What Is SkyDrive?
SkyDrive is an Internet-based storage platform offered for free by Microsoft to anyone with a Microsoft account. Think of it as a hard drive in the cloud, which you can share, with a few extra benefits thrown in. One of the primary benefits: SkyDrive hooks into Windows 8.1 pretty easily.
As of this writing, if you have a Microsoft account, you already have 7GB of free storage set aside. Microsoft, of course, wants you to buy more storage, but you’re under no obligation to do so. The free storage is there whether you use your Microsoft account to log on to Windows, even if you never use SkyDrive. In fact, if you have a Microsoft account, you’re all signed up for SkyDrive.
Here’s the SkyDrive shtick:
SkyDrive does what all the other cloud storage services do — it gives you a place to put your files on the Internet. You need to log on to SkyDrive with your Microsoft account (or, equivalently, log on to Windows with your Microsoft account) to access your data.
If you log on to a different Windows 8.1 computer using the same Microsoft account, you have access to all your SkyDrive data through the tiled SkyDrive app.
The tiled SkyDrive app offers a very clumsy process for copying files from your computer into SkyDrive. The tiled SkyDrive app also lets you move files in the other direction, from SkyDrive storage onto your local hard drive, but navigating around your hard drive by using the tiled interface is clunky at best.
You can log on to SkyDrive and see all your data. Working through your favorite web browser, you can also copy or move files into SkyDrive, or delete or rename files inside SkyDrive.
You can share files or folders that are stored in SkyDrive by sending or posting a link to the file or folder to whomever you wish. So, for example, if you want Aunt Martha to be able to see the folder full of pictures of Little Billy, SkyDrive will create a link for you that you can e-mail to Aunt Martha. You can also specify that a file or folder is Public, so that anyone can see it.
To work with the SkyDrive platform on the desktop or a mobile device, you can download and install a SkyDrive program — SkyDrive for Windows, SkyDrive for Mac, SkyDrive for iPhone, iPad, or Android.
In Windows 8.1, you don’t need to download or install a special program — it’s already baked into Windows.
If you have the program installed, SkyDrive syncs data among computers, phones, and/or tablets that are set up using the same Microsoft account. If you change a SkyDrive file on your iPad, for example, when you save it, the modified file is put in your SkyDrive storage area on the Internet. From there, the new file is pushed to all other computers with access to the file. Ditto for Android devices.
In most cases, SkyDrive doesn’t actually store the files on your computer. Instead, you see thumbnails, and the files get brought down only when they’re needed.
In addition to all of the above, you can go directly to the SkyDrive website with any browser to get the most options.
SkyDrive has a unique Fetch feature that allows you to access other computers that are logged in to SkyDrive with the same Windows account. Fetch can come in very handy if, for example, you forget that important spreadsheet while you’re on the road.
As long as your home computer is logged on to SkyDrive with your Windows account, you can log on to SkyDrive from another computer, use the same Windows account, and retrieve the spreadsheet.