Fall Creators Update Feature Focus: OneDrive Files On-Demand

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.

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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.


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Conversation 41 comments

  • DocPaul

    18 July, 2017 - 3:35 pm

    <p>Cool. Finally. Smaller hard drives are viable again.</p>

  • zself

    Premium Member
    18 July, 2017 - 3:37 pm

    <p>I moved to Dropbox ~2 years ago. Any reason to move back to OneDrive?</p>

    • xapache

      18 July, 2017 - 3:53 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#149090"><em>In reply to zself:</em></a></blockquote><p>For me, I'm moving out of Dropbox and coming back as soon as this is available. Finally!</p>

    • navarac

      19 July, 2017 - 3:56 am

      <blockquote><a href="#149090"><em>In reply to zself:</em></a></blockquote><p>Tried this in the Insider Preview and I'm not as exited as Paul. Sorry, I'll be staying with Dropbox. It seems faster and I don't really trust Microsoft not to drop it all again in the future.</p>

    • lefffen1

      19 July, 2017 - 4:43 am

      <blockquote><a href="#149090"><em>In reply to zself:</em></a></blockquote><p><br></p><p>I will continue to use both until Onedrive has a File History feature that works as good as on Dropbox.</p>

      • ZeroPageX

        28 September, 2017 - 3:43 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#149732"><em>In reply to lefffen1:</em></a></blockquote><p><br></p><p>I'm considering moving back to OneDrive from Dropbox since they added this and file history. What are the limitations with OneDrive's file history?</p>

  • Waethorn

    18 July, 2017 - 3:41 pm

    <p>"<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">via the OneDrive item in the Navigation pane or by manually navigating to C:*Your-user-name*OneDrive"</span></p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">I think what you mean is c:USERS*your-user-name*onedrive…..but %homepath%onedrive is simpler.</span></p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">EDIT: Well apparently your comment section doesn't allow backslashes. You need better markdown support.</span></p><p><br></p>

    • IanYates82

      Premium Member
      18 July, 2017 - 5:59 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#149092"><em>In reply to Waethorn:</em></a></blockquote><p>Unless you're updating from win8 where it was still called skydive. My folder still has that name ☺️</p>

  • Simard57

    18 July, 2017 - 3:45 pm

    <p>will you create article stubs (Placeholders?) for those features promised but not delivered? ;)</p><p><br></p>

  • rth314

    Premium Member
    18 July, 2017 - 3:49 pm

    <p>This is not&nbsp;accurate: "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." The folders that you sync, are not necessarily available offline.&nbsp;They are the folders that can participate in this Files On-Demand feature, allowing you to choose "Always keep on this device" if you'd like. The folders that you DON'T sync won't be visible at all. They simply are not available. So I suspect most people would select all folders in the "Choose folders" settings dialog.</p>

    • Narg

      19 July, 2017 - 8:43 am

      <blockquote><a href="#149095"><em>In reply to rth314:</em></a></blockquote><p>It's 100% accurate for someone who's gone through the OneDrive setup properly at the start. New folders will still appear on all devices anyway by default. You're concern is inaccurate.</p>

      • rth314

        Premium Member
        19 July, 2017 - 12:53 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#149822"><em>In reply to Narg:</em></a></blockquote><p>So in the "Choose folders" dialog, if you uncheck one of the folders, you're saying that you still see that folder in File Explorer? It's definitely NOT doing that for me, even though I have the Files On-Demand feature turned on. I see the folder immediately disappear. So what's stated in the article is inaccurate based on what I'm seeing. Maybe they are A/B testing the feature, or maybe it's buggy.</p>

  • Waethorn

    18 July, 2017 - 3:53 pm

    <p>Who hosts OneDrive? Is it on Azure?</p>

    • SvenJ

      18 July, 2017 - 4:52 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#149096"><em>In reply to Waethorn:</em></a> I would imagine so. Hard time believing it is on AWS or GoogleDrive ;)</blockquote><p><br></p>

      • Waethorn

        18 July, 2017 - 5:35 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#149132"><em>In reply to SvenJ:</em></a></blockquote><p>Not everything Microsoft does is on Azure. It took them years to move Outlook.com over to it.</p>

        • SvenJ

          18 July, 2017 - 6:06 pm

          <blockquote><a href="#149163"><em>In reply to Waethorn:</em></a> Yea but this is pretty new. Outlook.com nee Hotmail.com nee MSN.com has been around forever on legacy backends. Just figuring they took advantage of one thing that actually seems to be working.</blockquote><p><br></p>

          • Waethorn

            19 July, 2017 - 11:24 am

            <blockquote><a href="#149190"><em>In reply to SvenJ:</em></a></blockquote><p>This is my point. They've had Azure for years, and they've had stuff like Outlook.com for years. What took them so long??</p>

            • Alastair Cooper

              22 July, 2017 - 3:30 pm

              <p>Hotmail (which became Outlook.com) precedes Azure by many years. In fact It was originally an external company Microsoft bought and for a long time continued to run on UNIX (I think this was before Linux became the go-to *nix for servers) before Microsoft completed transitioning it to Windows.</p>

              • Waethorn

                22 July, 2017 - 3:51 pm

                <blockquote><a href="#151715"><em>In reply to Alastair_Cooper:</em></a></blockquote><p>So what. Microsoft had BPOS for years before Azure and Office 365. They were running hosted Exchange accounts for about 8 years now. There's no reason why it's taken so long to merge everything.</p>

  • rameshthanikodi

    18 July, 2017 - 4:17 pm

    <p>This looks great tbh, looking at the folder full of files without them being actually on the disk is actually something of a game-changing feature, it actually makes using a cloud storage truly effortless. One no longer has to even think about managing files in folders to ensure which folder to sync down and to avoid blowing the data caps or storage limits. You can just….use a cloud. We The fact that it works is just the cherry on top.</p>

  • tbsteph

    18 July, 2017 - 4:23 pm

    <p>Feel a bit like Dr. Who and went back in time :)</p><p><br></p><p>Anyone else find it amazing the best (My opinion) new feature is something they took away when "upgrading" from W8.1?</p>

    • Waethorn

      19 July, 2017 - 11:30 am

      <blockquote><a href="#149109"><em>In reply to tbsteph:</em></a></blockquote><p>No, it's just you. Nobody else finds this amazing. At least, not for the same reasons.</p>

  • SvenJ

    18 July, 2017 - 4:38 pm

    <p>There are some things that need clarification. You showed a file with a blue cloud outline (off-line) and clicked it, it downloaded and opened. It now has a white circle with green check. What does that mean? Clearly one thing it means is that it is on your device, taking up space. Items that you have selected to sync have a green circle with a white check. </p><p>Does this mean the white circle with green checked items are not "sync-ing"? That is if I change something in them, it will not be copied back to OneDrive? I can opt to change that item to 'Always keep on this device' and the icon goes from with circle green check to green circle white check. Is this now different, and will 'sync' changes?</p><p>Items with the white circle and green check, which are NOT always kept on this device, and can be removed from this device by selecting Free up space, is that the only way they quit being on the device? Will the system ever decide it is taking too much space and delete it? I have not asked it to be sync'd, just downloaded once. If it doesn't occasionally clean up these random downloads, is there a quick way I can find all such files and send them back to the cloud, i.e. Free up space in bulk. </p>

  • Waethorn

    18 July, 2017 - 4:47 pm

    <p>Um….why can't you just stream videos from OneDrive? Seems to be something that's entirely overlooked.</p>

    • Tallin

      18 July, 2017 - 6:43 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#149128"><em>In reply to Waethorn:</em></a></blockquote><p><br></p><p>You can. Just need to go to the web interface. May work from the app, too, haven't tried it in a while.</p>

      • Waethorn

        19 July, 2017 - 11:25 am

        <blockquote><a href="#149221"><em>In reply to Tallin:</em></a></blockquote><p>I'm talking about the File Explorer client for OneDrive. Why can't you stream videos right in Windows without having to download them first?</p>

        • Tallin

          20 July, 2017 - 3:19 pm

          <blockquote><a href="#150028"><em>In reply to Waethorn:</em></a></blockquote><p>File level high bitrate streaming with an application that is not controlling the stream? You ever tried to open a video over SMB? It takes forever because it has to buffer the whole file. They could maybe work something out where it only opened for streaming in the OneDrive app, but if you want it to open in whatever app you have set as default for that media type, that's going to require a lot of work on both sides of the equation</p>

          • Waethorn

            20 July, 2017 - 3:28 pm

            <blockquote><a href="#150822"><em>In reply to Tallin:</em></a></blockquote><p>Oh come on now! Surely they could just stream it as an ASF in Windows Media Player. I mean, they have the server technology available already.</p>

            • Tallin

              20 July, 2017 - 4:29 pm

              <blockquote><a href="#150824"><em>In reply to Waethorn:</em></a></blockquote><p>That only applies if it's wmv (or they transcode everything on-the-fly), and who has anything in WMV anymore?</p>

              • Waethorn

                20 July, 2017 - 5:36 pm

                <blockquote><a href="#150838"><em>In reply to Tallin:</em></a></blockquote><p>No it doesn't. You can take any file and stream it via an ASF. ASF is just a wrapper. If Windows Media Player plays it, it doesn't matter what the originating video is.</p><p><br></p><p>OneDrive already streams videos in realtime via the website. Turning it into a stream that a video player on Windows could play wouldn't take really any work.</p>

    • Lauren Glenn

      19 July, 2017 - 10:50 am

      <blockquote><a href="#149128"><em>In reply to Waethorn:</em></a></blockquote><p>I uploaded about 18GB of video files to OneDrive and I just watch them from my iPad and then stream to the TV using Apple TV. It works rather well, to be honest…. </p>

      • Waethorn

        19 July, 2017 - 11:25 am

        <blockquote><a href="#149983"><em>In reply to alissa914g:</em></a></blockquote><p>I know you can. Just not in the Windows client. It auto-downloads everything first.</p>

  • SvenJ

    18 July, 2017 - 4:50 pm

    <p>@rth314 Actually that is exactly what happens. You can see all the files/folders in file manager whether they are sync'd or not and whether you are connected to the internet or not. The iconography specifies which are which. Those that are selected for syncing have a green circle with a check, which indicates these are to be kept in sync when connected. They are available on or off line. Those with blue cloud outlines are only available when on line. You can see their names, files or folders. Clicking such a folder will show all the file names within it. Clicking such a file name will download that file to your device and open it. That file will get a white disk with a green check. it is on your device now, but has not been designated for sync'ing. It did seem to take a few days for everything to settle down and all the status icons were rendered.</p><p>If yours isn't working that way, there is something amiss. I initially had issues with OneDrive being on an SD card formatted exFat. We have since been notified that shouldn't have been possible. OneDrive requires NTFS. Having moved mine to NTFS has resulted in it working as Paul indicates. I have not moved it back to the SD card, now formatted NTFS, so can't say if there are still issues with that media. </p>

  • brettscoast

    Premium Member
    18 July, 2017 - 7:49 pm

    <p>Good post Paul </p><p>Now this is something i am really excited about files on-demand i could never understand why Microsoft removed the similar feature called placeholders from one drive when they did as it was something that worked well and users loved but it looks as though they have redeemed themselves with files on-demand. It's a shame we have to wait until the fall creators update (i still don't comprehend this naming of major Windows 10 updates from MS as 'fall' is applicable to certain northern hemisphere countries only, weird) to get this new feature but I will welcome it with open arms when it comes.</p>

    • wright_is

      Premium Member
      19 July, 2017 - 2:39 am

      <blockquote><a href="#149382"><em>In reply to brettscoast:</em></a></blockquote><p>Here, it is called the Herbst Creators Update (Germany).</p>

  • contactjonathan

    19 July, 2017 - 8:11 am

    <p>I'm interested in hearing from sometime who's tested whether this new feature really requires NTFS, or if it just says it does, as enforced by the mainstream update to the OneDrive client the other week.</p><p><br></p><p>I'm not an insider but I've fooled OneDrive into allowing me to continue using my Storage-Spaces/ReFS volume to store my business files by replacing my C:Users[me]OneDrive folder with a symbolic link to my ReFS volume.</p><p><br></p><p> I'd like to know if I can expect this work-around to continue working after I upgrade to the Fall update, or whether the new placeholders rely on a filesystem extension which only NTFS provides, and I have to reformat.</p><p><br></p><p>Has anyone already tried this?</p>

  • Lauren Glenn

    19 July, 2017 - 10:52 am

    <p>It's the only reason I joined the Fast Ring on the insider builds. I love using it. Finally, I can upload all of my pictures, documents, and videos to the Cloud and have only the ones I need immediately at my disposal on my Surface tablet.</p><p><br></p><p>Now, if the WIn 10 OneDrive "Metro" app allowed for streaming of video content like the iPad version does, I wouldn't have to download the videos to my hard drive first before watching them….. here's hoping that comes in a future release.</p>

  • Cynthia Price

    20 July, 2017 - 4:10 am

    <p>It seemed to me what cloud was always meant to do but did not, so this update is very welcome </p>

  • hefisa

    Premium Member
    20 July, 2017 - 11:40 am

    <p>One thing still missing in onedrive business is the ability to sync photos just like the consumer version does (aka camera roll).</p><p>In a business environment it is just dumb to be forced to create a personal account just for photo sync from phones when that business is already paying for a business plan.</p><p>Placeholders or whatever names Microsoft calls it, is long overdue and a welcome back thing.</p>

  • KevynPM

    26 July, 2017 - 7:21 pm

    <p>I have the Fall Creator's Update (Version 1703) on Windows 10 Pro (not an Insider build) and I don't have the Files on Demand section under Settings. I thought it would be there now that I have the update. Any idea why it's not and how I would go about getting it?</p>

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