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I am setting up my daughter’s laptop for university. As a student she can purchase Microsoft 365 University edition for a small price for 4 years. This comes with 1 TB cloud storage called OneDrive.  This is highly available, redundant storage that should be utilised as much as possible.

When planning backup schemes we need to consider our “Recovery Point Objective” which is the point in time at which we have a copy of our data. With OneDrive we can achieve a recovery point objective of a few minutes (actually the OneDrive synchronisation time).

We achieve this by redirecting the standard folders “Documents” and “Pictures” to the local OneDrive folder. To do this simply right-click on the folder in Windows Explorer, select properties and then change the Location of the folder. More detailed instructions are available here,


I have chosen not to change the Location of Downloads and My Videos because the synchronisation would probably interfere with downloading or video editing.

There is a potential performance hit but it is reasonable to assume that the laptop will normally be on high-bandwidth connections and that OneDrive will throttle the connection properly.

Soft-link trick to force cloud synchronisation

Some programs may insist on storing their data in a particular folder. For example, “../thisProgram/files”, in this case we can “trick” the application into storing in SkyDrive by replacing the physical directory it uses by a soft-link to a directory in OneDrive.

Soft-link trick to force not synchronising with the cloud

Sometimes you may have a folder in your local OneDrive directory that you do not want uploaded to the cloud. OneDrive synchronisation will not follow soft-links so we can set it like this.

/OneDrive/_temp (Soft-link to c:/_temp)

Now nothing in /OneDrive/_temp will be uploaded.

File History

The Windows 8.1 File History feature allows you to keep copies of previous versions but requires an external drive. If you create a virtual hard-drive then can use the local drive instead. I do this and then use the laptop’s built in system image back-up each Sunday to an external hard drive.

Final configuration

The outcome is

  • Current files are backed up to the cloud
  • previous versions are backed up locally
  • previous versions and system image are backed up weekly to external drive

This strategy is literally one click, the user simply has to connect the external hard drive each Sunday.