How to Use OneDrive: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

How to Use OneDrive: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

Some users need a lot more storage for their files to save some space on their devices, particularly on laptops and PCs.

Others may also want to keep a backup of their documents for emergency purposes without the hassle of maintaining flash drives and other portable storage paraphernalia. However, with so many options available today, which platform can you trust?

Which storage solution offers a lot of features you can use for the safekeeping of your images, documents, and other essential files?

In this article, you will learn more about Microsoft OneDrive and how to use it on your devices.

Let’s start!

What is Microsoft OneDrive?

Microsoft OneDrive is an online storage solution that offers a huge space for Microsoft users. It’s like having a hard drive in a cloud-based server that helps you retrieve and access your files, documents, and photos no matter where you are.

What is Microsoft OneDrive?

Also, depending on your subscription level, you can get at least 5 GB to 6 TB’s worth of OneDrive storage.

Why use OneDrive?

Using Microsoft OneDrive brings two major benefits:

File Backup

If you happen to lose your laptop before an important presentation at work or at school, you won’t have a problem retrieving any of your much-needed documents on the internet.

OneDrive File Backup

Moreover, if you want to travel somewhere and you want to leave your PC at home, you can just access your files via OneDrive or even view them with your phone. This means that you can access your documents on the go — anytime, anywhere.

Easy Collaboration Process

With Microsoft OneDrive, working with your colleagues is easier. You can share your files with them and collaborate on essential outputs without emailing back and forth for necessary changes.

OneDrive Easy Collaboration Process

How can you get OneDrive?

Laptop or PC

If you’re using Windows 10, OneDrive comes pre-installed with it. But if you’re not, you can upgrade your Windows 10 for free and automatically get OneDrive.

How to upgrade your laptop or PC to Windows 10

If you want to retain your current Windows version for some reason, you can manually download and install Microsoft OneDrive into your computer by clicking here. You can also use the same link to install OneDrive on your Mac.

Mobile Phone

Again, whether you have an iPhone or an android, you can still use Microsoft OneDrive. Here’s how you can do it:

Go to the app store (play store on android) and click on the search icon to look for OneDrive. Click the top match or the app that’s clearly Microsoft OneDrive.

How to get OneDrive to your mobile phone

Finally, install the app on your mobile phone.

Now that you have it on your laptop and your phone, let’s proceed to the basics of using OneDrive.

How to use OneDrive on your laptop or PC?

Getting started on OneDrive is easy. But before you can go on and save files on it, you have to:

Sign in to OneDrive

Go to your laptop or PC and click the cloud icon on the Windows notification area. If you can’t find it, search for it on your taskbar and open the application.

Search for Microsoft OneDrive on the taskbar

The screenshot above may confuse you as it was taken on a computer with the new Windows 11 running on it. Rest assured, it works the same way even if you’re using Windows 10.

Once the setup starts, enter an email address. If you have a Microsoft account, use that to sign in. However,  if you don’t have one, you can create a Microsoft account by visiting this link and proceed to the steps listed below.

Create an Account

Enter an existing email address (any will do). You can also use a phone number instead or get a new email address from Outlook or Hotmail.

Enter an existing email address on the form provided

You will then be asked to create a strong password for your account. After that, enter your name, country, and birth date.

Enter your name, country, and other information asked by Microsoft

The system will send you a code for verification purposes. Copy the code and paste it into the space provided.

Understand the Basic Icons on OneDrive Desktop App

A green circle with a checkmark means that the file is both on your computer and on OneDrive. On the other hand, a cloud icon means the file is only found in the cloud. In other words, this file does not have a copy on your computer.

Clicking on this file though will result in a quick and automatic download.

Checkmark represents the file is both on the computer and on the cloud while cloud means the file is only in the cloud

Files with a person icon mean that the file is shared with a few other people. Folders, pictures, documents, and other files with arrows indicate that OneDrive is currently syncing them with both your computer and the cloud.

Now that you’re done with the basics, let us take a look at the actions that you can perform on OneDrive Desktop App and how you can do them.

Share a File

You can share a file both in the synced folder on your computer and in the online web application of OneDrive.

To do so, simply right-click on a file and click share (the one with the cloud icon).

The share option has a blue cloud icon in the right side

Select ‘Anyone with the link can edit’ to implement some file controls. With a premium account or a paid subscription to Office 365, you can also set an expiration date and create a password for an additional layer of security and confidentiality.

To share a file with anyone, make sure you enabled the option where anyone with the link can edit

You can also tap ‘Copy link’ for a faster sharing process.

Track Version History

Microsoft OneDrive keeps track of all the changes made on any of your files. To view all the versions and revert to a past version, all you need to do is right-click on the file and select version history.

To view the version history, right-click on a file and select the select version history option

If someone made changes you don’t like, you can easily turn the file back into its earlier version by clicking on the ellipses located beside the file details and selecting the “Restore” option.

Revert to a past version with the restore function

Control OneDrive General Settings

If you need to change any of the general settings of the Microsoft OneDrive application on your computer, click the cloud icon located on the Windows notification area (on your taskbar) and select the “Help & Settings” option.

Then, choose “Settings”.

Open the OneDrive application and click the help and settings option

On the newly opened window, open the “Settings” tab.

Open the settings tab on the opened window to control the settings

Here, you can choose to:

  • Start the OneDrive Desktop App upon signing in to Windows.
  • Automatically pause sync when the device is on a metered network.
  • Choose what actions you want to be notified with.
  • Save space and download files upon usage. Enabling this means keeping a file only on OneDrive. A copy of the file will only be downloaded when you use it. But once you’re done, the file will only be stored in the cloud, saving your computer some more space.

Determine Account Settings

To change your account settings, click on “Account” right next to “Settings”.

Open the account tab to change settings related to your account

On this tab, you can do the following actions:

  • Add another OneDrive account, especially if you have a company or a school account.
  • Identify what folders will be synced with your laptop or PC.

If you are using someone else’s computer, you can choose to open OneDrive on the browser.

Take caution when changing the account settings. When one click, you can disable OneDrive on your computer.

Create a New File

To create a new file with the web application of Microsoft OneDrive, go to the left end of the screen and click “My files” under your name.

Click the “New” button and choose the file type (or folder) that you want to create.

Choose the type of file you want to create after clicking the new button

As you can see from the image above, you can make a new document, a new spreadsheet or an excel workbook, a PowerPoint presentation, a notebook, a form, or a plain text document.

On the desktop application, you can simply save the file directly on the folder and it will automatically sync with the cloud.

Upload a New File

On the web application, you can also upload any files on your OneDrive cloud by clicking the “Upload” button (beside the “New” button discussed in the section above) and selecting the appropriate option (files or folder).

Choose the file or folder you want to upload after clicking the upload button

Remember that anything you do on your laptop or PC within your OneDrive folder will automatically be synced with your OneDrive on the web, and vice-versa.

In addition, you can also sort your files by name, last modified, or by size.

Review All Your Activities on Microsoft Onedrive

OneDrive also keeps track of all the changes you make on the cloud. To see those changes, click the circle with the letter i in the middle. That will open the details pane (which you can close by clicking the close button).

Open the details pane to review all your activities on Microsoft OneDrive

You can also keep your sensitive files more secure by storing them in your personal vault, which requires a two-step verification and auto locks after 20 minutes of inactivity.

To place your files on your personal vault, open it up and verify your identity by pasting the code Microsoft sent to your registered email. You can also download the authenticator app so you don’t have to open your email every time.

Open your personal vault to place your files inside it

After that, you can then upload your files normally.

How to use OneDrive on your phone?

Now that you know how to use OneDrive on your PC, let’s determine how you can use it on your phones. Note that the app layout is almost similar on both iPhone and Android, so the same steps can be applied.

Assuming that you’ve already signed in, here are the things that you can do with OneDrive on your phone.

Upload a New File

To upload a new file using your mobile phone, click the plus sign button on the upper-right side and select “Upload” from the options.

The plus sign is at the upper-right side while the upload button is on the bottom pane

Choose the file that you wish to upload on your OneDrive app.

Note that In the same way, you can also take a photo or a video, scan a document, or create a new document, presentation, or spreadsheet.

Use Annotation Tools

While using the mobile application, you can also annotate any readable document (like PDF). To do so, open the file in the application and look for the pencil icon that has the word “Annotate” word in it.

If the file isn’t a PDF, it will make another copy of the file in PDF that you can annotate (as shown in the image below).

Marking up this file will create a PDF copy of the original

After that, you will now be able to annotate the document.

How to use OneDrive's annotation tools on a document

You will be presented with five annotation tools. You can click on each of them to identify their functions.

But to sum it up, these annotation tools are as follows:

  1. An eraser
  2. A black pen
  3. A red pen
  4. A blue pen
  5. A yellow highlighter

You can also insert some text by clicking on the T button. Clicking on the ellipses enables you to insert shapes, images, signatures, and dates.

Microsoft OneDrive isn’t just a storage platform. Overall, it is a powerful tool that organizations can use to share and collaborate on basic documents and presentations. On mobile, OneDrive becomes a fully functional PDF editor with all the annotation tools that the app has for its users.

Truly, it is one of the best storage solutions available for users today.

That’s it! With this guide, you will be able to use OneDrive to your heart’s content. If you have any other questions, feel free to leave them down below or send me a message through my contact page.

About Ryan

As the Principal Solutions Architect at Mr. SharePoint, I help companies of all sizes better leverage the Modern Workplace and Digital Process Automation investments.

2 thoughts on “How to Use OneDrive: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide”

  1. I want to upload files only manually. How do I clear my One Drive without deleting documents from my computer? How do I choose what to upload to One Drive?

    1. Hi David,

      You can simply open up the One Drive app and unlink your computer. By clicking on the OneDrive app in your system tray, then click on Help & Settings, then click on Settings, then click on “unlink this PC” from the location you’re syncing that you want to unlink. Once you do that, you can delete the top level folder that was synced on your computer via File Explorer. Once youre ready, you can then sync from OneDrive again. You can sync the whole drive or a specific folders. You decide what you put in them locally and at the cloud level.

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