Using OneDrive

Learning Outcomes

  • Create folders in OneDrive
  • Upload, store, and share files in OneDrive

Microsoft OneDrive is a free file storage and file sharing service available to any Microsoft account user. Microsoft OneDrive provides one terabyte of storage for free. You automatically have access if you create a free Microsoft email account, or you can create a free Microsoft account using any email address such as Gmail or Yahoo!.

OneDrive files and folders can either be accessed via a web browser or via a desktop application. They can also be accessed via a mobile app on a mobile device. This module will focus on desktop use, but keep in mind that similar functionality is available on the web and mobile apps.

Creating Folders in OneDrive

After you download the OneDrive desktop application, you may have already been asked to sign in. Once you are signed in, you can see OneDrive as a folder in your Windows File Explorer.

Screenshot of a OneDrive folder in Windows with the "New Folder" being highlighted
In the File Explorer, you can create OneDrive folders just like you would any other folder on your computer. To create a new folder, you can either:

  • click the New folder button on the ribbon, or
  • right click somewhere in the OneDrive folder pane and select New>Folder.


Microsoft OneDrive is available for download on a Mac and will operate similarly. You will just use the Finder instead of the Windows Explorer to navigate through your OneDrive folders and files.


Uploading and Storing Files in OneDrive

To save a file in OneDrive, open the file and click File>Save As. Then select the OneDrive folder or subfolder where you want to save it.

Screenshot of the option to save to OneDrive in Microsoft Word after selecting File, Save As

Syncing Files to the Cloud

The OneDrive folder in the File Explorer has a column called Status. The icons in this column give you details on the status of syncing the file or folder in the cloud storage.

Screenshot of a Windows Explorer folder with the column Status highlighted
Icon Description Details
Green checkmark Green checkmark File or folder is synced to the cloud and available locally
Solid green circle with white checkmark Solid green circle with white checkmark File or folder is synced to the cloud and has been marked as “Always keep on this device”
Red circle with white X Red circle with white X File or folder cannot be synced to the cloud
Two blue arrows Two blue arrows Sync pending
Blue cloud Blue cloud File or folder is only available online

These files don’t take up space on your computer, and can’t be opened when you are offline.

Blue cloud with person Blue cloud with person File or folder has been shared with other people
Padlock Padlock File or folder has settings which prevent it from syncing

When you have installed the OneDrive desktop application, you will also have a OneDrive icon on your system tray (bottom right corner of Windows). The icons in the system tray also give you more details about the overall status of your OneDrive account.

Icon Description Details
Blue cloud or white cloud Blue cloud or white cloud A blue cloud is for your work or school account. A white cloud is for your personal account.

Both clouds may appear if you are signed into multiple accounts on your computer.

Blue cloud with Two blue arrowsWhite cloud with Two blue arrows Two blue arrows Sync pending
Blue cloud with Pause iconWhite cloud with Pause icon Pause icon OneDrive paused; files not syncing

To resume syncing, click on the icon and select Resume Syncing.

Red circle with white bar Red circle with white bar OneDrive account blocked
Blue cloud with Yellow exclamation markWhite cloud with Yellow exclamation mark Yellow exclamation mark OneDrive account needs attention

Click on the icon to see more details.

Sharing Files in OneDrive

To share a file from the OneDrive folder in the File Explorer, right click on the file and select Share. You may see multiple options to share. If so, select the one with the OneDrive blue cloud icon next to it. Note that you can share both files and folders using this method. If you share a folder, you are sharing access to all files currently in that folder and that may be added to that folder in the future.

Screenshot of Windows Explorer folder with the Share option highlighted after you right-click on a file.

Once you click on Share with the blue cloud icon, you will see options to enter email addresses along with a message to send it through that dialog box, or you can copy the link to share another way (such as by email or chat). Select the options you want on your link by clicking Anyone with the link can edit.

  • Allow editing. You can uncheck this box if you do not want anyone with the link to be able to edit the file.
  • Set expiration date. If you set an expiration date, then the link will only work until the date you set.
  • Set password. If you set a password, the user will be prompted to enter a password before they can access the file. You will need to send the password separately to anyone you’d like to grant access.
Screenshot showing Send link popup window
Screenshot showing Link settings popup box

In your email, you can also share OneDrive files as a link rather than attachment. A dialog box will appear when you select a OneDrive file as the file you would like to attach to the email. Then you can select either Share link or Attach as copy.

Screenshot showing options to Share link or Attach as copy to an email