OneDrive Files On-Demand for Windows 10: All you need to know

One of the best things in OneDrive's app for Windows 10 is a feature called Files On-Demand. It helps you save storage space on your Windows 10 computers and devices, by downloading and keeping local copies of your OneDrive files only if you access them, or if you manually specify that you want them to be always available offline. If you want to learn all there is to know about it, including how to enable or disable OneDrive Files On-Demand, how to use them, and how to identify which of your files are local or online-only, read this guide:

What is OneDrive Files On-Demand?

Files On-Demand is a feature that allows you to access all your files in the OneDrive cloud, with File Explorer, regardless of whether they are downloaded or not on your Windows 10 computer or device. In other words, you can see all your OneDrive files, even those that are available online-only, in File Explorer, just like any other. Files On-Demand was introduced in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, and it is available in all the newer versions of Windows 10.

The question now is, of course: How do you differentiate the online-only files from those available locally on your computer or device? Furthermore, can you turn Files On-Demand on or off? Can you choose which files and folders are always available on your drive for offline use? Here are all the answers:

OneDrive Files On-Demand: How to see which files are available offline (local) and online-only

In File Explorer, the files and folders from your OneDrive have a different status indicator depending on where they are stored:

  • Online-only files and folders - have blue cloud icons. These are files that you have stored in your OneDrive storage but which are not downloaded locally on your Windows 10 PC. They are not occupying space on your storage drive, but they are taking up space in your OneDrive cloud space. Although you can see all online files, even if you do not have an active internet connection, you can only open them if you have internet access.
  • Locally available files and folders - have white icons with green checkmarks. These are files from your OneDrive space that you have opened, and File Explorer downloaded and stored them on your computer or device, locally. Thus, these files can be reopened and used even when you do not have a working internet connection. These files are taking space on your hard drive. If you want, you can revert this whole process and reclaim your local storage space by making the files online-only again.
  • Files and folders marked as "Always keep on this device" (always available) - have green icons with white checkmarks. These are files from your OneDrive that you have explicitly set always to be available offline, stored locally on your Windows 10 computer or device. They are permanently taking up space on your hard drive but have the advantage of always being available for use, regardless of whether you have a working internet connection or not. If you choose to unset these files and folders from being always available, you can free space on your drive.

Here is how the three statuses for Files On-Demand look in File Explorer:

OneDrive Files On-Demand: always available, locally available, and online-only files

If you like what Files On-Demand is all about, you might want to enable this feature. Here is how to do that:

How to turn on Files On-Demand

On the taskbar system tray, click or tap on the OneDrive icon.

The OneDrive icon from the system tray

If you don't see the OneDrive icon in the system tray, click or tap on the ^ button, and then on the OneDrive icon.

The OneDrive icon hidden inside the system tray apps list

Then, in OneDrive's flyout, click or tap on "… More."

The More button from OneDrive's flyout

OneDrive shows you a list of options: go to Settings.

The Settings option from OneDrive's More menu

Clicking or tapping Settings launches a window called Microsoft OneDrive.

The Microsoft OneDrive configuration window

In the Microsoft OneDrive window, select the Settings tab.

The Settings tab of Microsoft OneDrive

At the bottom of the Settings tab, there's a section called Files On-Demand. It has only one option: "Save space and download files as you use them." To enable the Files On-Demand feature, you must check this option.

OneDrive Files On-Demand: Save space and download files as you use them

Click or tap on the OK button, and you're done!

How to turn off Files On-Demand

If you prefer not to use the Files On-Demand feature at all, you can disable it. Instead of checking the option called "Save space and download files as you use them," uncheck it and press OK to save your preference.

Turn off Files On-Demand: disable Save space and download files as you use them

OneDrive asks you to confirm your choice and informs you that "All OneDrive files and folders will download to this PC." If you want to go ahead and "Disable Files On-Demand," click or tap on OK.

How to mark files and folders for offline use with Files On-Demand

If you have enabled the Files On-Demand feature, then you might want to know how to make your important files available locally on your computer or device. That way, you can work with them even if you're offline, without a working internet connection. Fortunately, choosing whether specific files or folders are configured to be downloaded and always available is simple. In File Explorer, navigate to your OneDrive and find the folder or files in question.

Then, right-click on them (or press-and-hold if you have a touchscreen) and select "Always keep on this device" to make them always available locally.

Mark files or folders to Always keep on this device

If you change your mind and no longer want some of your files or folders to be always available locally, follow the same steps, but this time uncheck the option "Always keep on this device."

Mark files or folders to stop them from always being available offline

TIP: If you want File Explorer to always open OneDrive, when you start it up, read: Set File Explorer to open OneDrive or Dropbox (or any other folder) when starting.

How to free up space by removing local copies of files marked as On-Demand (make OneDrive files online-only)

If you have limited local storage space, you might prefer to keep all your OneDrive files available online-only. That way, they never take up space on your Windows 10 computer or device. You can, however, work with them, but only as long as you are connected to the internet.

To configure some or all of your files or folders to be available only when you are online, open File Explorer, navigate to your OneDrive, and then find the files or folders that you want to make available online-only. Select them and then right-click on them (or press-and-hold on them, if you have a touchscreen). On the contextual menu, click or tap the option called "Free up space."

Choosing Free up space to save storage space with OneDrive Files On-Demand

Windows 10 then deletes the locally stored copies of those files or folders but keeps the online originals in place, unaltered. This can be an excellent way of recovering storage space on your device, especially if you have large files stored in OneDrive.

Do you use OneDrive's Files On-Demand feature?

As you have seen, enabling and working with the new Files On-Demand OneDrive feature from Windows 10 is easy. With just a few clicks or taps, you can make File Explorer show all your OneDrive files, regardless of whether they are available locally or online-only. Do you use OneDrive's Files On-Demand feature? Share your opinion in the comments below.