How to sync the desktop and documents across PCs in Windows 10

Store your Desktop and Documents in the cloud using OneDrive

How to have just one Desktop and Documents folders synced across multiple Windows computers.

If you have more than one computer running Windows 10 you can create shared Desktop and Documents so that your files are available whichever computer you use. Access them online too.

One Desktop and one Documents folder synced and shared across many computers is a great way to continue working no matter where you are or which computer you are using. You can be at home, at work, on a laptop or desktop and any file or shortcut you place on the desktop is mirrored across all your computers.

A file saved in the Documents folder on one computer becomes available on all computers. It is a brilliant way to work.

I have a couple of computers for example, and one runs the latest beta of Windows 10 while the other runs the regular release. The desktop is often a dumping ground for files and shortcuts to websites, but no matter which computer I use, everything is there when I switch on.

Syncing the Desktop and Documents, plus Pictures too if you want, is a feature of OneDrive and it makes use of the online storage that Microsoft provides. You only get 5GB free these days, but if you have been with OneDrive for a long time you will have a lot more free space. I have 40GB free for example.

Even just 5GB is sufficient for most people’s needs and you probably won’t need more unless you store photos, music and videos on OneDrive. It is fine for syncing the Desktop and Documents.

 

1 OneDrive menu

Right click the OneDrive icon in the taskbar and select Settings on the menu. The icon may be hidden in the pop-up panel, so look there if you don’t see it.

OneDrive menu on the Windows taskbar

 

2 Auto-save locations

Select the Auto-save tab and there are three items at the top. They determine where files are actually stored when they are saved to the Desktop, Documents and Pictures folders or libraries. When files are saved, they are stored in these folders on the disk in your home folder: C:\Users\YourName\Desktop and C:\Users\YourName\Documents.

Auto-save locations in Windows

 

3 Save to OneDrive

Click the top two items, Desktop and Documents, and set them to OneDrive. Click OK to finish. Selecting Pictures might bust your free storage space limit, but go ahead if you pay for extra on OneDrive.

Auto-save locations in Windows

 

How Desktop and Documents sharing works

Windows switches the location of these folders to the C:\Users\YourName\OneDrive\Desktop and C:\Users\YourName\OneDrive\Documents folders. Any files you save to Desktop or Documents are stored here instead of the usual location.

Don’t panic if all the items on your desktop disappear from the screen! What you are seeing is the new shared desktop that is synced across computers. When you configure your second computer, all the desktop items from the first computer will appear on the screen, because there is just one synced desktop.

Similarly, you may find the Documents folder empty or it contains different files. That is because you are looking at the synced OneDrive Documents folder.

The original folders and files are still on the disk drive, but to get to them you must use Explorer to go to C:\Users\YourName.

Working with synced Desktop and Documents

Whenever there is an internet connection, Windows will sync the contents of the OneDrive folder on the PC with the OneDrive storage online.

Icons, shortcuts, folders and files placed on the desktop, and files in the Documents folder are synced along with everything else in OneDrive. This means that anything added on other computers appear on this one and items added on this appear on others.

Just save files to the Desktop and Documents exactly as you did before. If you miss all the Desktop and Documents items you had before, open Explorer, go to C:\Users\YourName and copy the contents of the old Desktop and Documents folder to the new location in OneDrive.

Move your desktop and documents to OneDrive

Notice that there is a Status column and this shows the sync status and whether files are online or offline.

If you are not on your own computer, but someone else's, you can access your desktop and documents by opening a web browser and going to onedrive.com. For example, you could be at work and need files from your home computer. That is no problem when your Desktop and Documents live in the cloud.

It is interesting that this feature is very similar to the way that Apple iCloud works. Macs have an almost identical feature whereby the Desktop and Documents folders are synced between computers using iCloud.

Who did it first? Microsoft has been dabbling with this technology for a decade or more. Long before Apple.

 


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