Office 365 home for $9.99 per month is a good value, providing us the ability to install Office on 5 of our PCs and 5 of our mobile devices AND get 1TB of storage per user, I don't have any issue with that small fee. I just wish synchronization was a LOT faster than it is. I have a great internet connection, so it shouldn't take as long as it takes to sync.

  7. Rob_Wade

    I'm glad to have this feature back. But, maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see the status like you have in the picture. I even went into the additional columns and added BOTH "status" options to my File Explorer. I now have to Status columns but nothing indicating the actual status. Does that only show up after the system has finished sync'ing?

  8. studerje

    Does this feature for for OneDrive for Business files too?

  9. misterstuart

    Anyone have an idea when this will be ready for general release?

  10. VasiS

    I'm confused.

    Is this the same Windows 10 feature that is supposed to have, this onedrive functionality, build into the OS? So that the files in the cloud would not just show in File explorer but also at cmd line etc.

    If so, why do we need to install new onedrive app and select options in Onedrive instead of just Windows settings? Also, if such a feature is coming to Windows 10, why is there a similar feature in Onedrive?

    • RedSign

      Is this the same Windows 10 feature that is supposed to have, this onedrive functionality, build into the OS? So that the files in the cloud would not just show in File explorer but also at cmd line etc.


      If so, why do we need to install new onedrive app and select options in Onedrive instead of just Windows settings?

      Because it is a Onedrive feature in the first place.

      Also, if such a feature is coming to Windows 10, why is there a similar feature in Onedrive?

      It is a feature of Onedrive but Windows 10 has to support it on file system level to work properly. It's working together: Onedrive gets this new feature but the OS needs to support it. That's why you need booth, build 16215 AND the new sync client.

  11. johngodf

    A question. I use both Onedrive Personal and Onedrive Business. Each Onedrive is linked to differing files and folders. How can I tell in Explorer's icons which are Business and which are Personal Onedrive files/folders?

    A linked question. Do both Personal and Business Onedrive Settings still allow one to select which files/folders are just for that Onedrive?

  12. Chris Blair

    Is path length still limited to 260 characters in File Manager and OneDrive?

  13. Kerrpe

    Awesome. Thanks for the instructions, Paul.

  14. Watney

    Seems to work, aside from duplicating my OneNote files. I went on the Web to OneDrive and cleaned up the dups.

  15. SvenJ

    I don't see that option on my OneDrive settings, and yea, I'm on 16215.1000.

    • robinwilson16

      In reply to SvenJ:

      Hello Sven

      You still need to download and install the OneDrive update available here:

      • SvenJ

        In reply to robinwilson16: Other than my asking and your telling me, how would I know that? OneDrive didn't prompt me that there was an update. Windows Update didn't find an update when asked, and the feedback app announcements doesn't mention it. (OK, I see the link in the article, but I didn't think Paul was the official release channel for MS. All the time anyway)
        Beyond that, it doesn't seem to work. Loaded it up, got and turned on the save space option in the settings and still show only the same folders that I selected to sync before this new feature was available. In other words, I can't see any folders other than those which are synced. I suppose it may take some time to see my On-line only folders/files, but I'd have thought I'd see some. Even selected a new folder to sync, and that did that as before. So far, not excited.

        • SvenJ

          In reply to SvenJ: Well, it seems I can turn the feature on, it thinks for a bit, and turns itself back off. Off to the feedback app to provide feedback.

          • AximPrime

            In reply to SvenJ:

            I'm in the same boat. Turn on feature, hit okay. 2-5 seconds later OneDrive will crash and re start itself with that setting still off.

            • SvenJ

              In reply to AximPrime: With the recent 'new' requirement for the OneDrive host drive being NTFS, I have re-organized some stuff. Now that OneDrive is on an NTFS formatted drive, the On-Demand stuff seems to be working fine. I have not tried putting it back on an NTFS formatted SD card, so I don't know if that is/was an issue. Working reasonably well on the internal SSD though, with some oddities. Initially some things didn't have a status shown. Not a green check, open cloud, just nothing. Over time that seems to have cleared up. Not quite clear what some of the iconography means. They need a cheat sheet.

  16. MarkH

    Struggling a bit to understand the difference between "Available on this device" and "Always available"...kind of seems like two different ways of saying the exact same thing?

    • mi11sy

      In reply to MarkH:

      Sometime back I thought I had seen mention that files which had been automatically downloaded ("Available on this device") by clicking on an "Available when online" file would subsequently be automatically turned back into "Available when online" if the file was not accessed again in x days or when hard-drive space was limited.

      This would be a nice feature and would make sense of the distinction between "Available on this device" and "Always available", however I cannot recall where it was that I read this and I also cannot now find anything by searching on this topic...

      Does this sound familiar to anyone else?

    • zorb56

      In reply to MarkH:

      I believe "Always available" is for files you've explicitly had downloaded to the device via the context menu>"make available offline" button, whereas "Available on this device" is for files that were downloaded only because you chose to open that file by a double click or file>open in the application, etc. I don't think this distinction needs to exist, and I could be wrong, but I believe that's what these mean.

      • rth314

        In reply to zorb56:

        I suspect the purpose of the distinction is that if it is "Available on this device" it won't necessarily stay that way. It is temporarily available because you opened the file, but you can't depend on it to always be available offline in the future. You'd want to flag it as "Always available" if you don't want it change back to "Available when online". I certainly hope it works that way, or else opening a lot of files would permanently eat up your harddrive.

  17. Dan1986ist

    When it comes Groove Music app and having music files stored in OneDrive using On-Demand Sync, would those files have to downloaded first or could the Groove Music App stream the files without downloading them?

    • RedSign

      In reply to Dan1986ist:

      I've tested this right now and it works as expected. I used the free up space option for an album folder so that it was available online only. The files are still visible in explorer and even in cmd. In Groove the album was still shown and playing one of the tracks downloads the whole file first (visible via a progress bar in the status section of explorer and in the sync client itself of course) and plays it after finishing the download. The file for the played track will be saved locally from there on. So it's not really a streaming because this operates on the file system level.

  18. Jøran Nohr

    Paul - I have been waiting for this functionality long time now.

    Actually I was about to go for Dropbox at work - replacing our fileserver.

    What made me do so was this ->

    A coming feature to Dropbox which adds to the already existing Smarty Sync (sim. to what MS now launches).

    Sync Managment. As far as I am able to understand this will allow me as an admin to say that, for a given user, all files in a folder should be available ONLY online. I run a small company and we have around 50 gigs of material, but I dont see the need to spread all information around on different units. And connected to fiber at office and LTE in the field, I dont really see the problem with having to be ONLINE ONLY AT ALL TIMES.

    Do you see any option in Onedrive for this to happen? To restrict which users have access to download. Is would be a nice feature, but only for the Sharepoint part of it though.

    It would be nice to be able to just stay under the "MS" umbrealla .. since we already use Office 365 among other programs.

  19. Waethorn

    FINALLY they have a solution to fix the problem of 32GB storage devices.

    Now, if only OneDrive wasn't so much of a money grab.

    Oh, and OEM's are getting cut out of the Office 365 Personal free subscriptions now too, BTW. No more free passes by Microsoft.

    So you're gonna buy that 32GB machine, and still have to pay more for a usable amount of cloud storage.

    So "solution" maybe isn't the best word to describe it.

  20. Luka Pribanić

    So only 2 years too late, and after OneDrive is already crossed off my lost because other "issues" (liKe loss of trust - after killing my 4TB PRIVATE video library - would be a good start)