Access your SkyDrive files *without* chewing up disk space

By | July 17, 2012

Author’s Note: This post was created before the release of Windows 8.1 and the new management of SkyDrive (OneDrive) online/offline files. If you are running Windows 8.1, please see articles here and here for information on how you can much more easily accomplish this goal. If you are running Windows 8 or a previous Windows version, read on!

Most Microsoft followers know now that you can install the SkyDrive App and get your SkyDrive storage synchronized across multiple PCs/devices. This is a really cool thing as it basically means you can slap something in your SkyDrive folder in Explorer while at work, and have it there on your PC at home. Pretty cool.

But what about the downsides:

  1. You have to wait for the file to be uploaded to SkyDrive from the initial PC where it was added
  2. Then wait for it to be downloaded from SkyDrive on all other PCs.
  3. Since it’s copied to the local machine, your 7GB of storage on SkyDrive is now chewing up 7GB of storage on your hard drive.

1 & 2 are problems if you use you SkyDrive like I do and store downloadables on it so that you can get to them from other PCs when you need to install software you commonly use. #3 is a problem on computers that have limited disk space, such as the netbooks that were so popular in the past few years.

So what to do?

Simple. You map your SkyDrive directly to a folder in Windows Explorer using “Network Location” mapping. I know this works on Windows 7 and higher, can’t speak for predecessors. Check it out.

  1. Hit Win+E to pop open Explorer. Should land you at the ‘Computer’ area. If it doesn’t, go there.
  2. Right click in an empty space, choose ‘Add a network location’
  3. Step thru the wizard choosing to Create a custom network location. When you get to the part where you’re entering a network address, head over to your SkyDrive site.
  4. Now, pick any item in your SkyDrive site, choose “Share” on the right-hand side, then Get a link, then View only. In the resulting window, grab the text from ‘resid=’ to the ! character. For example:!56792&authkey=145gatab231

    would result in text of 9785197asdfa897df

  5. Go back to your Add Network Location wizard, and enter the following in the network address:<copied text>/


    (the trailing / is important)

  6. Finish the wizard, naming your SkyDrive location whatever you want. Bam. You now have a Shortcut that shows up in your drives list that is a direct access to SkyDrive, not a mirror, not a synchronized copy of the data chewing up hard drive space.

You can open Office docs from there, like OneNote notebooks, and they’ll recognized they’re being opened from SkyDrive and provide all the cool synchronization functionality.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, whatever file you used to get the unique ID to put at in the URL is now shared. But only via the link that was generated (no need for panic). So head back to your SkyDrive and unshare it at your leisure.

  • Architect

    Very Cool!!!

  • Worked perfectly!

    • Brandon

      Thanks Jason, glad to hear it!

  • Dude you ROCK!!!
    Been searching for this
    Works like a charm

    • Brandon

      Thanks! Glad I could help!

  • himel

    the net location does not set…help

    • Brandon

      sorry to hear you’re having difficulties. I haven’t heard of anybody else having problems, can you verify that you’re doing things exactly as outlined and/or provide an error message and i’ll see what I can do to help!

  • ckwong

    I did EXACTLY as you said SEVERAL TIMES. Each time the Wizzard said the folder was invalid.

    I copied the text from the LINK created for view only – from the “=” sign to the “!” sign.

    Then I pasted it to…….

    The Wizzard would not accept this address.

    The text string is “CA026AAD00429339”
    Please help.

    • Brandon

      Remember the ‘/’ character after your text string… I actually just used this method a couple more times in the past few days so I know it still works…

  • CK Wong

    Brandon, yes, you do Rock! I finally got it to work. The sticking point for me is your Point6 where you simply said “finish the wizard”. Actually the Wizard will ask for user name and password which MUST BE your own user name and password for the log-in to your SkyDrive. After that, then, you are given a short-cut which you can give whatever name. Some beginners might just get confused at this point.
    Now that I got this short-cut “drive/folder”, does it mean that any file that I save to this folder will go directly to SkyDrive in the cloud, and will not take up my harddisk space? I currently have the SkyDrive desktop app which is a mirror/sync with the Cloud storage and IS taking up my harddisk space. Would I still need it?
    Thanks again for a great tip.
    CK Wong

    • Brandon

      yes, when you drag & drop there it goes *directly* to the cloud and won’t chew up your disk space. The plus side of the SkyDrive Desktop App is that since your stuff is local, working with it is very quick and painless and also it basically leaves you with an “offline copy” of your files. You’ll notice that going direct to SkyDrive is a bit slower. But, if you can live with both those caveats, then nope there’s no need for the Desktop App.

  • Haroon

    Brandon you are Genius. Works like a gem.

  • esteban

    I tried and it didn’t worked. I believe it’s because they changed Skydrive for Onedrive. Do you have a solution?

    • Brandon

      Hm that could be a factor but also note that these instructions are really only worthwhile on Windows 7/8 OSes. Windows 8.1 now allows you to have Skydrive files *shown* not present on the local machine eating up disk space. If you have Windows 8.1, I wouldn’t bother w/ the instructions in this post.
      Let me know if that’s your scenario. If not then I’ll re-do these steps w/ the new OneDrive setup and see if I can get it to work.

  • Sovamind

    Note- If you have two-factor security turned on for your account you will need to use create a new “app-specific” password to login to the network location.