With Microsoft winding down development of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, it’s time to take a look at the biggest and best new features that this release will include. First up: OneDrive Files on Demand.
As you may recall, Files On-Demand is a replacement for the OneDrive placeholders functionality from Windows 8: It allows you to see your entire OneDrive, and access all of the files and folders you store there, directly from File Explorer.
This is a fairly revolutionary feature, though of course Microsoft first implemented it as OneDrive placeholders back in Windows 8. But with this new version, called Files On-Demand, the software giant has fixed all the problems from the past. And it now works better than ever.
OneDrive Setup works as before: You simply sign-in to the OneDrive desktop application, if required—you’re automatically signed in if you use a Microsoft account with Windows 10—and then choose the folders you’d like to sync to the PC. But you have to manually enable Files On-Demand.
There are a few ways to do so, but the easiest is to select the OneDrive icon in the system tray. When you do, a pop-up window appears, asking if you if you’d like to turn on this feature. Click “Turn on” to do so. You will also be asked if you’d like to be able to see all of your files by default. You do, so click “Show all of my files.”
(You can also enable this feature in OneDrive Settings: Navigate to the Settings tab and enable the option “Save space and download files as you use them” under Files On-Demand.)
OneDrive will require some time to sync your complete cloud-based file listing to the PC. But once it is done, you can navigate to OneDrive in File Explorer (via the OneDrive item in the Navigation pane or by manually navigating to C:\Users\Your-user-name*\OneDrive) to see a representation of your own OneDrive.
As before, the contents of folders you’ve chosen to sync to your PC are available offline. But now you can see all of the other files and folders as well. And there’s a new Status column, available only in the OneDrive folders, which indicates whether each file or folder is “available when online,” “available on this device,” or “sync pending.”
Performance is surprisingly robust: Even a folder full of online video files renders nearly immediately the first time, and immediately after that, with the correct thumbnails.
When you open a file that is available when online, it needs to download first. This is relatively seamless with most documents and smaller files, but larger files—like those videos—will require more time. When the download is complete, the file opens normally.
More to the point, that file is now automatically marked as “available on this device.” So if you open it again in the future, it will open normally, which is to say immediately.
You can change the status of any OneDrive-based file(s) or folder(s) at any time: Just right-click it and choose accordingly. For example, a file that is available on this device can be put in the cloud only—marked as “available when online”—by selecting “Free up space” in the context menu. Or, you can choose “Always keep on this device” when you select files or folders that are available when online only.
According to Microsoft, Files On-Demand works without requiring a lot of disk space, which was on of the issues that doomed placeholders. And it should be universally compatible with applications, where documents and other files work normally even when they’re marked as “available when online.”
From what I can see so far, this feature appears to work great. And if you’ve been waiting for a replacement for placeholders, it appears that Files On-Demand is even better.