Tip o' the Week #249 – Sync your Desktop

clip_image001This week’s tip comes as a direct result of a conversation had over a glass of wine and a plate of food, with Content & Code’s supremo, Tim Wallis.

Most of us who’ve been using PCs for years will have picked up or held onto habits that are probably not ideal, at least not as the designers of the latest software might have in mind – but as the customer is always right, if we want to be backward, then the system should accommodate that, right?


Windows users of old: at which point did you finally accept the default, and stop disabling the Hide extensions for known file types setting in Windows Explorer? Let hidden files stay that way? Or do you still switch these options on?
Are you holding on too tight?

And do you still think of directories or have you embraced folders? Do you still want a D: drive to put all your data on?

Well, many of us will habitually drop stuff onto the Windows desktop because it’s generally easy to find (press WindowsKey-D and, tada!, there it is) – though it’s always possible to go over the top.

If you want to drag an attachment from Outlook and upload it to a SharePoint site, for example – you’ll need to copy the file to somewhere on your PC and then upload from there. And the desktop can be just the simplest way to do that (press WindowsKey and left or right arrow key to snap Outlook to the side, potentially exposing the desktop beneath… a perfect target for dragging & dropping files onto).

Syncety Sync

What Tim was musing over, however, was the scenario when you have multiple PCs and you drop a document (or folder full of them) onto the desktop – wouldn’t it be nice if OneDrive could replicate the desktop onto the other machine(s)? Windows 8 makes it easy to roam lots of settings (the Start menu layout, the desktop backdrop etc) between machines, but it doesn’t sync the actual contents of the desktop out of the box.

Worry not: it’s possible. Firstly, you need the OneDrive software on every PC (it’s installed by default on Windows 8.1, including Surface RT), then you’ll re-point the Desktop to a location that OneDrive can sync.

To set up sync, for the purposes of just backing up one PC or for sharing the same desktop content with several:

  • clip_image004Find the OneDrive logo in the Windows System Tray Notification Area
    (NB: if you have OneDrive for Business installed, you’ll want to make sure you pick the white consumer OneDrive icon, rather than the blue business one…)
  • clip_image006Right-click the icon, then open the OneDrive folder using Explorer, right-click in the resulting window and create a folder where you want the Desktop contents to be. It might help to copy the location of that folder to the clipboard, for use shortly…
  • Hold the SHIFT key, and then right-click on your new folder– and use the phenomenally handy Copy as path option that only appears when you hold down SHIFT.
  • clip_image007Now, in the same Explorer window, scroll down in the folder list to see the This PC section and right-click on Desktop, then Properties, then look to the Location tab.
  • Now click the Move button, paste the contents of the clipboard (the path to the folder you created in OneDrive) into the dialog that pops up, Select Folder then confirm that you’d like to move the contents of the desktop across.


Now, any folders or files you drop on the desktop will synchronise to other PCs if you repeat the same process as above. If you have lots of folders full of stuff, you’ll need to wait a little, while OneDrive syncs them for you. Right-click on the OneDrive icon in your system tray again, and click Sync if you’d like to see the status.

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