Microsoft’s changes to Windows 10 have been largely well received, but one particular modification to OneDrive has angered Windows users. The latest Windows 10 Technical Preview build, released earlier this week, changes OneDrive sync functionality significantly. Microsoft has decided to ditch its use of placeholder files in Windows 10 in favor of selective file and folder syncing that’s identical to Dropbox. In Windows 8.1 folders and files aren’t automatically synced down to a machine, saving disk space. Instead, small placeholder files are used to show that files and folders are available, and any data and documents that are opened will automatically sync.
Earlier this week, Windows 10 Technical Preview users on the fast update track received a new version of the operating system. As well as introducing some new trackpad shortcuts and visual changes to windowed Metro apps, the new version changed the way OneDrive works. A lot. We thought the way that OneDrive (then still called SkyDrive) was implemented in Windows 8.1 was really smart. In Windows 8.1, OneDrive-replicated folders always show all the files and folders that reside within those folders, and they do so even for files that aren’t available locally. If a file isn’t local (or “available offline,” to use OneDrive’s terminology) then a placeholder would be shown instead. Attempting to open the placeholder from Explorer or a Metro application would first sync the file locally, and then open it. This was very neat, at least for machines with Internet connections. Instead of a lengthy sync process to get everything available, OneDrive would sync files on an on-demand basis. The syncing could be done with per-file granularity, too. This made OneDrive a great match for machines with limited storage; unlike apps such as Dropbox, where selective syncing is done on a per-folder basis, a OneDrive user could have small files alongside large ones in the same folder, and sync only the small files, leaving the large ones in the cloud.