How to use OneDrive: A guide to Microsoft's cloud storage service

Onedrive is the kind of tool that, once you'll start using it, you can't imagine what it's like not to. It's an easy way to make your files accessible on any computer, phone or tablet, both as a way to send files between devices and back-up these files in case you lose them on your local system.

You can take a picture on your phone one minute, and open it on your tablet the next to edit, then access it on your computer to publish online. You can also continuously and instantaneously share files with friends so they can work on the same project as you. You can even view previous versions of your precious files. It's an invaluable tool.

Anyone with a Microsoft account can access it straight away, and enjoy the 5GB free space (which you can increase with paid plans). It's easy to create a Microsoft account, if you don't have one. Then you can access OneDrive at onedrive.live.com, where you can drag and drop files to and from your desktop or browser.

However, to get the most from it, it's best to properly install OneDrive on your PC, smartphone, tablet, so you can always find your files quickly and easily.

How to use OneDrive on your PC

1. Set up OneDrive in Windows 10

The best thing about using OneDrive on Windows 10 is that it comes pre-installed, so you don't need to download a thing. In fact, if you've signed in to Windows with a Microsoft account, you don't even need to log in to OneDrive - it does that automatically too.

Just click the up-arrow to expand the notification area on the taskbar, then click the icon that resembles a cloud. A pop-up window appears showing any recently synced files. If you're not signed in, OneDrive invites you to do so. Next, just follow the instructions on screen to complete set up.

2. Choose which folders are synced

If you are already logged in to OneDrive, you can change which folders are synced to your PC by right-clicking OneDrive from the notification area and clicking Settings. From the Account tab, click 'Choose folders' and select which OneDrive folders are available on your PC.

After this, open File Explorer, click OneDrive from the sidebar and you'll see all the folders you've opted to sync. You can browse and open these files on your PC at any time (even when offline). When you delete something from OneDrive in File Explorer, the changes are synced and the files will disappear from your other devices too.

3. Backup local files to OneDrive

If you want your desktop, Documents and Pictures folders to be automatically backed up to the cloud, right-click OneDrive in the notification area, then select Settings. Click the Auto Save tab, then use the drop-down menus to choose OneDrive for each entry.

On this screen, there are also options to 'Automatically save screenshots I save to OneDrive' and 'Automatically save photos and videos to OneDrive whenever I connect a camera, phone, or other device to my PC.' To back up any other folder or file to OneDrive, all you need to do is simply drag and drop it to OneDrive from File Explorer (providing you have enough storage remaining - lots of videos will chew through your free allowance).

4. Share files from OneDrive

To share a folder or file in OneDrive, right-click it in File Explorer and select 'Share a OneDrive link'. The link is then copied to your clipboard, so you can paste it to any program or web page in order to share it. Files you share in this way can only be viewed, so if you want someone to have editing rights, simply choose 'More OneDrive sharing options' from the same menu.

OneDrive opens in your browser (you might be prompted to log in) and a pop-up sharing box appears with a tick box that lets you opt to 'Allow editing'. Check this, then copy the URL below to share it.

5. Restore deleted files and (previous file versions)

If you've deleted a file or folder, you'll only be able to restore it from the OneDrive web app, so right-click OneDrive in the notification area and select 'View online'. From here, click the 'Recycle bin' on the left sidebar, select the items you want to recover and then click Restore.

Files are automatically cleared after 30 days, unless you're using a school or work account when they're saved for 93 days. If your Recycle Bin is full, the oldest items will be deleted after three days.

To restore a previous version of a file, right-click it in File Explorer and choose 'View online'. Log in to OneDrive in your browser if prompted, and then click 'Version history' at the top of the page (you can also find this option by right-clicking any file in the web version of OneDrive). You'll see all the different versions of your file including information about when you edited it and its size. Click the three-dot button next to the name of the author and you can opt to either Restore or Open File.

After doing this, the other versions of your file will still remain, so you'll have the option to jump backwards or forwards again if necessary.

6. Remove OneDrive from your PC

If you have no reason to use OneDrive, or you prefer the likes of Google Drive or Dropbox, the easiest thing to do is to log out of the Windows 10 app. To do this, right click the app from the notification area, then click Settings and Unlink this PC. After you click this a local copy of the files still be saved, so you'll need to delete these manually from the OneDrive folder in File Explorer, should you want to.

Because it comes with the operating system, only some versions of Windows 10 let you uninstall the app. To check if you can, open the Start menu, type 'Add or remove programs' and then click the top result. From 'Apps & features' scroll down to Microsoft OneDrive, then click it and select Uninstall.

How to use OneDrive on your phone

1. Install the OneDrive app

Visit the OneDrive download page, then click the appropriate button for your device (Android, iOS, or Windows Phone), enter your phone number and it emails you a download link. Alternatively, visit the Google Play Store or Apple App Store and search for Microsoft OneDrive. From there, you can install the app and follow its on-screen instructions to log in with your Microsoft account.

2. Share files from OneDrive

To share a file from the OneDrive app, tap its three-dot button and then select Share. You can choose whether the recipient can edit the file or not and then there are a number of different ways to share including copying a sharing link to your clipboard, inviting multiple people via email or 'Send files', which lets you send the file directly using another app.

3. Store OneDrive Files offline

The Files tab lets you browse your OneDrive folders and files. To keep a folder or file offline, just tap its three-dot button and choose 'Keep offline'. Alternatively, you can download the current version of the file to your device by tapping Save - note that any changes you make to this version of the file will not be synced to other devices.

4. Backup your photos to OneDrive

To save your photos to OneDrive, tap the Photos tab, then tap Turn On to activate the camera upload feature. Once you've activated the backup tool, you can sort your photos using albums and browse them using the app's automatic tags. To change the camera upload tool's settings, tap Me, Settings and 'Camera upload'. From here you can tap 'Upload using' to choose between using 'Wi-Fi only' or 'Wi-Fi and mobile network', and there's also an option to choose whether videos are saved.

5. Check how much storage you have left

Tap the Me button at the bottom of the OneDrive app and you can see at a glance how much of your OneDrive storage you've used. This menu also gives you access to the Recycle Bin and lets you browse all your offline files in one place. If you want to upgrade your storage, tap Go Premium and then follow the onscreen instructions.