I fired Microsoft OneDrive (tile with You're Fired printed on it)

Manuscript Safety and Why I Fired Microsoft OneDrive

In mid-June 2023, my installation of Microsoft OneDrive glitched and cost me a lot of work hours, but I lived to tell the tale. This is not intended as guidance, other than to say be alert, especially if you keep your manuscripts in Microsoft Word on OneDrive. Let me tell you why I fired Microsoft OneDrive.

Be alert for OneDrive glitches.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a lawyer, so this tip is only about my personal experience with Microsoft OneDrive, and it is not intended as medical or legal (or technical) advice.

Hello. My name is Kathrese McKee, and I’m a PC user. I have used Microsoft software since DOS 1.0. (Don’t do the math; that’s just rude.) Obviously, I’m not against all things Microsoft.

Before OneDrive was a thing (2014), I used its predecessor, SkyDrive (2007). So, I’m not a novice to the application. For those of you who are novices, OneDrive is a file hosting service operated by Microsoft that enables users to share and synchronize their files. You know, storing stuff in the cloud.

As I have stated in previous issues of the Writing Pursuits Tips newsletter, OneDrive is NOT a backup service. More about that in a minute.

Why I Fired Microsoft OneDrive

For many years, I have kept my client work on OneDrive because I work in Microsoft Word with Track Changes turned on. I also keep my time sheets in Excel. OneDrive saved my files incrementally, and I never had to worry about losing work.

Until now.

While I was editing for one of my clients, something weird happened. One day, I finished my work, closed my files, assured that my latest changes had been saved. This, after all, was my favorite feature of OneDrive—incremental saves.

So, I went on with my life, stupidly confident, until I opened the client’s manuscript the next day and none of my comments or corrections were in the file. To add insult to injury, the entries in my time tracking worksheet were gone too. OneDrive did not save any of the previous day’s work, as it was supposed to do. (Insert screams here.)

I fired Microsoft OneDrive
angry face
Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

Well, that was weird. But OneDrive behaved perfectly after that. It was a one-time glitch. Maybe it was user error.

Don’t get me wrong; after the glitch, I punched the Save button every other paragraph. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

But OneDrive lulled me into complacency before it struck again on my next editing project. Three or four days in, I realized OneDrive had failed once more, though AutoSave was still turned on. Fortunately, I figured this out quickly and only lost an hour of work.

Now, here’s the interesting part. I made a point of checking the online folders, the files in the cloud. Call it a hunch. I had rearranged my folders between projects, and sure enough, the folder changes were not reflected in the cloud.

Naturally, I consulted Microsoft’s help documentation. I reset stuff, I tried all the things they suggested, and finally, I uninstalled OneDrive and reinstalled it.

At some point during this process, OneDrive enforced the cloud version of my folders onto my local drive. That stinks because the cloud version should absolutely echo what the user is doing, not the other way around.

Thankfully, I had sequestered my current project files in a safe place outside of OneDrive, so my project was safe.

If you do some googling, you will find MANY users’ stories of OneDrive getting out of sync. Personally and professionally, I cannot afford to experience OneDrive glitches. I cannot afford for my folders and files to get out of sync. That is unacceptable performance.

I fired Microsoft OneDrive.

All of my Microsoft application files, like Word and Excel files, are on Dropbox now. And I have to hit the Save button. So what? I can deal with hitting the Save button periodically. At least Dropbox syncs reliably.

By the way, the local and online OneDrive folders never synced up. Any change I made on the local app was not reflected in the online app, but OneDrive assured me it was syncing files. I let OneDrive churn for three days while I tried to understand the situation. I was more than fair before I fired the OneDrive application.

When is a backup not a backup?

In addition to the synchronization glitch, I discovered another drawback to using OneDrive. If you happen to click the buttons in the Settings menu to “backup” your Desktop, Pictures, and Documents folders, something truly unsettling happens.

OneDrive REMOVES the files from those folders. In other words, the local folders are cleaned out. You data is online but no longer stored locally.

AND if you change your mind about the so-called OneDrive backup, that’s too bad. OneDrive doesn’t gracefully put the files back where they came from. No. That’s on you. If someone is unaware of this OneDrive “feature,” consider how many pictures and documents may seem to be lost. That’s more like a heist than a backup.

The Ask Leo! channel on YouTube posted a video about one week ago—great time!—entitled “The Problem With OneDrive Backup.” The host, Leo, explains the OneDrive “backup feature” in detail, with clear examples. I highly recommend this video to you if you are trying to make an educated decision.

How I Keep My Work Safe

In summary, my manuscripts have been on Dropbox for at least a decade because that is where I keep my Scrivener projects. But now, all of my Word and Excel files reside on Dropbox too. Bye, OneDrive. Don’t let the door hit you on your ways out.

OneDrive can and does get out of sync. Many people have posted online about their bad experiences while using OneDrive. Microsoft has lots of documentation to help users get back in sync; obviously, the company is aware their application has problems. Be careful out there and safeguard your manuscripts.

This week’s question is: How do you safeguard your manuscripts?

I look forward to your answers.

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Use Plain Text to Future-Proof Your Writing

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2 Comments

  1. Since I don’t have home internet, online file storage isn’t even a consideration. I have an external drive (actually,two) that I periodically save my entire “writing” folder to, and often save copies of my most-frequently-worked-on projects to flash drives. The only major loss I ever encountered was when I learned the hard way that OpenOffice’s idea of “revert” meant “lose the changes made since the last time OpenOffice was closed” rather than “go back to the last time the user hit ‘Save.'” I lost about two weeks of work on my Edmund Fitzgerald book.

    1. Oof! That had to hurt. Authors without internet have a harder time arranging for off-site backup files. I know that’s a pain. No place on the globe is safe from natural disasters, and every home is at risk of theft, flooding, or fire. It is essential to get recent copies of on-going work out of the house to a secondary location and (better) out of town; how often backups leave the house is determined by how much lost work you can endure. Naturally, off-site backups apply to master files for our manuscripts too. Maybe you could arrange for a bank box or a friend’s or relative’s house. Thanks for sharing!

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