How to use Files On-Demand in Windows 10, with OneDrive and File Explorer

In the past, the OneDrive client for Windows used to show placeholders in File Explorer for all the files that you had stored in the cloud, even if those files were not available locally on your computer or device. Unfortunately, this feature disappeared from Windows a while ago, stirring discontent from users. In Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Microsoft brings the feature back, but now they are calling it Files On-Demand. If you want to know what Files On-Demand is, how it works and how to use it, read this tutorial:

What does Files On-Demand do?

Files On-Demand allows you to access all your files in the OneDrive cloud, with File Explorer, regardless whether they are downloaded 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. The questions that spur now is, of course, how do you differentiate the online-only files from those available locally on your computer or device. Read on to find the answer.

You should know that this new feature is available in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. Unless you have this version of Windows 10, you cannot use Files On-Demand. Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is coming to all Windows 10 users for free, starting October 17th, 2017.

How to find whether your OneDrive files are online only or are available locally

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

  • Online only files - have a blue cloud status. 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 hard drive, but they are taking up space in your OneDrive cloud storage. 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 - have a green checkmark in a white circle status. These are files from your OneDrive space which you have accessed in the past using File Explorer. Each time you open an online-only file from your OneDrive, File Explorer downloads and stores it on your computer or device, locally. Thus, these files can be opened 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.
  • Always available files - have a white checkmark in a green circle status. These are files from your OneDrive cloud space which you have explicitly set to be downloaded and stored locally on your Windows 10 computer or device, always. They are permanently taking up space on your hard drive, and they are always available, regardless whether you have a working internet connection or not. You can unset these files from being always available.

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

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

How to enable the OneDrive Files On-Demand feature

On the taskbar system tray or notification area if you prefer to name it like that, click or tap on the OneDrive icon.

OneDrive opens a small window: on its top-right corner, there should be a Settings button with an icon that looks like a cog wheel. Click or tap on it.

A window called Microsoft OneDrive is opened.

You can get to the same place by right-clicking on the OneDrive icon from the notification area, and then by clicking or tapping on Settings.

In the Microsoft OneDrive window, go to the Settings tab.

At the bottom of the Settings tab, you should find 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 and then click or tap on the OK button.

How to disable the OneDrive Files On-Demand feature

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.

OneDrive will ask you to confirm your choice and informs you that all OneDrive files and folders will download to your PC. If you want to go ahead, click or tap on OK twice and you are done.

How to set files and folders from your OneDrive to be always available

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 will be able to work with them even if you do not have an internet connection.

Fortunately, choosing whether certain files or folders will be 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 tap and hold if you have a touchscreen) and select “Always keep on this device” if you want to make them always available locally.

How to set files and folders from your OneDrive to no longer be always available

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.”

How to free up space by making your OneDrive files available only online

If you have a small 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 have a working internet connection.

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 tap and hold on them, if you have a touchscreen). In the contextual menu, click or tap the option called “Free up space.”

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.

Conclusion

As you have seen, turning on 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 whether they are available locally or online only. What do you think: is this feature an excellent addition to the novelties brought by the Fall Creators Update? Share your opinion in the comments below.