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Solved: How do I delete OneDrive files/folders from local PC without deleting it from the cloud


My OneDrive is completely full. I like to remove some files from OneDrive, but I want to keep them on my computer. How do I delete files/folders from OneDrive without deleting it from my PC? If I removed a file from OneDrive folder then add it again, does OneDrive will upload it to the cloud again or leave the old one on the cloud?

Solved: How do I delete OneDrive files/folders from local PC without deleting it from the cloud

Answer 1

OneDrive desktop client is a cloud folder sync program to synchronise your local OneDrive folder with your OneDrive cloud storage automatically. If you delete a file from your local PC, the cloud file will be deleted and vice versa. It you don’t want to sync the folder, you can uninstall OneDrive client, or change the settings so that it does not sync your files.

Answer 2

Microsoft OneDrive allows you to selectively sync files and folders at the device level. You can keep files in OneDrive without keeping them on physical storage on each of the personal devices.

With the latest OneDrive client in Windows 10, you have three options:

  • Choose specific folders within the OneDrive directory to not sync to the local machine so that they are only in the cloud. OneDrive will remove them from the local machine for you.
  • For files and folders that exist on the local machine, you can have local copies of everything and they will sync automatically with the cloud. These files will have a green check mark. Files that were originally created locally tend to behave this way.
  • The default behavior on a new machine is to only download files already n the cloud to the local machine as they are used by applications, and otherwise to free up their space although they are still visible in the directory. These files have a blue cloud icon. If an application opens these files they will be downloaded on demand. You can also force specific files to be kept locally with a right-click option. Files that are local will have the green check mark.

OneDrive has a Recycle Bin online just like your PC. Deleted items will remain there for some period of time before they’re permanently deleted. If you delete something accidentally, you can navigate to the Recycle Bin online folder within the cloud and restore it by right-clicking on it and choosing Restore.

Just put the files on OneDrive then, once it has uploaded, right click it and select clear space. This will keep it on your OneDrive but remove it from your computer. It will still show up as a file and when you want you use the file OneDrive will automatically download the file.

Step 1: Go to the right side of the taskbar.

Step 2: Right-click the cloud-shaped OneDrive icon, and then select Settings option from the context menu.

Note: You may have to select the Show hidden icons arrow to see the OneDrive icon.

Step 3: Click on the Choose folders button.

Click on the Choose folders button.

Step 4: Clear the check boxes for any folders you don’t need offline, and then select OK. Those folders won’t show up in File Explorer anymore, but they’ll still be online at

Answer 3

Step 1: Go to the right side of the taskbar.

Step 2: Right-click the cloud-shaped OneDrive icon, and then select Settings option from the context menu.

Note: You may have to select the Show hidden icons arrow to see the OneDrive icon.

Step 3: Go to the Account tab.

Step 4: Select the Unlink this PC option.

Select the Unlink this PC option.

Select the Unlink this PC option.

Answer 4

Copy the OneDrive files/folders that resides on the local PC to another “off-line” location such as another folder, thumb drive or external drive before deleting the OneDrive.

Answer 5

Step 1: Unsync your root folder (ie: Desktop, Pictures, Documents or Music). Doing this will have the following effects:

  • Create a Home directory version of of that folder. For example: c:\users\[username]\Desktop or c:\users\[username]\Documents
  • It will empty your OneDrive version of that folder. That is, the contents at for example: c:\users\[username]\OneDrive\Desktop and c:\users\[username]\OneDrive\Documents will get deleted.

However, not to worry as your files will remain available on the cloud.

The local copy is provided by the OneDrive sync engine. This allows you to specify which folders are synchronised. If you turn off sync on a folder then the folder and its contents are no longer kept in sync between the cloud and your local drive, which allows you to change one without affecting the other.

Step 2: Copy them over (download) to your Home Directory folders (eg: c:\users\[username]\Desktop or c:\users\[username]\Documents, for example) or external drive.

Step 3: Uninstall OneDrive app on all your computers or devices.

Step 4: On your PC, you can also move/copy your files in the local OneDrive folder to a different folder on your computer.

Step 5: Delete OneDrive cloud files and they remain on the local machine.

Answer 6

If the Microsoft Account is deactivated, OneDrive files/folders will likely be deleted after period of time. The normal policy for active accounts is that files deleted by the user are stored in the recycle bin for 30 days before permanent deletion. If you never delete or deactivate your Microsoft Account, the files will likely stay there indefinitely.

Answer 7

OneDrive can be used for backing up files, but it has some issues:

  • OneDrive can only sync one special folder (OneDrive). You cannot select a random folder and back it up to the cloud. You cannot even sync the Documents folder.
  • If you delete a file on your local computer, it will be deleted from the cloud and vice versa. This can result in data loss. It defeats the purpose of backup.
  • You cannot create scheduled backup tasks. If you need to backup large files, usually you want to schedule it to run at night time or weekend.
  • You must log on to your computer to run the OneDrive synchronization. If it is a server computer, it will not work.
  • If a file is open/locked (e.g. a database file, Outlook PST file, Quickbooks file, Exchange data file, etc.), OneDrive cannot sync it unless the file is closed.

OneDrive can keep another copy of your files online if you use it carefully.

Answer 8

OneDrive repeats the upload to the cloud. You can move a file from folder to folder within the set of folders that sync with OneDrive. This transparently moves files around without issue. Once the file is moved “outside” of what OneDrive tracks, it is forgotten. If you put it back it sends it as a new file. In that case it creates who copies of the file, the local copy is renamed with the name of your computer at the end.


Alex Lim is a certified IT Technical Support Architect with over 15 years of experience in designing, implementing, and troubleshooting complex IT systems and networks. He has worked for leading IT companies, such as Microsoft, IBM, and Cisco, providing technical support and solutions to clients across various industries and sectors. Alex has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the National University of Singapore and a master’s degree in information security from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also the author of several best-selling books on IT technical support, such as The IT Technical Support Handbook and Troubleshooting IT Systems and Networks. Alex lives in Bandar, Johore, Malaysia with his wife and two chilrdren. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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