OneDrive selective folder syncWhile recently working with some users who are migrating to OneDrive for Business for SharePoint 2013, I was in a discussion about how to use the OneDrive for Business client.  After walking through the capabilities and how to use the sync client, the question was asked about how to selectively sync only certain folders from OneDrive for Business and not the entire library.  Users started uploading a lot of documents, and didn’t want to sync ALL of the files in their OneDrive for Business library.  They only wanted to sync some of the folders offline.  This is possible right?  Okay I must admit I misled you a little bit by the title.  You can’t use the OneDrive for Business sync client and only choose certain folders.  It will only sync the entire library or nothing.  But fear not, the point of this blog is to offer a few viable solutions as stop gaps until Microsoft adds this functionality. 

What Is Selective Folder Sync?

What exactly are we looking for here?  Let’s be sure we are on the same page.  If you’re reading this, you know that there is an application that is installed on your PC or Mac that allows you as the user to sync files and folders from your OneDrive website locally to your computer for offline access.  By default, it will sync the entire contents.  But I don’t want to sync the entire contents, I just need some of it offline.  Okay, no problem.  Right click on the Systray icon, and choose Settings:

OneDrive systray settings

Click the Choose Folders tab, then the Choose Folders button.  Selectively pick the folders you want, and click Ok.  Done! 

OneDrive selective folder sync

What’s the Problem?

If you’re using Office 365 or SharePoint 2013, you are in the business world and using the OneDrive for Business client instead of the consumer OneDrive client.  With Office 365, OneDrive for Business users get at least a 1 TB limit of content to load up.  To sync files from SharePoint 2013 libraries or OneDrive for Business libraries, you must use the OneDrive for Business client.  Okay, so we do the same thing, we right click on the Systray icon and click Settings.  Wait, there is not a Settings button! 

OneDrive for Business no settings

What is going on?  Am I in some kind of alternative universe?  No, just the crazy world of Microsoft.  That’s right, the consumer client can do things the business client can’t.  With the OneDrive for Business sync client, you CANNOT do selective folder sync.  So let’s take a look at a few options that we do have.

Workarounds for Selective Folder Sync

  1. Don’t use the OneDrive for Business client / Cope with Limitations
    1. I’m not trying to be insulting here or state the super obvious, but just think that since you can’t selectively choose the folders, do you really need to have all the content offline?  With the new mobile friendly views available in browser and all the apps available for Windows 8.1, iOS, Androi and Android, is offline really critical?  It’s not that helpful, but it is an option.
  2. Use the SPSync tool (free)
    1. I came across this tool actually earlier today, and it looks interesting.  With versions for both SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013, its latest version added support for selective folder syncing.  It is developed and maintained by Marco Wiedemeyer.  At least until Microsoft includes this functionality, this free tool looks promising.  I haven’t personally tried it, so I can’t recommend it one way or another.  But give it a try, especially for SharePoint 2010 since SharePoint Workspace will only sync a maximum of 1800 files. 
  3. Create Separate Libraries
    1. This is most likely the easiest and best solution.  Basically, you just need to split up your content into a library you need to sync offline (default library) and another library you don’t need to take offline (a new one we’ll create).  How do we do this?
      1. Open your OneDrive for Business library in the SharePoint UI (browser).
        OneDrive for Business Office 365

      2. Click the settings gear icon in the top right –> Add an app.
        OneDrive for Business add an app

      3. Click Add an app.
      4. Pick Document Library, and name it whatever you like and click Ok.
      5. You now have a new library that will store your main set of files that you don’t need to sync. 
      6. Now you just need to move your files you don’t want to sync from the main library to this new No Sync library.  The easiest way to do that is with Explorer view.  The Library ribbon tab should already be open, just click Open with Explorer.
      7. It will be empty at this point.  Open another Windows Explorer, and open OneDrive for Business.  This is the sync library.  Cut files from here, and paste the files (or drag) into the No Sync folder.  That’s it!
  4. Wait for Windows 10
    1. A preview of Windows 10 was released recently, and there’s been some big talk about changes with the OneDrive engine and future vision from Microsoft.  There are rumors and at least at this time, it appears Microsoft is consolidating the two different clients into one, and adding the ability to selectively choose folders to sync.  We’ll see how things shake out.  Watch this space!

Before I end this post, I wanted to mention one other thing regarding OneDrive for Business.  Just be aware of the limitation that you can only sync 20,000 items (which includes files and folders) from your OneDrive for Business library, or 5,000 items (files + folders) from team site libraries. 

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