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How to sync SharePoint files with the OneDrive sync client

Apr 12, 2017 by Emma Robinson

We were excited to see the new OneDrive sync client launch a few months ago. In the past, we’ve had a lot of issues with trying to get everything to sync correctly, which meant that sometimes we struggled to access SharePoint Online documents on a local device, or that the items we were working on locally would take a long time to appear in SharePoint Online. It was frustrating, and didn’t quite offer the seamlessness or usability that we needed for document management and collaboration.

The new sync client has made a real difference for us, so we thought we would demonstrate how to set it up if you’re the SharePoint or Global Admin for your tenant. Then we will show you how to use the sync feature if you’re an end user.

For Admins

You will need to enable users in your organisation to synchronise their SharePoint Online sites using the OneDrive sync client. Before you do this, it is important to know that once this feature is enabled your users can:

  • Go to a SharePoint Online site and sync all of its contents into their document library.
  • Choose which folders they would like to sync directly to their device(s).
  • Sync shared and read-only files and folders.
  • Collaborate on files in real time in Office 2016 (with certain builds – find out more here).
  • Changeover from their existing OneDrive for Business sync client automatically.

There are some significant benefits to the new client but, as always, it is important to evaluate the consequences of enabling this functionality. It might be worthwhile to review your permissions before you begin the process, to ensure that users are not able to access a copy of any documents that they shouldn’t be able to see.

For anyone who is wary about enabling this feature, a good option might be to see how the client works before you roll it out. If you would like to preview the tool before you enable it for your users, you can find guidance on how to do this here.

Once you’ve decided to go ahead, you will need to install the client. The download can be found here. To configure SharePoint Online to sync with the new OneDrive sync client, you will also have to complete following steps:

  1. Open the SharePoint Admin Center (you will need to be a SharePoint Admin to do this).
  2. On the left-hand side, click ‘settings’
  3. Make sure that for the ‘OneDrive Sync Button’ option, you choose to ‘show the sync button’, and for the ‘Sync Client for SharePoint’ that you ‘Start the new client’.
  4. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click ‘OK’.
  5. Note: This process can take up to several hours. To check that these changes have been recognised, go to a SharePoint site to see if the Sync button is there. If it’s available, click ‘Sync’ and in the pop out dialog box requesting permission, ensure that the program is Microsoft OneDrive, and the address should start with ‘odopen://’

For users

Once your admin has enabled the feature, you should be able to sync all the files and folders you need. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Go into SharePoint Online. Find the site you need.
  2. Head to ‘Documents’
  3. Select the documents you require, and in the top navigation banner, you should see an option to ‘Sync’.
  4. Click the Sync button, and you should see a message like the one below. You may need to give permission for your browser to open OneDrive.
  5. Following this, you should see the option below. You can choose to sync all the files from the site’s documents, or you can select the folders you want, then click ‘Next’.
  6. The files you selected will now be synced to your machine.

Hopefully you will now have the feature up and running, but what happens if you need to change your sync settings? Perhaps you want to change the folders that you sync, or you would like to stop syncing all files on a particular site?
It’s easy to make these changes, just follow these steps:

  1. You should find the blue OneDrive icon on the right-hand side of your task bar (or in the hidden icons located there), right-click on it and choose ‘Settings’.

  2. Select the ‘Account’ section to view a list of all the sites that have been synced.
  3. To make changes to the folders you’re syncing, click ‘Choose folders’, and then modify your selection using the tick box next to each item. Click ‘OK’ to save your preferences.
  4. You may see the following warning, click ‘OK’ if you want to continue.
  5. To stop syncing a site, under the Account view (in step 2), click the stop ‘Stop Sync’ option next to your chosen library. It is worth noting that copies of the files will remain on your computer, but they can be deleted if you want to remove them.

We hope you find the new OneDrive sync client as useful as we have, and that it provides better user experience, collaboration and productivity between OneDrive and SharePoint Online.