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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
© Rakhesh Sasidharan

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Dropbox to OneDrive and back

I am a Dropbox user. Got all my music, wallpapers, documents, portable programs, etc in Dropbox. I don’t store any sensitive stuff in it, just non-sensitive stuff.

Past few days I had been thinking of moving from Dropbox to OneDrive. Why? Because 1) Dropbox is very expensive compared to the competition, 2) OneDrive is already built into Windows 8 and newer any way, and 3) I love the “smart files” feature of OneDrive.

Smart files is a neat feature really. In a corporate environment you would have worked with offline/ cached files – smart files is very similar to that. What happens with smart files is that all your OneDrive files are visible in Explorer, but by default they are not downloaded to the computer. Only when you open the file, or choose to have it available offline, are the files download. I find this useful as this way I don’t have to resort to “selective sync” like I do with Dropbox. Instead, I can see everything on all my computers but only download the files I need as and when I open them. Of course, on some computers I would download all the files for offline use so I can use them even when I am not connected to the Internet.

I didn’t want to jump into OneDrive straight away so I started with moving some of my documents over, a few music folders, and also all my portable programs. Initially I felt everything was going well but after I moved to another laptop did I realize the experience is not as smooth as Dropbox. Couple of things:

  1. Dropbox files and folders have a marker that show whether the file or folder is in sync or to be synced. OneDrive has no such thing.
  2. The system tray icon of Dropbox offers better feedback. It shows me what’s happening, how may items remain, etc. The OneDrive icon doesn’t show all that. Right clicking the OneDrive folder icon gives a percentage status but it isn’t as detailed as Dropbox.
  3. Smart files are good but they can bit you unknowingly. Case in hand: I copied my portable programs to OneDrive from my desktop. Then I logged in to my laptop, saw that all these portable programs were visible, and so tried copying them elsewhere. Maybe it’s because I use TeraCopy, the program was just stuck on the first file. No error message, no status, nothing. Cancelled and tried again a couple of times but got the same result each time. Then I realized what the problem was.

    On the laptop the files were not really present as they were only links to the real files elsewhere. But since there’s no marker to indicate this (except the status field of a file) I hadn’t realized this. I imagine OneDrive was trying to download the files in the background so TeraCopy could copy and that’s why it was stuck. Not good!

I think ultimately it comes down to Dropbox being longer in this field and so its software is more refined and “experienced”. Dropbox has other great features too which I have no idea whether OneDrive (or even Copy, Google Drive, etc) support. Features such as incremental uploads (I modify an MP3 file tag, only the changed bits are uploaded, not the whole file again), LAN syncing (if my desktop and laptop are online together at home, and all my files are uploaded to Dropbox, they are not downloaded again to the desktop or laptop; rather, the files are copied from laptop or desktop to the other over LAN).

So that’s it. Back to Dropbox!

Dropbox to OneDrive and back by rakhesh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.