Ask Leo! #664 – Using OneDrive for Nearly Continuous Backup

Some people dislike OneDrive, but I think it's a wonderful opportunity to add another backup safety net, and this week's featured article shows how.

We also dive into the "nuclear" option for resetting Windows 10, including "nuke light", and talk about something that people still do too often: using only one password everywhere.

And, yeah, I can't get enough of those Corgi picnic pictures. Smile

Using OneDrive for Nearly Continuous Backup


In previous articles, I looked at creating an image backup using Windows 10's built-in imaging tool1, and setting up File History to back up files that change on a regular basis to an external drive.

This is all good — but we can do better.

Best practices for a robust backup strategy call for keeping a backup copy off-site. OneDrive, included as part of Windows 10, can do that automatically.

We'll set up OneDrive, and then make a couple of changes to other applications to make our use of OneDrive for backing up nearly transparent.

Microsoft account and connectivity

You need a Microsoft account to use OneDrive.

You may already be using one to log into your PC. If you're logging in with an email address — particularly if it's an,,, or other Microsoft-provided email domain — you already have one.

If not, and you don't have a Microsoft account at all, I'd recommend visiting and signing up for a new account. It's free.

You will also need to be online for OneDrive to work. It's best if you're constantly connected, but it'll work with an intermittent connection as well. As with all things online, the faster the better.


OneDrive is standard in Windows 10. In fact, it's downright difficult to remove. 🙂

If OneDrive has not yet been set up, you'll often get a notification to “finish” setting it up, and the taskbar icon may have a red error indicator.

OneDrive icon

If you don't see the icon, you may need to click the “Show hidden icons” carat (^ – not present above), to make the OneDrive icon appear in the notification area.

Click the OneDrive icon to launch the set-up process.

Setting up OneDrive

First, you'll be asked for the email address corresponding to your Microsoft account. Type it in and click Sign in.

OneDrive Setup - email address

Once signed in, you'll be shown the location of your OneDrive folder, with the option to change that location.

OneDrive Default Folder Location

Unless you have a specific reason to change it — such as placing it on a different drive — leaving it at the default location is fine. That location will be “C:\Users\\OneDrive”, where “” is replaced with your log-in identifier. In the example above, that's “lnote”. That puts the OneDrive folder in the same place as your Documents folder (“C:\Users\\Documents”), your Downloads folder (“C:\Users\\Downloads”), your Pictures folder (“C:\Users\\Pictures”), and others.

You'll be presented with a list of folders in your OneDrive account.

OneDrive Folders

Since I already have and use OneDrive, it displays a list of the folders already included there. The contents of all the folders I select will be downloaded and mirrored on my PC. If this is your first use of OneDrive, your folder list may be empty.

Unless you know you have specific requirements otherwise, make sure “Sync all files and folders in OneDrive” is checked. Click on Next.

That's it! Well, you may be presented with some “Isn't OneDrive wonderful?” marketing and informational messages, but it's set up. OneDrive is at work.

What OneDrive does for backing up

After setting it up, you might be wondering why we bothered with all that. What's in it for us?

At its most basic, OneDrive operates similarly to other cloud storage services: what's on your hard drive is a mirror — a copy — of what's in your OneDrive account online.

Great. What's that mean?

Two things:

  1. Any time you add or update a file or folder within the OneDrive folder on your machine, it is automatically uploaded to OneDrive online.
  2. Any time a file appears in OneDrive online, it's automatically downloaded to the OneDrive folder on your machine.

The file is available in both locations, and you can use either.

For our purposes today, that's it. In fact, I'm going to completely ignore the second one and focus entirely on the first: whenever you add or change something in the OneDrive folder on your machine, it's automatically uploaded.

Automatically uploaded.

Or to put another way: it's automatically backed up to the cloud.

Leveraging OneDrive transparently

The easiest way to make sure OneDrive is always backing up your work is to always do your work in OneDrive.

That means instead of creating your new documents (or Pictures, or Music, or whatever) in your “Documents” folder, create them in your OneDrive folder. Then every time you hit “Save”, the document is updated on your disk and uploaded to your OneDrive online account.

Put another way: every time you hit “Save”, your document is backed up to the cloud. Your PC could be destroyed, but your document(s) will still be there, online, in your OneDrive account.

The easiest way to do this is to change the default folder your applications use. Unfortunately, that's not a global setting; it's something you need to locate and change for each application.

Some applications remember the last folder you used and automatically use that folder again the next time you create or save a document. Others will not remember at all, and you need to remember to Save your document to your OneDrive folder. Others, like Microsoft Word (shown below), have options buried in advanced settings that allow you to change the default location.

Default Document Location Setting in Microsoft Word

The default will almost certainly be “C:\Users\\Documents”; you want to modify that to be “C:\Users\\OneDrive”. If you're like me, and like to keep things organized, you might create a folder within your OneDrive folder — perhaps “WordDocs” — and set the default location to “C:\Users\\OneDrive\WordDocs”. Now all the new documents you create will:

  • Be created in OneDrive.
  • Be automatically uploaded every time you click on “Save” or exit the program.

It may seem like a little hassle to locate the options within the programs you use most often, but it's something you need to do only once …

… and it'll pay off any time you need to grab a file from your OneDrive online backup.

Related Links & Comments: Using OneDrive for Nearly Continuous Backup

The Ask Leo! Guide to Online Privacy

There's no avoiding the issue: privacy issues are scary, complex, and even somewhat mystifying.

The Ask Leo! Guide to Online Privacy tackles these topics in terms you can understand. The Ask Leo! Guide to Online Privacy will help you understand what's at risk, what steps to take, and what to do when you're not sure.

The Ask Leo! Guide to Online Privacy

Reinstalling Windows 10 From Windows 10: "Reset This PC"

My machine wasn't completely broken, but it wasn't well. Months of turning things on and off, installing and uninstalling, and just generally “fiddling” while researching and documenting Ask Leo! articles left this particular Windows 10 installation a couple of features short of a full package.

This presented a great opportunity to experiment with the “nuclear option” built into Windows 10: “Reset This PC”.

Surprisingly, there's now what I'll call a “light” nuclear option, in addition to the traditional “delete everything and start over” approach.

Continue Reading: Reinstalling Windows 10 From Windows 10: "Reset This PC"

Why Can't I Just Use One Password Everywhere?

Can you use the same password for everything you need one for? Having a lot of different ones is really hard to remember, to the point that I have had to write each one down.

Yes, you can use the same password everywhere, but I really, really, don't recommend it. The general consensus is that it significantly increases the risk of your accounts being compromised.

There are several approaches to password management that don't require using one password everywhere, and also don't require you to remember dozens, if not hundreds, of different passwords.

Continue Reading: Why Can't I Just Use One Password Everywhere?

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Posted: August 8, 2017 in: 2017
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