Storage Space - Local vs Cloud

Have you run out of space on your laptop?

We have been noticing a bit of a trend lately relating to how people use and store files on their laptops and in the Cloud. Several years ago we all started using the Cloud (OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox etc) to sync and store our files which was a wonderful improvement in storage space and security. There was just so much space in the Cloud, for example if you have a MS365 license and OneDrive you get a full TB of space. This was much more than our computers typically had so we all started using it and it's been great. Consequently, we stopped needing much space on our computers. Laptops are now produced with SSDs (solid state drives) which were so much faster than the traditional hard drives, and they didn't need to have piles of storage space because everything was in the Cloud anyway. The standard for laptop SSDs now is 256GB (about a 1/4 of a TB). Now when we set up a laptop the usual folders (Desktop, Downloads, Documents, and Pictures) are synced to OneDrive so that everything you save to those folders is safely kept in the Cloud as well as on your computer. And for businesses who also have SharePoint, that can also be synced. I'm sure you can see where this is going - the space available in OneDrive can easily exceed the space on your laptop and when that happens your laptop gets full. When the SSD on your laptop is full the first thing you might notice is that the OneDrive application (that liaises between your computer and the Cloud) stops working properly.

How can I check how much space I have left?

If you open File Explorer (yellow folder on your taskbar), scroll down and click on This PC, you'll see the sub-category Device and drives. Look at the bar under Local Disk (C:). You'll see how much space you have free. If the bar is partway across and blue then you're probably fine. If it's red and nearly at the end it might be time to take action. Ideally you would have at least 20 - 30GB of space available at all times. If you're down to 10GB or less it's time to start working on a solution.   

How can I free up space on my laptop?

If your laptop is chock-full of files that are also in the Cloud you do have the option to keep them in the Cloud only. There are three options when it comes to the status of your files: they can be stored in the Cloud and also on your computer (and automatically sync any changes), they can live on your computer and not be the in the Cloud at all, or they can live in the Cloud and be available to be downloaded to your computer whenever you need them (as long as you have internet access). Obviously, the third option is the solution to running out of space on your laptop.   

How can I check the current sync status of my files?

You can check the sync status of your files in File Explorer (yellow folder on your taskbar). You're looking for a little symbol beside the file or folder. A green tick means that the file or folder is synced between your computer and the Cloud (lives in both places and any changes are synced automatically). A little cloud symbol means that the file or folder lives in the Cloud only and that every time you open that file it will be quickly downloaded from the Cloud for you to use (as long as you have internet access). No symbol means that the file or folder is not in the Cloud at all. If you are out of space and all of your folders are synced to the Cloud, you can free up space by changing status to Cloud only.

So how do I do it?

First step, make sure you have a good fast internet connection and some time to spare - this might take a little while for the OneDrive App to process. The first thing I want to enthusiastically recommend is DO NOT DELETE YOUR FILES. If you're synced to the Cloud then anything you delete from your computer will also be deleted in the Cloud. If you actually do want to delete them from both places then fine, but for this process, deleting is not what you want to do. If you have accidentally done this please contact us ASAP. We (and you) can retrieve them from the OneDrive recycle bin in the online portal but this is time sensitive.

Here's how to Free up space safely. Find the file or folder that is taking up all the space. For simplicity I would suggest all of OneDrive or SharePoint (or both). Then right click on the folder in question. You will see two options - 'Free up space' and 'Always keep on this device'. Click on 'Free up space' to shift the file status to Cloud only. Now you can check on progress in the OneDrive App. This is the application that liaises between your computer and the Cloud. It carries out all the syncing functions so you can see what's going on. You'll find it in the system tray to the right-hand side of your taskbar - it's represented by a little cloud symbol. If you've elected to free up space it will be very busy indeed. 

How do I reverse this?

The option to 'Always keep on this device' is the opposite of 'Free up space'. If you change your mind, or if you wanted to have a few specific files on your computer at all times you could use this option. This would be handy if you use a particular file all the time (as it does take an extra second to download it from the Cloud each time), or if you wanted to work with the file somewhere with no internet connection. If you edit a synced file somewhere remote, then your changes will be automatically synced to the Cloud the next time you're connected to the internet.  

What if something goes wrong?

You can keep an eye on progress in the OneDrive App (as above). If there are any hiccups with particular files your OneDrive App will describe them and suggest solutions. If your OneDrive App seems to be stuck or is not working for any reason you can jump-start it with a Restart (not to be confused with a Shut-down). This is the first step for any troubleshooting for your computer, but particularly for the OneDrive App and we recommend it as a preventative for computer issues at least weekly. Of course, we are more than happy to assist you with any issues or to carry out this process for you if you're not confident to attempt it yourself. We also have a very fast internet connection here at our office for potentially large and taxing jobs like this one, and especially if your local internet connection is less than ideal.