Windows 10 testers get syncing feeling over OneDrive changes

Microsoft is facing criticism over changes made to the way OneDrive files are synchronised in the latest build of Windows 10.

Windows 10 testers get syncing feeling over OneDrive changes

Released last week, Windows 10 Build 9879 changes the method by which OneDrive files are synchronised with users’ PCs.

In Windows 8.1, OneDrive only retains selected, recently used files on the PC to save on local disk storage space. This makes it possible for, say, a tablet with a 64GB SSD to synchronise with a PC that has 1TB of available storage.

Files that aren’t synchronised on the local machine are represented as “placeholders”, which the user can click on to download the file in question. However, it’s not always clear which files are stored locally and which are stored in the cloud, with Microsoft admitting its system has confused users in the past.

The distinction between files stored locally and those only available online (placeholders) isn’t always clear in Windows 8.1

“People had to learn the difference between what files were ‘available online’ (placeholders) versus what was ‘available offline’ and physically on your PC,” said Microsoft’s engineering general manager, Gabe Aul, in a blog post last week, adding that many people would go offline (say on a flight) only to discover that files they thought were stored locally weren’t actually available.

New system

The new OneDrive implementation in Windows 10 asks users to select which folders they want to synchronise with that particular machine. When the operating system is first installed, users are presented with the following screen:

Windows 10 asks users which folders, or sub-folders, they wish to synchronise to their PC

However, many users are complaining that the new system lacks the flexibility of what went before. “For me, this unlimited [OneDrive] storage is virtually useless now,” writes one user on the Windows feedback forums, echoing similar criticism from many others. “My tablets have limited storage. This feature made my multi GB of cloud data easily excessible in the most elegantly transparent way.This single feature made all other services seem sort of outdated and maybe even cumbersome. And now its all gone.”

Microsoft’s OneDrive team group program manager, Jason Moore, replied to the critics, suggesting there are further changes ahead for OneDrive in Windows 10. “The changes we made are significant,” he writes. “We didn’t just ‘turn off’ placeholders – we’re making fundamental improvements to how sync works, focusing on reliability in all scenarios, bringing together OneDrive and OneDrive for Business in one sync engine, and making sure we have a model that can scale to unlimited storage.

“In Windows 10, that means we’ll use selective sync instead of placeholders. But we’re adding additional capabilities, so the experience you get in Windows 10 build 9879 is just the beginning. For instance, you’ll be able to search all of your files on OneDrive – even those that aren’t sync’ed to your PC – and access those files directly from the search results. And we’ll solve for the scenario of having a large photo collection in the cloud but limited disk space on your PC.”

Windows 10 is due to be released by the middle of next year. Microsoft has already released three different versions of the pre-release OS to beta testers, with most of the changes so far focusing on the desktop PC experience.

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