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How can I improve OneDrive’s performance?

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How OneDrive syncing works

Anyone making use of the OneDrive file syncing feature ( where you can access OneDrive/Teams/SharePoint files as if they are on your computer) should have a basic understanding of how it works, as there are certain differences compared to a more typical network drive.

Unlike a more traditional file share or network drive, you are not simply remotely accessing and updating files on a server. Instead OneDrive makes a copy from the synced folder onto your computer and actively works to keep the two locations synchronised. If a file is added, removed or changed from a synchronised folder, OneDrive notices that and will propagate that change to OneDrive Online/SharePoint/Teams.

Sync Delay

When you save or add a file to your synced OneDrive folder, it will save quickly as it’s initially only making that change on your PC. Once the initial save is complete, OneDrive (in the background), will synchronise that change to Onedrive Online. You can tell the progress of this by looking at the icons next to file and folder names. This delay is important to understand as there are situations where you might need to make sure it is working.

For example if you copy a very large folder you received from a client into a synced folder, it might take some time before everything is synchronised (and visible to your colleges). If the sync gets stuck due to a naming issue, or OneDrive is not running your colleges might be waiting until the issue is resolved.

Files on Demand

By default OneDrive doesn’t pull down a copy of all the data in a folder you decide to sync, instead it synchronises the folder structure and create placeholder files with the names of all available files but without their data. Only once you access a file is it downloaded and actively synchronised. You’ll notice when this happens the file icon changes from a cloud to a tick. If OneDrive does not already have a file downloaded, the time to open it will be notably slower as it first has to download the file and then open it. For small files(such as word documents) this is not very noticeable, for larger files(such as video files) it can take seconds or even many minutes longer.

OneDrive File Status Symbols

OneDrive will try to learn what files you need to access and download them in advance but if you need to guarantee you can open files quickly(or if you need to access them without an internet connection) right clicking on a file or folder and selecting “always keep on this device” will force OneDrive to download and keep it available. Be careful thought actively syncing too many files will slow down the syncing process and use more bandwidth, if you do this on a large folder it could take hours for the folder to fully download and synchronise. Generally you won’t need to do this as OneDrive will have automatically download any files you’ve accessed previously.

Improving OneDrive performance

OneDrive’s performance is dependant on a few factors:

  • File processing speed of your computer
  • Internet speed
  • Amount of files being synced
  • Size of files being synced

If experiencing regular sync issues or slower than desired performance, removing the amount of folders and files synced is one of the easiest ways to improve performance. If the synced location is a SharePoint or teams location it may be worth discussing with your team and IT support about archiving off older data to a different location, or restructuring your data to make syncing more efficient.

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