The history of Offline files and how to affect the future?

Offline files

This time I wanted to write about a little bit different headline and that headline is Offline files.

Offline files in Windows allow users to access files stored on a network share even when they are not connected to the network. This feature is useful for users who need to work on files while away from the office or for users who have unreliable network connections. Offline files are stored on the user’s local machine and are automatically synced with the network version of the file when the user reconnects to the network. This allows users to continue working on files even when they are offline and ensures that their changes are not lost when they reconnect to the network.

I asked ChatGPT Jan 9 Version that does it work? And this is what it replied.

In my opinion really accurate but see for your self and be heard at the end!

Offline files and Windows XP

You remember Windows XP and Offline files? It was an excellent way to use your Server share content offline on the road or in a plane.

Well almost excellent, there was insane amount of synchronization errors once you went out of the network and came back with VPN or at the office. After it you had to synchronize the files again, there is still an Learn article on this.

If you enable it manually, you saw this screen.

If you had Fast User Switching on, you couldn’t enable it, how inconvenient!

If you had Fast User Switching on, you couldn’t enable it, how inconvenient!

Offline files and Windows 7

Then to Windows 7 and Offline files, there was improvements made between these two operating system but still there was problems.

Always offline mode

There was also the always offline mode to make redirected directories and cached files faster to access. Because users were constantly working offline, Always Offline will result in decreased bandwidth utilization.

Work folders

Then came Work folders, remember this feature?

Offline files and Windows 11

Guess what, Offline files is still here, after all this time.

Work folders

And so is work folders

Group policies

And there is also an excellent set of group policies to enforce those settings.

OneDrive and offline access

First versions of OneDrive didn’t work that well but currently it’s working excellently, of course there could be problems once in a while with duplicates on your machine and cloud.

I’m having difficulties on choosing the best feature in OneDrive, would it be the the cloud-only feature or the Backup your important files. If thinking about the cloud-only feature, you can keep the content in the cloud and download it if needed. In example when you watch a video and stop it to 5min 15secs, only that content will be downloaded to your machine.

And you can free up the space at any moment and to remove all offline copies of the files. You can also share and see those shares directly from your machine.

See more from Microsoft support.

Or about Backup your important files feature

And how to use to OneDrive for business and personal

How these compare?

Here is an excellent table on the differences between the solutions for offline access.

Work FoldersOffline FilesOneDrive for BusinessOneDrive
Technology summarySyncs files that are stored on a file server with PCs and devicesSyncs files that are stored on a file server with PCs that have access to the corporate network (can be replaced by Work Files)Syncs files that are stored in Office 365 or in SharePoint with PCs and devices inside or outside a corporate network, and provides document collaboration functionalitySyncs personal files that are stored in OneDrive with PCs, Mac computers, and devices
Intended to provide user access to work filesYesYesYesNo
Cloud serviceNoneNoneMicrosoft 365Microsoft OneDrive
Internal network serversFile servers running Windows Server 2012 R2File serversSharePoint server (optional)None
Supported clientsPCs, iOS, AndroidPCs in a corporate network or connected through DirectAccess, VPNs, or other remote access technologiesPCs, iOS, Android, Windows PhonePCs, Mac computers, Windows Phone, iOS, Android

What about the future?

Now when we went through the history, let us affect the future is Offline files. Do you use it? What works what doesn’t? How you see the future of Offline files with OneDrive pushing from the corner with it’s features?

OneDrive isn’t a direct rival for Offline files but most of the organizations it serves as enough good tool to use the files.

But when you have Windows Server shares, you have a need for Offline access and like stated before, it’s still supported in Windows 11.

Give your feed back with this form with the good, the bad and the ugly.

Author: Harri Jaakkonen

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