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How to Use SkyDrive on Your Windows 8.1 Desktop

If you want to use SkyDrive in Windows 8.1 (as opposed to just playing with it in the tiled Metro SkyDrive app), you need to flip over to your old-fashioned desktop.

The SkyDrive program is a rather unusual desktop program. You never need to start or stop it. The SkyDrive program just runs — fingers never leave the hands. In fact, most people who use SkyDrive never use the online program. They cut straight to the SkyDrive folder in File Explorer and treat it as if it were any other folder.

Windows 8.1 ships with all the programs you need already installed. You’ll never know that there are programs sitting behind the scenes: All your interactions with SkyDrive on the desktop are through the SkyDrive folder in File Explorer.

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In case you were wondering, the circle with double rounded arrows in the lower-left corner of Mr Dummy’s picture indicate that the file is in the middle of being uploaded to SkyDrive. When the sync is complete, the arrows disappear.

To recap:

  • The SkyDrive folder sits inside File Explorer and acts in many respects as if it were a regular, everyday folder. It isn’t, of course, because the contents of the folder don’t sit on your hard drive. They’re up on Microsoft’s servers, somewhere in the cloud.

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  • You can also access all the data that’s stored on SkyDrive by logging in with your Microsoft account.

  • And as if that weren’t confusing enough, there’s the tiled Metro SkyDrive app, which gives you just a few ways to access your SkyDrive data in the cloud.

Anything you can do to files anywhere, you can do inside the SkyDrive folder — as long as you use File Explorer. For example:

  • You can edit files, rename them, copy or move vast numbers of them. The SkyDrive folder in File Explorer is by far the easiest way to put data into SkyDrive and take it out.

  • You can add subfolders inside the SkyDrive folder, rename them, delete them, move files around, and drag and drop files and folders in and out of the SkyDrive folder to your heart’s content.

  • You can change file properties (with a long tap or right-click).

  • You can print files from SkyDrive just as you would any other file in File Explorer.

What makes the SkyDrive folder in File Explorer unique is that when you drag files into the SkyDrive folder, those files are copied into the cloud. If you have other computers connected to SkyDrive with the same Microsoft account, the SkyDrive folders on all those other computers are synchronized automatically — as long as the computers are connected to the Internet — and you needn’t do a thing.

It may take a minute or two to upload the files, and download them to other computers. But plus or minus a bit-slinging delay, the files appear everywhere, magically.

So if you have other computers (or tablets or phones) that you want to sync with your computer, now would be a good time to go to those other computers and install whichever version of the SkyDrive program is compatible with your devices.

Remember that a SkyDrive program is available for Windows (Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 only), Windows Phone 7 or later, Mac OS X, and iOS (for iPad and iPhone). There’s also a SkyDrive app for Android phones and tablets.

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