How to Sync Your Desktop to the Cloud With OneDrive

Access your desktop from any device using OneDrive Sync

Services like Dropbox and OneDrive provide a convenient method to access all your documents across several PCs, tablets, and your phone. Syncing your Windows desktop to the cloud using OneDrive ensures that you can always find important files when you need them—on any device.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7.

Why Sync Your Windows Desktop With OneDrive?

Putting commonly used folders such as your Windows desktop in the cloud is a great solution if you use your desktop as a general dumping ground for downloaded files or frequently accessed items. That way, you'll always have those files synced across your devices. You can also connect other PCs you use with OneDrive sync.

How to Move Your Desktop to the Cloud With OneDrive

Before you begin, install the OneDrive desktop sync client on your version of Windows. Windows 10 and Windows 8.1 already have this program, but Windows 7 users will have to download and install the sync client manually. Window 8 users can upgrade to Windows 8.1 to start using OneDrive.

  1. Open the Windows File Explorer, right-click Desktop, then select Properties.

    Properties in Explorer
  2. In the Desktop Properties dialog box, select the Location tab, then select Move.

    Move desktop
  3. In the dialog box, double-click OneDrive then select New Folder to create a new folder. Name it Desktop.

    New folder

    Regardless of what you call the folder, it displays as Desktop in the OneDrive file list. If you have three computer desktops syncing to the same OneDrive account, each uses a different folder name but each displays as Desktop.

  4. With the Desktop folder highlighted, select Select Folder.

    select folder
  5. Select Apply to apply the new settings. The text entry box in the Location tab should look as follows:

    C:\Users\[User Name]\OneDrive\Desktop

    photo name
  6. Select Yes to confirm that you want to move the desktop to OneDrive, then select OK to close the Desktop Properties dialog box.

Move any folder on your Windows computer to OneDrive using the same process.

Are My Files Secure in the Cloud?

Moving your desktop or other folders to the cloud is more convenient than transferring files with a USB stick. However, there are some security implications to storing in the cloud. Whenever you put files online, they are potentially accessible by others. Law enforcement can, for example, use a warrant to demand access to your files, and you may not be made aware when it happens.

A more common predicament is when hackers guess or steal your account password. If that happens, the bad guys potentially have access to your OneDrive files. That's not a huge deal if all you saved to the cloud is old poetry from high school. Unauthorized access to work documents or files with personal information, however, can be devastating.

There are a number of security measures you can take to mitigate this risk. One is to enable two-factor authentication for your cloud storage account. A simpler measure is to avoid putting anything in the cloud that has information you don't want others to see. For home users, that usually means keeping items such as financial spreadsheets, bills, and mortgages on your hard drive and not in the cloud, with the attendant risks that come from potentially losing access if the hard drive fails.

In mid-to-late 2019, Microsoft released a Personal Vault feature for OneDrive—rolling out in waves to users worldwide over 2019—that offers additional security through encryption and forced multi-factor authentication. For critical files accessed relatively infrequently, Personal Vault offers a good balance of protection and ease of access.