Microsoft highlights SkyDrive improvements in Windows 8.1

SkyDrive app dashboard

It doesn’t matter what you’re running, Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1, SkyDrive now is “deeply integrated” in a way that it feels part of the operating system. With the new improvements Microsoft is making the cloud storage solution more productive, robust, and easier to use than ever before whether you’re on your desktop PC, tablet, phone, or via web browser.

The new changes are significant compare to the capabilities in Windows 8 and Windows RT that only offered partial access to files when using the SkyDrive Windows 8 app, and desktop PC users needed to install the SkyDrive desktop app to get access to the offline functionality.

In Windows 8.1/RT things are changing and moving in the right direction by Microsoft adding more functionalities and integrating the cloud storage service in a way it was never done before.

I recently wrote a Windows 8.1 guide, detailing all the benefits of the new version of the SkyDrive app, it also explains how the service integrates to the OS, and how users can make the most out of the cloud. But now the software giant goes deeper into features in the 8.1 update:

Placeholder files

This is a technique where files look and behave like normal files. You can open folders and see, open, edit, move, delete, copy, or rename files, but SkyDrive will only download a the full version of the file when you access it. This means that placeholder files only use a fraction of the local hard drive space.

Also flipping photos is one scenario that can be tricky, so for fast scrolling the app “downloads large thumbnail images instead of the actual file. [..] It’s only when you want to edit the photo that [the app downloads] the full file to the local disk.”

Microsoft data shows that using this cloud architecture, SkyDrive files only take 5% of the total local space. Put it this way, if someone has 100GB of files store in the cloud storage solution, Windows 8.1 devices (desktop PCs, tablets, and phone) will only use 5GB of the local hard drive. Saving a lot of space, in particular on mobile devices with little onboard storage such as Surface RT and other Windows RT devices.

Accessing files offline

The major problem of cloud storage solutions is internet connectivity. As such, one significant change in the new SkyDrive integration is the ability to mark any folders and files for offline access via the Windows 8 app and from File Explorer. And of course, files will automatically sync when an internet connection become available without the user’s interaction.

Another feature worth noting is that SkyDrive marks files for offline access, if you’ve previously opened or edited on your current device. You can always also choose to make your entire file collection available offline, if you have the space available.

Quick Tip: To make all files available offline, open the SkyDrive Windows 8 app, use the Windows 8 Key +i to open the Settings menu, click or tap Options, and turn on Access all files offline.

File picker

In Windows 8.1, SkyDrive is now built into the file picker. This means that every Windows 8 app can save directly into the cloud and desktop apps have the same capability.

File Explorer integration

SkyDrive in Windows 8.1 appears on the File Explorer for all users, when they are signed in to Windows with a Microsoft account. Users can easily drop files and folders to this special folder and uploads will happen automatically with pause and resume capabilities, if the device gets turned off before everything gets uploaded.


No matter where files live, they always will appear in a search result. When you do a search in Windows 8.1, you’ll also be doing a search on SkyDrive and if the document happen to be in the cloud, it will appear in the result. This even works when you’re offline thanks to information in the placeholder files.

Wrapping up

These are all welcome functionalities that further proof that even though you can get access to your files through a web browser and phone, devices updated to Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 RT remain the best experience managing files and folder in the cloud, while conserving local storage and bandwidth. 

Source Inside SkyDrive

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].