Microsoft’s Ignite 2016 conference reveals that placeholders will return to OneDrive

Pablo Calvog/Shutterstock
Microsoft’s Ignite 2016 conference is currently underway in Atlanta, Georgia, and the company just revealed that it is bringing the placeholder feature back to OneDrive, its consumer-focused cloud storage service. Placeholders were injected into OneDrive with the release of Windows 8.1, but were removed due to customer confusion. Microsoft was then expected to bring the feature back with the release of Anniversary Update in August, but obviously that didn’t happen.

During a presentation, Microsoft revealed that the OneDrive feature, now called On-Demand Sync, will work just as it had before: creating local thumbnails of files stored in the cloud. The on-stage example consisted of around 9GB of files stored online while OneDrive only used 3MB of hard drive space on a local machine. The placeholder thumbnails were also somewhat faded in color in contrast to the icons of locally stored files, the latter of which had a green check mark indicating that they were stored locally.

Microsoft didn’t say when On-Demand Sync will officially be injected into OneDrive, and the feature currently isn’t available to participants of the Windows Insider program. There is a good chance it won’t officially show up until next spring when the Redstone 2 update is expected to arrive, bringing features that didn’t make it into the just-released Anniversary Update (Redstone 1) release.

The confusion over the original placeholder feature was understandable. Placeholders were stored in the customer’s OneDrive location on the hard drive, and a visual thumbnail was provided for their associated files stored on Microsoft’s servers. Thus, the user would see the thumbnail of a document in File Explorer, but the actual document would reside in their OneDrive space in the cloud. This was great for customers who stored large videos online to free up space on their hard drive.

However, apparently there were consumers who just didn’t understand this, and complained because all the files visually present on the screen really weren’t stored locally when they went offline. Microsoft removed the feature entirely with the launch of Windows 10, and evidently went back to the drawing board to make it universally accessible.

In an interview in December 2015, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President Jeff Teper said that placeholders mostly worked when the feature was active, but the system was never fully integrated into the Windows file system. That meant many apps, APIs, and command line tools “didn’t work as they should.” He added that placeholders needed to be on a file system level, not a user interface level.

Right now, OneDrive provides a Selective Sync feature. Users can determine what files they want to keep locally on their PC’s hard drive by right-clicking on the OneDrive icon and selecting Settings > Account > Choose Folders. Once users deselect a folder for the first time, OneDrive will warn that the files and folders will remain in the cloud while the local versions will be erased.

We expect that On-Demand Sync will show up in a Windows 10 Preview Build in the near future for Windows Insiders. Right now, the company is focused on the Windows 10 core and likely won’t introduce new features for a while. But with the On-Demand Sync cat now out of the bag, that’s one less surprise to expect from the mysterious Redstone 2 update slated for 2017.

Product Review

What do you do with 187 megapixels? The Lumix S1R is glorious overkill

The Lumix S1R is one of the most capable cameras ever made, from its robust build to extensive feature set. But its key feature, a 187MP high resolution mode, is something few customers will have use for.

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for March 2019

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.

Dodge the cryptojackers with the best torrent clients available today

Looking for the best torrent clients to help you share all of that wonderful legal content you own? Here's a list of our favorite torrent clients, all packed with great features while dodging malware and adverts.

Need to perform a factory reset on your Xbox One console? Here's how to do it

Whether you're upgrading to a One X and giving your old console to a friend, or troubleshooting a technical issue, sometimes your Xbox One needs a clean slate. Here's our quick guide on how to factory reset an Xbox One.

Get ready to say goodbye to some IFTTT support in Gmail by March 31

If This Then That, the popular automation service, will drop some of its support for Gmail by March 31. The decision comes as a response to security concerns and is aimed to protect user data.

Get the new Dell XPS 13 for $750 with this limited-time deal

Dell is currently running a limited time deal lasting through Thursday, March 28, where you can bring home a version of this year's new XPS 13 for around $750 with the use of a special coupon code. 

Nvidia faces attacks from AMD, Intel, and even Google. Should it be worried?

Nvidia announced an expanded array of RTX server solutions designed to leverage the power of ray-tracing at GTC 2019. The effort will help Nvidia take on Google's Stadia in game streaming with GeForce Now, and the company's investments in…

This is the easiest way to save your iPhone data to your computer

Living in fear of losing your contacts, photos, messages, and notes on your iPhone? Fear no more -- in this guide, we'll break down exactly how to back up your iPhone to your computer using Apple's iTunes or to the cloud with iCloud.

Here are the best iPad Pro keyboard cases to pick up with your new tablet

The iPad Pro range can double as laptops, but they do need proper keyboards to fill in effectively. Thankfully, there are loads to choose from and we rounded up the best iPad Pro keyboard cases right here.

Microsoft’s Clippy came back from the dead, but didn’t last very long

Before Cortana, Alexa, and Siri even existed, Microsoft Clippy dominated the screens of computers in the 1990s to help assist Microsoft Office users when writing letters. He recently made a bit of a comeback only to die off again.

How 5G networks will make low-latency game streaming a reality

Faster speeds and more bandwidth are some of the many promises that 5G can deliver, but for gamers, the most important thing is low latency. To achieve low latency, carriers like AT&T and Verizon are exploring hybrid models for game…

Time to do taxes? Save up to 50 percent on H&R Block tax software this weekend

Tax season is stressful, and with new tax laws in effect this year, it's not a bad idea to get some help. H&R Block has you covered: For two days only, you can save 50 percent on its great software so you can file your taxes online and save…

Stop dragging windows on your Mac. Here's how to use Split View to multitask

The latest iterations of MacOS offer a native Split View feature that can automatically divide screen space between two applications. Here's how to use Split View on a Mac, adjust it as needed, and how it can help out.

Breeze through security with these checkpoint-friendly laptop bags

Getting through airport security is a drag, but your laptop bag shouldn’t be. Thankfully, these checkpoint-friendly laptop bags will get you and your gear to your destination with ease.