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John Martin
John Martin

Store Files Online

Your files are saved online at and also to your OneDrive folder on your computer. Storing files in your OneDrive folder allows you to work offline, in addition to online, and your changes are synchronized when you reconnect to the Internet. To learn more about OneDrive, see

store files online

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New files or folders created online or on another device appear as online-only to save maximum space. However, if you mark a folder as "Always keep on this device," new files in that folder download to your device as always available files.

Yes, you can move online-only files within your OneDrive folder for that OneDrive account. When you move files outside that OneDrive folder, the files download to the new folder and are removed from your OneDrive.

When you delete an online-only file from your device, you delete it from your OneDrive on all devices and online. You can restore deleted files and folders from your OneDrive recycle bin on the web for up to 30 days for items stored in OneDrive personal (when you're signed in with a Microsoft account), or for up to 93 days for items stored in OneDrive for work or school or SharePoint in Microsoft 365 (when you're signed in with a work or school account). If you delete a locally available file, it also appears in your device recycle bin.

No, changing a file to online-only doesn't delete it from your OneDrive. The file no longer takes up space on your device, and you will still be able to see the file from OneDrive mobile apps or on the website.

It wasn't all that long ago that collaborating with people on documents was a huge hassle. You'd make multiple copies of a file and have to add a stupid ending to the filename, like "-edited-JD-final-final," in hopes of keeping track of everyone's changes. Equally painful was managing versions of your own documents as you emailed them to yourself from your personal computer to your work computer. Who misses that? No one has to mess with those problems anymore, largely thanks to online file storage and syncing services.

If you don't yet have an online storage and syncing service, you should seriously consider getting one. Which one you choose depends on the kinds of files you store, how much security you need, whether you plan to collaborate with others, and which devices you own. It may also depend on your comfort level with computers in general. Most of these services are extremely user-friendly, while others offer advanced customization for more experienced techies. Find our best picks below, followed by a detailed guide to understanding cloud storage and file-sharing services.

OneDrive is a great storage and syncing option for just about anybody. It works on all major devices. Its functionality and design have reached a point of slick usability and reliability. The cost is more than reasonable seeing as you can get added OneDrive storage by paying for a Microsoft 365, which includes office apps. Because it provides automatic backup for documents, photos and other files in Windows and syncs documents in Microsoft's office apps, it's a natural choice for Windows or Microsoft 365 users.

If you use Microsoft 365 apps regularly, including the online version of the apps, using OneDrive for storage and syncing offers real benefits. And Windows users will be delighted that their Desktop, Documents, and Pictures are safely backed up to the cloud, and automatically restored when they get a new PC. It's also a great option for anyone looking for value in an online syncing and storage service. Free users can take advantage of the 5GB of storage, which isn't the most generous free version you can find, but it's in line with the competition.

IDrive has long offered the best deal for online syncing and storage, giving you the most space per dollar and no limit on the number of devices you install it on. Beyond that, it's also a solid service, with apps for all major platforms and a bevy of features. For example, you can set IDrive to back up files to an external hard drive or a network drive. There's even support for creating a complete disk image, although it's limited to the Windows version. It's archiving capability means that you can always find your files, even if you deleted them on the local computer.

IDrive is for anyone looking for the best price per TB for their online storage and syncing service. It will also be appealing to those who want to take advantage of its archiving and continuous backup features.

Google Drive is the natural choice for anyone who regularly works in Google Docs, Sheets, and other online apps; it integrates with many third-party online apps as a cloud storage option. It's also a great choice for people looking for a generous free online storage and syncing service.

SpiderOak is a storage service that focuses on privacy and security. It has a no-knowledge policy, and we like the intuitive desktop application and unlimited versioning capabilities. The service charges more for online storage than competitors, but you can back up an unlimited number of devices per account. You also get good file-sharing and folder-syncing options with SpiderOak, despite the focus on backup.

Sync is a reliable tool for storing your files online and syncing them among up to five devices. We love how user-friendly it is. Paid individual plans start at $96 per year for 2TB of storage space, which is a competitive price. It works on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and the web, but not Linux.

Sync is a simple and straightforward service for anyone who doesn't want to store their files with one of the big tech giants. It's a great option for people who prefer simplicity over an excess of features. A free account comes with 5GB of storage space, making it competitive with most other major services. Linux users should look elsewhere, as Sync does not offer a Linux app.

Though Box isn't highly competitive on price, it does offer dozens upon dozens of integrations with other services and a flexible web app that can open files using desktop software. The free version comes with a generous 10GB of storage space.

Ultimately, we find Box is better suited to business use than personal use, based on its features. The two use cases are different enough that we have a separate review of Box for Business. Anyone who likes Box for Business and wants to use it for the personal files as well will likely be happy with this service. It is a great option, however, for anyone who doesn't want to pay for online storage so long as they have less than 10GB's worth of stuff to store.

The very best cloud storage solutions play nicely with other apps and services, making the experience of viewing and editing your files feel natural. Especially in business, you want your other software and apps to be able to retrieve or access your files, so making sure you use a service that easily authenticates with the other tools you use is a big deal. Box and Dropbox are particularly strong in this regard.

Distinct from but overlapping in some cases with cloud storage are backup services, particularly ones that offer online backups. Some of them, such as Carbonite, specialize in data protection and recovery, while others like IDrive, combine data protection with syncing and sharing capabilities.

Most cloud services do offer some level of backup, almost as a consequence of their intended function. It follows logically that any files uploaded to a cloud service are also protected from disk failures, since there are copies of them in the cloud. But dedicated backup services sometimes also create a disk image of your machine so you can restore not just your files, but everything, including system settings and programs. Syncing, by contrast, is about backing up and managing selected files only.

Just to clear up any confusion, the cloud part of cloud-based storage refers to putting your files somewhere other than your computer's hard drive. Usually, it means the provider's servers. There's a half-joke saying in the tech world, "There is no cloud. It's just someone else's computer."

Having data in the cloud gives you the ability to access your files through the internet. Your data is usually encrypted before making the journey over the internet to the provider's servers, and it remains encrypted while it lives on those servers.

Well-designed services don't upload a brand-new copy of your files every time you change one little thing. Instead, the file syncing service looks for changes to your files and uploads only them, saving your connection bandwidth.

You can access your cloud files through an app or utility software installed on your computer. Once it's installed, it usually shows a small notification icon and creates your synced folder structure that fits into Windows Explorer or the macOS Finder. You can also get to the files via your web browser. Of course, you need an internet connection for it to work, but if you temporarily are without a connection, that's okay. The service waits until the next time you do have a connection and takes care of business then.

Many cloud storage services have a free account that usually comes with some limitations, such as the amount of storage or a size limit on files you can upload. We prefer providers that offer some level of permanent free service, even if you get only 2GB of storage space rather than a time-based trial. This way you can fully integrate a service into your life for several weeks for real-world testing. During that time, you get a feel for how it works and what might go wrong with your setup.

There are many other reasons to pay for cloud storage, from getting a lot more space (a terabyte really doesn't cost all that much anymore) to being able to upload huge files. That last benefit is relevant to graphic designers, video editors, and other visual artists who often host enormous files. Other perks of paying for your cloud storage often include increased access to file-version history (meaning you can restore an important business proposal to the version you had before your colleague made a bunch of erroneous changes), more security, and more features for collaboration and teamwork.


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