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More robust options make Win8.1’s cloud storage a compelling option
Microsoft seems a little more ready to tackle the cloud storage world with its SkyDrive service, now that the 7GB of free cloud storage comes more baked into Windows 8.1 than it did with Windows 8.
And this is more than Microsoft just dropping a shortcut to SkyDrive within File Explorer and calling it a day. A number of nifty features work behind the scenes to ensure you aren’t sucking down massive amounts of data that you might not necessarily need (or worse, filling up a limited hard drive with a ton of unnecessary SkyDrive content). Your SkyDrive folder will be accessible and searchable just like any other folder on your physical hard drive. However, only when you go to access a file will Microsoft pull it down from the cloud.
And yes, you can still manually select to synchronize as many files and folders as you want if you’re more into the Dropbox “sync everything” method. That said, onto the tips!
If you’re concerned about how much space you might be eating up of your 7GB of free SkyDrive storage—or want to add more—Microsoft’s made it easy for you to check and/or buy. Fire up the Start screen, pull open the Charms Bar, and click Settings. Click Change PC Settings, and then select the SkyDrive option. The very first screen you then see will tell you how much storage you’re using, in total, and give you the option to purchase more if you’re so inclined.
A nifty new feature in Windows 8.1 is the ability to have supported apps prompt you with the option to save your files to the cloud instead of your local hard drive. The best and easiest example of this is Microsoft Word. Enable the option, and you’ll always first be given the chance to stick your files in your SkyDrive documents folder, a real time-saver if you’re a SkyDrive aficionado. To turn on this option, just flick the little switch below the SkyDrive storage information that we previously mentioned. You can’t miss it, as it’s labeled “Save documents to SkyDrive by default.”
If you’re the kind of person who wants to make sure that everything you’re doing on your smartphone or camera, for example, is automatically saved to the cloud, Windows 8.1 makes it easy. Under the Camera Roll menu within the aforementioned SkyDrive settings screen, you’ll find options that allow to you manage the size at which your pictures are automatically stored in the cloud. Additionally, you’ll see the ever-important switch that will allow your system to automatically send videos up to SkyDrive as well.
One of the fancier features of SkyDrive is its ability to synchronize a bevy of your personal settings for Windows 8.1; log into a fresh Windows 8.1 machine with your account, and it’ll look just like what you’re used to using.
You can, of course, flip this option on and off within the Sync Settings menu on the SkyDrive settings screen. More importantly, you can choose what you want SkyDrive to sync: your tiles? Your desktop theme? Your app settings? Passwords? The choice is yours.
Turn off Bing As you’ve no doubt noticed, Microsoft’s made a few changes to Windows 8.1’s search functionality. Start typing on the Start screen and you’ll find that your system automatically starts searching through, well, everything: Windows settings, your files, and—guess who?—Bing!
If you’re not keen on marrying your offline searching with an ever-present web search, here’s how to ditch it. Fire up the Charms Bar, click Settings, click Change PC Settings, and select “Search and apps.” From there, ditching Bing is as easy as flicking off the switch for “Get search suggestions and web results from Bing.”
Hide Your Files Perhaps there are some things you don’t want to automatically populate the default “Everything” search within Windows 8.1. We’re not going to venture to guess what those files actually are—we’re just going to tell you how to make them invisible to Windows 8.1’s watchful eye.
If you have data on your hard drive that you don’t want Windows 8.1’s Modern UI-based search to find, simply go to the files or folders within File Explorer, right-click, select Properties, and tick the little checkbox for the Hidden property. If File Explorer isn’t set to view hidden files, your folder or file will vanish from view. To get it back, just check Hidden Items in the View pane of File Explorer. Since they won’t show up in search, you’ll need to remember just where you hid your precious collection of vintage Seka movies.