How can I set my default save location to OneDrive in Windows 8.1?

Microsoft’s OneDrive program (formerly SkyDrive) lavishes you 15GB of free cloud storage for your files, photos and movies.  It’s 100% free and is super easy to use so there’s really no good reason not to use it.  You can even earn up to 8GB of additional space by doing simple things like referring friends and using OneDrive to backup photos.

The nice part is that Windows 8.1 users don’t need to download any special software because OneDrive is integrated into the fabric of the operating system.

Yet despite all the benefits, most of the people I know don’t use OneDrive.  I don’t think it’s because people have something against OneDrive but rather they have questions about security, portability, and usability.  Unanswered questions about this trio of concerns stymies their curiosity.

But this is the thing: I’ll be the first to tell you that although OneDrive isn’t an indomitable fortress it’s still pretty secure.  I’ve been using OneDrive since its inception and I’m not aware of any security issues.

Your files are reasonably save as long as you have a strong password (no dictionary words or repeated characters).  Of course, a motivated hacker could still breach the system but if security really has you paranoid Microsoft offers two-step verification which requires your password plus an extra security code.

As far as portability goes, your files aren’t fettered to a single source therefore they become more accessible. You can start a file on your laptop in the morning, modify it on your tablet during lunch and finalize your changes from your living-room using your Android.

OneDrive gives you access to your most important files from all your devices.  So you can view and edit your documents from your smartphone, tablet and PC.  In fact, you can even access your OneDrive files from your Mac if you need to.

It’s really quite nice.  And it’s pretty easy to use.  OneDrive appears in Windows Explorer as a fluffy blue cloud icon.  You treat it just like any ordinary folder. So you can copy, and drag and drop files into your OneDrive just like you copy and drag files locally; but the difference of course is that your stuff is actually stored in the cloud.

If you somehow manage to hit the 15GB ceiling you can always buy more space.  Currently, as I’m writing this, Microsoft is offering 100 GB for $2 per month and 200 GB for $4 per month.

Saving to OneDrive by Default

Microsoft doesn’t auto-save your stuff to OneDrive straight out of the box so today I want to show you not only how to change that but also how to access your OneDrive files even if you loose your network connection.


Normally almost all (90%) of your Windows files are stored in six locations collectively known as your Library.

  • Desktop
  • Documents
  • Downloads
  • Pictures
  • Music
  • Videos

This is your default storage bucket for downloads, documents and media content.

So if your laptop was ever lost, stolen, or irreparably damaged by a virus you could be out of luck if you didn’t have any backups.  In my mind, this is the cardinal reason it’s a good idea to use OneDrive as a save location because it’s always available for you.

First we need to get you signed into your PC with a Microsoft account.  In the Windows Desktop, press Windows Key +and enter:

onedrive storage space

OneDrive Storage Space on Windows 8.1

The next screen might ask you to Connect to a Microsoft Account.  If so, just click that link.

Connect to OneDrive with Microsoft account

My PC is joined to a corporate domain so your screen may look different than mine.  In most cases you can simply take the defaults and click Next.

Connecting your computer to OneDrive

I filled in my existing Microsoft account.  As you can see, you don’t need to create a specific account for Microsoft.  Most people just use an existing email address (just make sure the password is different).

To create your Microsoft Account click the Create a new account link at the bottom of the screen.

Create a Microsoft account in Windows 8.1

Once you connect your account – it’s done.

Connecting my Microsoft account to this PC

Breeze back over to the desktop, hit Windows Key + e to call up Explorer (think e for explorer) and then scroll up in the left pane to find the OneDrive icon.

Make sure the Navigation Pane is visible by clicking the View tab in the Explorer ribbon bar near the top of the window and then choose Navigation Pane from the far left of the panel.

Showing and hiding the navigation pane in Windows 8.1

The first thing we’re going to do is to make our OneDrive files available offline.

If you already have existing OneDrive files floating in the cloud they’ll start downloading to your local computer.  If you don’t have anything there then OneDrive will simply store a sync’d copy of your cloud files which will get uploaded to the cloud once you hop online.

To setup offline viewing, just right click the OneDrive folder and choose Make Available Offline.

Viewing your OneDrive folder in Explorer

You can check the sync progress by hovering the mouse over the cloud icon in the system tray.  I have almost a gig of files in the cloud so OneDrive needs to push those to my PC so I can view them offline.

Windows 8.1 OneDrive Sync progress

Now for the fun part.

You can move all your Libraries folders to OneDrive if you want, but I’ll just show you how to move the Documents folder today; you’ll be able to figure out the rest from that.

Makes sure that the title bar says This PC, then right click your local Documents folder and choose Properties.

Windows 8.1 Document Library properties

Hit the Location tab and notice the folder path in the text box points to your local machine.

Document properties folder Path

Click the Move Button and browse to your OneDrive Documents folder.  If you don’t see a Documents folder in OneDrive, you can always press Ctrl + Shift + n to create a new folder.

Repeat the same process for any other Libraries and you’ll be all set!

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