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Todd Klindt's home page > Todd Klindt's Office 365 Admin Blog > Posts > Use OneDrive Client instead of Explorer View or Map Network Drive
May 02
Use OneDrive Client instead of Explorer View or Map Network Drive

In the past few weeks I've had a couple of conversations with customers that have wanted to use some old school solutions for modern day problems, with Office 365. One was trying to get Explorer View to work, the other was trying to map a network drive to a document library. Neither were having much luck. That's when I stepped in with what was probably an unappreciated answer, "Use the OneDrive Sync client instead."

OneDrive has taken its share of knocks over the years, and much of that was well earned. In the last two or three years, the OneDrive team has put on both their thinking caps, and their heavy leather working gloves and they've really made things happen. While I struggle to find a single area of improvement that I like the most, the sync client has got to be right up there. Most, if not all of the frustrating, infuriating, sync issues have been cleared up. And it can sync OneDrive Consumer, on-prem SharePoint MySites, and multiple Office 365 tenants. Most importantly, late last year, it added on-demand sync functionality to the Next Generation Sync Client (NGSC). This allows the sync client to see all of the files in the team site, document library, or whatever, without actually downloading the files and taking up local space. Here is how multiple libraries looks in Explorer:


All of those locations are under the purview of OneDrive’s Next Gen Sync Client.

Back to my customers. In the first situation, the customer wanted to get Explorer View to work because that was the way they were most comfortable uploading a bunch of files to SharePoint. They wanted to lasso a bunch of files in Windows Explorer, Ctrl-C copy them, open up a SharePoint Document Library in Explorer View, and Ctrl-V paste them in. I can't blame them. That method has worked for the last decade, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Except it is broken, sort of. Explorer View uses two technologies, WebDAV and FPRPC. Neither of which has aged well. And they behave differently depending on which version of Windows you have installed, and which version of Office you have installed. It's unreliable at its best, and downright infuriating at its worst. And if you're using Edge, it flat out won't work at all.

Instead of having their business balance on that decade old cobbled together technology, I recommended they use the OneDrive NGSC to accomplish this. I told them to sync it with the library where they want to upload the files. That will expose the document library to Windows, in Explorer, PowerShell, and anything else they want to run. Now they can use their lasso technique in Explorer to upload files, and do it with a current, maintained, and mostly reliable client, the OneDrive NGSC. Once the files are copied into the local OneDrive location, the NGSC will sync them up to Office 365. After that's finished the user can choose to no longer sync that folder, or keep syncing it, but free up space by making those files "Cloud Only" with OneDrive.

The other scenario was mapping a network drive to SharePoint. This customer didn't want to do a one time operation like the Explorer View customer above. They wanted a quick, easy link to their frequently used SharePoint documents, and in the familiar Explorer interface. Again, I can't blame them for that. It's familiar, and it works well. Except it doesn't sometimes. Once again, if you're using Edge, mapping as a network drive is not supported. Fortunately, if you have the OneDrive NGSC installed, you can use the same technic we used above, to mimic this behavior. Use OneDrive's "Sync" to sync with all of the locations you would have mapped as network drives. When you do they'll show up in Explorer and your file system. You'll be able to use them however you'd like. Since the OneDrive NGSC supports on-demand sync this won't take up extra space on your local machine, just like mapping as a network drive didn't.

I hope that helps a little.




Caution on Sync with SharePoint

The Sync works great with OneDrive, but for SharePoint I do not recommend using it. "Open with Explorer" and using mapped drive are the only option which are consistent. I have seen sync not refreshing files locally. One research I came across blogs advising against SharePoint sync as the inconsistent behavior is designed by Microsoft to discourage the practice of using file explorer.
 on 5/2/2018 5:11 PM

Re: Caution on Sync with SharePoint

Do you mean on-prem SharePoint Server or SharePoint Online? Currently, on-prem SharePoint Server does not support the OneDrive NGSC for anything but MySites.

Todd O. KlindtNo presence information on 5/2/2018 9:27 PM

Same here

Same solution as mine, the only problem that I have found is for those clients which has VDI environments, where OneDrive its not a possible solution for the persistence of the scenario and where I needed to recommend the use of Windos Explorer again.
 on 5/3/2018 2:24 AM

Re: Caution on Sync with SharePoint

I was talking about SharePoint Online. OneDrive sync client works well with OneDrive folders, however, syncing SP folders will not show any warning or error when the refresh is broken. You will realize it only when you compare the files online vs on the local drive.
 on 5/3/2018 12:21 PM

Re: Same here

It is a bummer that OneDrive doesn't work in VDI scenarios. I get the technical reasons why. I wonder if the team has any plans to fix that.

Todd O. KlindtNo presence information on 5/3/2018 4:59 PM

Re: Caution on Sync with SharePoint

I have not had that issue. Do you know if you are using the Office 2016  piece in OneDrive sync? I always shut that off. My sample group is probably smaller than yours, but I've never lost any files.

Todd O. KlindtNo presence information on 5/3/2018 5:00 PM

Re: Use OneDrive Client instead of Explorer View or Map Network Drive

There was a slide at the last Ignite that gave me hope for OneDrive and VDI...

But haven't heard anything about it since then.
 on 5/4/2018 5:25 AM

Re: Use OneDrive Client instead of Explorer View or Map Network Drive

That's good to know. I know some folks on the OneDrive. If I remember, I'll ask them about it.

Todd O. KlindtNo presence information on 5/4/2018 8:49 AM

What happens if you don't have enough local storage to sync your data

What would your suggestion be if you did not have enough local storage to copy your possibly 2TB worth of OneDrive for business data files for it to be able to sync and then clear space.

I have a Surface Book 2 with a 1TB hard drive.  I have about 800GB of photos on my external SSD disk which I would like to periodically sync with my OneDrive for Business account.  I cannot copy all my photos to my local OneDrive for Business folder as I would run out of space.
 on 10/18/2018 3:44 PM

HDD too small to Sync

There has to be a solution to allow accessing Onedrive without either syncing or using the web browser. We have teacher devices with only 60GB hard drives and student devices with only 30 GB. Sync will kill their hard drive quickly. Mapping the drive as a network drive is the only real option and MS seems to be actively trying to prevent it.

What options are there?
 on 10/29/2018 9:31 AM
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