back to article The sins of OneDrive as Microsoft's cloud storage service turns 15

Microsoft is celebrating 15 years of its cloud storage service, OneDrive, with a refreshed OneDrive Home but, strangely, no mention of SkyDrive, the placeholder fiasco or the multiple issues suffered by the service over the years. Lucky we're here, eh? OneDrive emerged in 2007 after paying its dues in beta form for US users. …

  1. VoiceOfTruth Silver badge

    MS 365 Personal

    -> a Microsoft 365 Personal subscription for $69.99 per year.

    This includes Office (or much of it). If you need office, this is a good deal.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: MS 365 Personal

      Why? I used to be able to buy a home version of office. Now I have to rent it. Why is that a good thing?

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: MS 365 Personal

        Grey Market license for about $5CDN for Office Pro 2021 works for me on each machine that requires it.

        Sign into my Microsoft account for extra features - No thanks.

        While we are on the subject why does Autosave demand it's stored in OneDrive.

        1. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: MS 365 Personal

          The phrase "Because we can" comes to mind.

      2. Alumoi Silver badge

        Re: MS 365 Personal

        Because you can pay for ever. Duh!

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge


    Sorry, but I'm not going to make even more easy for the NSA to access my files.

    Not that the NSA should be interested, but it doesn't appear to be very picky.

  3. Potemkine! Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Because of the Cloud Act, any information you put on OneDrive can be accessed without warning or notice by US agencies. Knowing how these agencies can provide information to some US companies to give a competitive advantage, non-US companies should be very careful before putting information there. The same applies to GDrive, iCloud, AWS...

    1. Peter-Waterman1

      Article 48 GDPR stipulates, court orders requesting the transfer of data outside the EU are only acceptable if grounded on an international agreement, such as a MLAT. Other legal bases are also not acceptable under EU law for such requests.

      So in short, the Cloud Act cant force companies like Microsoft, Google, Salesforce to hand over data for customers in the EU or the UK.

      What happened to Enercon, the link you posted?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Regional data centres

        So, as a US company presented with a demand under the Cloud act by your local government are you going to say "We can't obey domestic law because a law in other countries prohibit it"?

        Good luck with that one.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          A real concern

          But it depends on the company, and if they do biz on both sides of the pond. US based companies that aren't maintaining a presence in Europe are a roll of the dice.

          Don't think that the US government won't just steal it either. Marching orders are still to hoover up everything that can be sniffed, scraped, tapped, tortured, tricked, bribed or bought. 5-eyes are still playing the "you spy on our citizens and share the details with us we can't legally gather on the same people" game, so also remember in most cases the people that are interested are your own governments.

          But keep up the good work, while the cookie law was a useless shit show, thanks to Schrems(Thanks Max!) the ball is moving back toward the privacy side again. And stateside things are starting to change, so please keep humiliating our politicians by building a society with a little privacy and proving the world won't come to an end if starbucks has to ask for consent for location tracking.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "But it depends on the company, and if they do biz on both sides of the pond"

            Exactly. The CLOUD Act was enacted when Microsoft refused to hand over data stored in Ireland. Microsof feared that would have put it in trouble in Ireland.

            Now they can say they are just obeying the US law.

            And remember, under the CLOUD Act Microsoft does not need to inform the local government it is giving data to a US law enforcement agency. especially when the foreign government didn't knee to the CLOUD Act request to become a "qualifying" one.

            1. NeilPost Silver badge

              Re: "But it depends on the company, and if they do biz on both sides of the pond"

              As with most USA legislation/agencies it’s scope of application is within the USA borders or for data held geographically there. They can intimidate US domiciled or foreign but US operating companies but in effect there is little they can do with data

              It’s where there are reciprocal data adequacy/ exchange policies … or were until the successor to Privacy Shield (successor to Safe Harbour) was struck down.


              Unless you think FBI International are going to be beating down the doors with a raid on Microsoft Ireland.

              You’ve been drinking too much of the Grape Illusion Kool-Aid.

        2. Peter-Waterman1

          Re: Regional data centres

          Given the fines for breaking GDPR, I think a lot of companies would obey European law. Up to 4% of worldwide turnover for the preceding financial year.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Regional data centres

            Yes, but it is that or your execs go to prison in the US for not complying...

      2. big_D Silver badge

        The problem is, the CLOUD Act can do just that. That is the problem.

        If the companies hand over the data, they are breaking EU law and will be heavily fined.

        If the companies don't hand over the data, they are breaking US law and will be fined and the executives could face prison time.

        The companies have to then decide, which is the bigger problem, prison for their executives or a huge fine in the EU, if it comes out?

        It was also a problem before the CLOUD Act, with the Patriot Act, the FISA Court and National Security Letters, it was pretty much the same thing, except that the companies were prohibited from mentioning it - they couldn't signify a GDPR breach, because that would be illegal in the US.

        It is one of the main reasons why Schrems I and II decisions went against the US and Safe Harbor and Privacy Shield agreements with the EU - that the US totally ignored its responsibilities under the agreements didn't help either, of course.

        1. NeilPost Silver badge

          Doesn’t help counties around the world’s view of the USA as cowboy’s if that’s how they act, and in an underhand, intimidating and unlawful (International Law) manner.

          Esp. With people belly-aching about Constitutions and the Land of the Free and Brave.

          Boris Johnson, Vladimir Putin, Jair Bolsonaro, Rodrigo Durerte and Xi Jinping keep good company.

          Hardly surprising Iran push the boundaries of the Joint Comprehensive Plan (aka Iran Nuclear Deal) with the USA as such a good model to follow.

          See 4th, 6th, 9th, 10th amendments to the US Consitution, as well as reading that too.

  4. logicalextreme

    My favourite thing

    to date about OneDrive was when my last company changed personal directories (Desktop, Downloads, Documents etc.) from local to OneDrive-backed. It all worked great from a roaming profiles perspective and was sorely needed, but pretty much anybody that had ever had a Visual Studio project cross paths with those directories found themselves bombarded with error notifications due to the fact that OneDrive straight up didn't support certain characters in filenames (a problem you'd have hoped MICROS~1 had put behind it years ago — this was in about 2018 — I shudder to think what the code behind it was like if such lofty concepts as objects and string escaping weren't being used).

    The offending character was #, which last time I checked constituted approximately 50% of the name of MICROS~1's flagship programming language, so you'd've thunk they might have caught and addressed that one early on.

    Forget the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing; the company seems to have several thousand hands, each of which is pathologically solipsistic.

    1. Pirate Dave Silver badge

      Re: My favourite thing

      Another area where having your "Documents" redirected to OneDrive will bite you in the ass is that Powershell then always (ALWAYS) considers PS modules (or specifically, any DLLS that come with the modules) stored there to be on an "Internet" site, so will refuse to load them. I ran into this last month when trying to install-module the Azure and AzureAD modules as myself (as per MS's instructions). I couldn't quite find a trick to make it work - unblocking the files via script didn't help, neither did the old last-ditch of adding my OneDrive URL to the "trusted sites list" in IE. Maybe there's a "right" answer out there somewhere, but I couldn't find it. Or maybe it just works better in PS 7.x and MS no longer cares about those of us still using 5.x.

      The best fix I found was to run install-module in an Administrator session so they'd get stored in the C:\Program Files hierarchy instead of Documents. That works like a charm, but does require me to remember to use an Admin session when I update the modules.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: My favourite thing

        "stored there to be on an "Internet" site"

        From memory all that internet stuff is done by using another NTFS stream and storing a flag file in one that you won't see in Explorer, which can only see the default stream. You might be able to stop Windows and hence PS from seeing that stream by deleting the extra stuff.

        You'll need to do some research on this. If nothing else you'll find out where viruses like to hide out or perhaps you can find a use for streams yourself. Shadow copies are probably stored in them too - can't be arsed to check. My console prompt is $ or # on my gear.

      2. logicalextreme

        Re: My favourite thing

        Not sure if it would help, as my experience of module installation and management in PS has never been pleasant, but on my local machine I always have a directory symlink, C:\od, that points to the root of my OneDrive and always use that (I can just type \od from a Run box to get there, and referring to that path elsewhere makes my life easier). Symlinks might be sufficient to fool PS.

  5. Mike 137 Silver badge

    And another thing

    A while back I attempted to help a guy download his photo archive from onedrive. He had several thousand jpeg files to download, so (using what appeared to be common sense) we selected them all and hit the download button. Contrary to expectation, onedrive created a single multi-gigabyte zipped file containing all the images and attempted to transfer it en masse. Unfortunately the link wasn't stable enough for a transfer that would have taken several hours, so multiple attempts aborted with unreadable partial zip files. There was no option to select multiple files for individual download, so ultimately he had to transfer them one at a time manually and it took him weeks. I don't call that smart, particularly as jpeg files hardly compress at all when zipped.

    1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

      Re: And another thing

      You're right, it's very much not smart. But it ain't Microsoft that were being dumb.

      He could have gone into File Explorer, and copied the files in any manner he fancied from there, just as if they were on the local disk. "File Explorer", you see? The clue's in the name?

      The web interface into OneDrive used to be pretty clunky, simply because it's just not needed. It's a lot better now, but still completely unnecessary in most cases - I use it occasionally to archive project stuff from customer's machines that can't be logged into my Microsoft account directly.


    2. Diogenes

      Re: And another thing

      Or on the root folder ->right click -> Always keep on this device

  6. Dwarf

    15 years of not using it and counting

    No need, don't want the access issues, clients working / not working / being removed.

    Nor the challenge about storage capacity limits going up and down.

    Nor the issue of not being in control of my own data.

  7. Terry 6 Silver badge

    which will surface a user's most relevant files as well most recent and show activity updates.


    1)What they think are the most relevant files are not necessarily what I think are.

    2)If I've stored something that likely means I don't want to see it the next time I log in.

    3)Actually I just want to go to the list of files and get the one(s) I do need. Not click through what MS tells me I ought to want first.

    I use Onenote - which embeds itself within Onedrive, but in a rather unfathomable way that has caused links to not open in the past, when something has gone pear shaped. And Onenote insists on opening in "Recent files" (see 2 above). From which it takes me to "Notebooks" even though that's a list of 1.From which I need to select the appropriate notebook from the list (of one).

    And there is no way to bypass this nonsense.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, One Note is the new kid

      Give it another 15 years and it will blend into the rest of the suite a little more. It needs a couple more cosmetic rewrites and for its default scripting engine to change at least twice. Then is will have a suitably crusty layer. Like the bread on a gas station sandwich.

    2. David 132 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I would add

      4) ”Surface” as a verb? Really??? For shame, whoever wrote that.

      1. Death Boffin

        Probing the depths

        If you don't want surface as a verb, you should avoid submarines.

        It seems appropriate here as you are retrieving you data from the deep, dark realms of the Elder Gods.

        1. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: Probing the depths

          Yeah yeah, OK, I stand corrected. Surface has a perfectly honourable tradition of enverbification.

          I wrote my comment from behind a red (october?) mist of rage. What I meant to write, I think, was "Surface as a neologism for Reveal/Show/Present? Aaaaaaargh!!"

          Thank you for the tactful correction.

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Well yes, that too. But I didn't want to add it as a 4) because it's not about the actual software. just plain egregious

  8. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    Maybe after 15 years they can just get it to fucking sync all the files without falling over, missing stuff, stopping, creating duplicates or generally fucking up!

    - why is there a path limit that nobody really knows the value of? Is it 256 characters, 160, maybe 320 or 512? The answer is 'it depends on which part of the OS is looking'

    - Why is there a nebulous number-of-files limit? Is this per site? Per library? Why is there a limit at all?

    - Why does nobody at Microsoft support the Mac version? I actually gave up trying to support a customer who was using Microsoft Sharepoint/onedrive on a Mac, and it just refused to sync at all after a while. Microsoft support actually talked me through a procedure that wiped a month's worth of changed files, because they admitted to me that they don't really support MacOS. Customer moved over to dropbox and it just works.

    - Multiple people accessing the same file in Windows is dangerous. It sometimes works. It sometimes creates duplicates. It sometimes turns off autosave.

    - Everything seems so arbitrary. Today a customer couldn't restore a file because it said she had it open. She didn't. Then it wouldn't let me view files online because the option just disappeared from the right-click menu.

    All in all when it works, it's "OK". When it doesn't, like most other Microsoft software, it's utter fucking garbage!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The biggest "why" question of all - Why the fuck did they have to base it on Sharepoint? Of all the shitty frameworks out there that could do "cloud storage", they picked one of the worst.

      1. J. Cook Silver badge


        I was considerably more colorful about it when I found that out, along with the discovery that Teams rides on top of sharepoint as well- all the file sharing/ image posting in Teams?

        Effing. Sharepoint.

        And Sharepoint gets downright snippy if you don't have it's settings just right. Or if the moon is in the wrong phase and in the seventh house and the cat looks at it just right.

        We handed OneDrive administration to one of the system admins who deals with our on-prem Sharepoint farm on a regular basis, for which I am grateful.

    2. hitmouse

      OneDrive has to sync to multiple client OS, so path length, allowable characters etc are lowest common denominator for those and various web standards.

      The number of files limits are well documented. There's a single page (easily locateable via web search) detailing limits.

      "a customer couldn't restore a file because it said she had it open. She didn't. Then it wouldn't let me view files online because the option just disappeared from the right-click menu." Probably created files or folders past the path length limit. I've seen this behaviour.

      1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

        The number of files limit isn't a hard limit, it's a suggestion from Microsoft. They told me this themselves. And even within Windows, the path length can hit limits in different places. Sometimes it lets you save a file but won't let you open it. It might not let you open it in File Explorer but it will from the web client. Why can\t they fix this?

        And Multiple OSes? It's just WIndows and MacOS and MacOS doesn't have stupidly low limits like MS.

  9. John Brown (no body) Silver badge


    "1TB if one signs up for a Microsoft 365 Personal subscription for $69.99 per year."

    About the as buying a brand new 1TB HDD every year.

    "(Apple's iCloud, for example, asks for just $9.99/month, or £6.99 in the UK, for 2TB.)"

    Not much better really. A bit less than twice the price for only twice the storage.

    Even if you want permanent access to the data, upgrading the laptop HDD will pay for itself in under two years for most people and no mobile/roaming data plans needed, let alone "free WiFi" of dubious quality in the local coffee shop to slow down access to larger files :-)

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Costs?

      I only use web storage* for backups of the backups of the backups of my backups- and on several free clouds. And even then I create local USB drive backups too- which I swap from time to time, and there's another set in another part of town. Now I'm retired this is just for home stuff. But the principle holds like it did when it was work files. Several thousand precious photos. Records of agreements and so forth. Far too precious to risk to any one method or location.

      When I hear of people who keep all their precious family photos ( children growing up, weddings, family holidays, dead relatives etc) in InstaBook or whatever and then lose access to their account I just feel physically sick.

      (There was one such story on the TV just this morning).

      *Except that OneNote is stuck inside bloody Onedrive. But that's fair enough I guess.

  10. Stu 18

    I realise I'm old... but I miss the reliablity and manageablilty of shared drives.

    Yes, with cloud you get access from anywhere without a vpn but.... so many issues and so unreliable. Onedrive - like MicrosoftWorks. I have many customers with multiple 'onedrives'. File access breaking because sync folders are placed at different folder depths (causing it to run over the <260 character limit). Now 'FileProvider' on Apple is doing the same thing but baked in.

    And what is it with the abominable sharepoint/teams back end. Creating and managing shared access for a group is horrendous. Maybe its only me, but how is it that I (a one man band full stack developer) can create better UX than (presumably) teams of massively resourced, high paid Microsoft engineers. My only conclusion is that all the good ones left.

    I sat through a promising speech at a tech conference once, a Microsoft employee talking about all the research they'd done on making the user experience better. What confounds me is that they clearly have never done anything with it.

    Perhaps I should click on the help button; 'Please contact your administrator for assistance' ..... aaaaaggghhh the code words for 'we don't have a clue either'.

  11. Pangasinan Philippines
    Thumb Up

    Why all the fuss?

    I pay for only two items of software.

    One is Nortons

    the other is Office 365

    Not only do I get 1TB cloud which is more than enough for me, the software suite that is 365 does all I need (although Visio would be a nice to have).

    But hey! There are five licenses to share with 'family'. They all get the same.

    Considering my attempt with NAS went horribly wrong when Buffalo local drive went Titsup on me along with their powerful wireless router.

    What with savings on international calls with free Skype, I think that 365 is excellent VFM.

    I have nothing on my OneDrive that needs to be hidden from anybody.

    1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

      Re: Why all the fuss?

      You have proven your inability to understand how to set up IT systems, and your lack of knowledge is clear.

  12. NeilPost Silver badge


    With Irony, BSkyB - now owned by Comcast - pulled their Sky Cloud Storage before the case went to court…. and literally no-one mistook Skydrive as being from the TV company.

  13. jonathan keith

    Gripe #1

    My biggest issue with OneDrive happens to also be a magnificent example of the frankly insane thinking that occasionally crawls into the light at micros~1.

    Let's say that your current OneDrive content is perilously close to your storage limit. One obvious way of reducing this is to stop syncing unneccesary folders - for example in my case, all the VST subfolders sitting inside my Documents folder.

    Yet OneDrive's behaviour on deselecting folders to sync is to keep the files in the Cloud and delete the folders on your PC.

    I can see that under certain circumstances taking that approach makes sense, but I also believe that the alternative method is the one that the vast majority of customers would choose to use, but which isn't even a possibility according to the big brains in Redmond.

  14. J. Cook Silver badge

    Here at [RedactedCo], we are starting to use OneDrive... as a replacement for Sharefile. Because we would have to essentially re-build how we've implemented Sharefile and it's authentication system from scratch to use AzureAD, on top of the subscription fee and the other assorted nonsense that comes along with it.

    Granted, we have an EA with Microsoft, so it's essentially paid for, but it's not replacing the on-prem folders anytime soon...

  15. GrumpyKiwi

    Image linking

    One other annoying thing that could be included in the history of OneDrive. For a while you could Embed images and it would generate a link you could use to post your images in BB format etc.

    Then in their infinite wisdom Microsoft decided that any such links would expire in 48 hours. Images that worked perfectly in forums and so forth borked in a day, vast annoyances etc.


    It took them more than 8 months to return this functionality.

  16. PeterM42

    Onedrive is so bad......

    ,,,,I always say DON'T USE IT - Like Wndows Explorer, it lies to you. Something to do with Micro~1 thinking people are too stupid to organise a filing system.

    Dropbox is far superior.

    A portable USB disc is also great (and very cheap if you use an old laptop disc).

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