How to Troubleshoot OneDrive Sync Issues

One of the great things about OneDrive is being able to sync your files for easy access wherever you need them on a wide variety of devices. While most of the time, you can set it and forget it, this doesn’t always work as smoothly as you’d hope. If you discover your files aren’t syncing properly, you’ll need to troubleshoot OneDrive sync issues to discover the root cause before syncing can go back to normal.

Signs of OneDrive Sync Issues

When you’re syncing a large number of files, it’s sometimes hard to notice if you’re missing just one or two files. No matter whether you’re having issues with just one file or all files, you’ll notice some common signs that to let you know something’s wrong:

  • Files are missing in OneDrive or other devices
  • Syncing fails between OneDrive and any other device
  • Changes to files aren’t saved
  • You get connection issue errors
  • OneDrive stops syncing completely
  • You can’t access files from the app
  • OneDrive randomly stops syncing, even with a strong Internet connection
  • You receive any error messages

As soon as you noticed something suspicious, it’s time to start troubleshooting.

Troubleshooting Sync Issues

While it would be nice if there was just one fix for every type of sync issue, that just isn’t the case. In fact, you may need to go through multiple troubleshooting steps before your particular issue is fixed. Ideally, start with the simplest solutions before moving on to the more complex.

After every solution, test OneDrive to see if the problem is solved. Also, OneDrive won’t delete any files that are already synced to the app. However, if you have files on your device that you haven’t synced yet, don’t remove them from your device until you’ve resolved your OneDrive sync issues.

All methods described in this section can be applied to OneDrive on both Windows 10 and Windows 11.

1. Check for Error Codes

While this doesn’t always solve the problem, OneDrive will often give you an error code or icon. When it comes to sync issues, you may see one of the following:

This will all appear in your notification area of your applicable device. Microsoft provides general guidelines for each error icon, but you may still need to go through other troubleshooting steps.

There are also actual codes and messages. All of them don’t apply to OneDrive sync issues, but they’re a great start to figuring out what’s going on if you have trouble with OneDrive.

Sadly, you won’t always get any type of error icon, code, or message, so you’ll have to troubleshoot using more general solutions.

2. Verify Your Storage

It may seem obvious, but often the cause of sync issues is as simple as you’ve run out of space or you’re extremely close to your storage limit. By default, OneDrive users only get 5GB of storage space for free.

  1. To check the amount of storage you have left, right-click the OneDrive cloud icon in your notification tray and select Settings.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Settings 2
  1. Under the Account tab, you’ll see your storage limit and current usage.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Settings Storage 2
  1. Click “Get more storage” to get more storage space.
  2. If you’re using the desktop app, check your current storage limit and available space by clicking the menu at the top right of the app and choosing Settings.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Settings
  1. You’ll then see your storage details just below “About OneDrive”.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Settings Storage
  1. If you need more storage, click the “Get more storage” link to purchase more.

3. Close and Reopen

It’s one of the simplest solutions, but it often works. Sometimes, temporary sync issues are caused by a glitch with OneDrive loading, a network connection problem, or just a file that froze while syncing.

  1. Right-click your OneDrive icon and select “Close OneDrive”. You won’t have to re-sync any files for this, so it’s a quick and easy solution.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Close
  1. You can also just try restarting your PC.

4. Ensure Your Account is Linked

If you’ve installed OneDrive on a new device or updated your PC, the problem might be with your linked account or device. In this case, you just need to re-link your OneDrive account with your device.

  1. First, right-click your OneDrive icon and select Settings.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Setting Menu
  1. Under the Account tab, select “Unlink this PC”. This allows you to reset the connection. You’ll need to log back into your OneDrive account by opening OneDrive on your PC.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Unlink
  1. If you don’t see “Unlink this PC”, it means you don’t have an account linked to the device. Select “Add an account” to add an account and link OneDrive with your PC.

5. Update Windows and OneDrive

Ironically, updating Windows or OneDrive can also lead to sync issues. So, if you’ve recently installed a Windows update or a new version of OneDrive, this could be the problem. However, in most cases, the opposite is true. OneDrive sync issues happen because you need to install the latest Windows updates and/or the latest version of OneDrive.

  1. Windows updates should happen automatically for most users, but if you’ve paused them or turned them off, go to “Start-> Settings-> Windows Update”.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Windows Update
  1. Select “Check for updates”.
  2. OneDrive usually updates to the current stable version automatically, but sometimes it doesn’t. You can easily check by right-clicking the OneDrive icon in your notification tray and choosing Settings.
  3. Select the About tab. Click the current version number link.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues About
  1. This takes you to Microsoft’s site. Verify that the current version available for download is the same as what you have. If it’s not, then click the download link to download and install the latest version.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Verify

6. Move a File or Folder

If syncing seems to freeze and won’t proceed. The connection might have been lost or a file is simply stuck. The easiest solution is to pick any file or folder and move it out of your OneDrive sync folder.

  1. Start by right-clicking the OneDrive icon and selecting “Pause syncing”. Select “2 hours” from the drop-down box.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Pause Sync
  1. Once paused, move any file of your choice out of your sync folder. You can place it on your desktop or anywhere else you want. Just make sure it’s not part of any OneDrive sync folders.
  2. Right-click your OneDrive icon again and select “Resume syncing”. This usually resets the connection and lets your files sync easily. Once the process is finished, add your file back to your OneDrive folder.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Resume Syncing

7. Ensure Files Meet OneDrive Requirements

You can sync most files and folders with OneDrive, but there are some restrictions. There are several main problems that may cause sync issues, such as:

  • Trying to sync files larger than 20GB, though this limit has increased to 250GB with the March 2021 update
  • File names can’t contain illegal characters/symbols, such as “?”, “*”, “<“, or “>”
  • File paths contain too many characters (the limit is 400)
  • You have duplicate file names
  • Trying to sync too many files at once (the limit is 2,500 at a time)

Microsoft recommends only syncing what you actually need to. For instance, you can use OneDrive to backup files, but if you don’t need to sync them, just upload them without syncing with your PC.

8. Verify Account Access

Your OneDrive sync issues might be tied to an account access issue. This can happen if you’ve recently changed your password or the connection might have been broken after an update.

  1. Right-click your OneDrive icon in your notification try and select “View Online”. If this option isn’t available, you aren’t signed into OneDrive and should see an option to sign in. Another problem may be that your Internet connection is down.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues View Online
  1. If you do have the “View Online” option, click it to ensure you’re able to access your files without problem in OneDrive online. This means the issue isn’t with the OneDrive service itself.
  2. You can also use the Microsoft Service Health site to verify that OneDrive is functioning correctly online. If there’s an issue, there’s nothing you can do until Microsoft fixes the problem.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Microsoft Service Health

9. Prevent Network Bandwidth Restrictions

To prevent using too much bandwidth, OneDrive might set network bandwidth restrictions. This is most common on slower or limited connections.

You can easily change this restriction, which can prevent sync issues like freezing, cutting off, slow syncing, and inability to sync at all.

  1. Right-click the OneDrive icon in your notification tray and select Settings.
  2. Then open the Network tab.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Network
  1. For best results, select “Don’t limit” under both categories. If you’re syncing a large number of files, you may notice your connection slow down as OneDrive prioritizes itself over other online activities.

10. Temporarily Turn Off Antivirus and Firewalls

Occasionally, your antivirus or firewall might conflict with OneDrive. This is especially true if you haven’t used it in a while or you’re suddenly syncing or downloading a large number of files.

If you’re having OneDrive sync issues, try temporarily turning off both your antivirus and firewall. While they’re off, don’t do anything else online until the syncing process is finished. Turn them back on once your sync issues have resolved.

11. Whitelist OneDrive

Despite OneDrive being a Microsoft product, the Windows Firewall and Windows Security (formerly known as Windows Defender) might try to block the connection. Even if you’ve used OneDrive for years, a recent security update to Windows Security may cause the antivirus solution to see OneDrive as a threat. This is also true for any other antivirus or firewall you may be using.

  1. For “Windows Security and Firewall”, go to Start and type “Windows Security”.
  2. Select “Firewall & network protection”.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Windows Security
  1. Click on “Allow an app through firewall”.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Firewall
  1. Press on “Change Settings” and scroll until you see OneDrive.
Troubleshooting One Drive Sync Issues Allow
  1. If you don’t see it, select “Allow another app,” located under the app list and highlighted above and browse to OneDrive’s location. You can do this for both the OneDrive desktop app and OneDrive service.
  1. Check both the Private and Public checkboxes beside OneDrive and select OK to save your changes.

For other firewalls and antivirus apps, you’ll usually find an option to whitelist apps within the settings.

12. Repair OneDrive

If you’re having sync issues and OneDrive isn’t responding or the app just isn’t working correctly, you can try to repair it. This is only available on the desktop app from the Microsoft Store.

  1. Go to Start and type OneDrive.
  2. Select “App Settings” under OneDrive.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Repair
  1. Scroll down until you see the Reset section.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Repair Repair
  1. Choose Repair. This option allows Windows to attempt to fix the app without erasing any settings. If you select Reset, you’ll need to log back in and adjust any settings on your device. Either way, your files won’t be deleted.

13. Reset OneDrive

If repairing doesn’t work, try resetting OneDrive.

  1. Press Win + R to bring the Command prompt window up.
  2. Enter the following:
  1. If that doesn’t work, try the following, but replace “C” with your appropriate drive letter:
  1. You’ll need to re-launch OneDrive from the Start menu and let it re-sync your files.
  2. Alternatively, open the OneDrive app and select Settings from the three-dot menu at the top right.
  3. Then, select “Reset now” under “Reset the app”.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Reset
  1. This removes all the app’s settings and data, but doesn’t affect your files. Once you restart OneDrive, you’ll need to log back in and wait for OneDrive to re-sync.

14. Uninstall OneDrive

If the sync issues are with the app itself, repairing and resetting might not be quite enough. You may need to uninstall and reinstall OneDrive. You won’t lose any of your files and the app will need to re-sync once you reinstall it. You may also need to download the installation file from Microsoft or the Microsoft Store.

  1. Go to Start and type OneDrive.
  2. Select Uninstall.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Uninstall
  1. Restart your PC once the process finishes so you’re starting with a clean slate. Sometimes OneDrive sync issues happen after updating the app, which means starting over is the best option.

How to Stop OneDrive Syncing Permanently

If you’re constantly having sync issues with OneDrive or your issue is that you don’t want OneDrive to sync your files, you can stop OneDrive syncing permanently. There are several options, depending on whether you want to still use OneDrive or if you’d prefer to use something else.

Remove Source Files

Remove any files or folders from OneDrive that you don’t want to sync anymore. Without the source file, OneDrive has nothing left to sync.

  1. Open OneDrive in “File Explorer”.
  2. Remove the source files/folders out of the OneDrive main folder to another location on your PC.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Onedrive Folder

Turn Off Automatic Backup

Depending on your sync folders, you might be able to stop OneDrive syncing by turning off backup features.

  1. Right-click your OneDrive icon and select Settings.
  2. Go to the Backup tab. Depending on your version of OneDrive, this may also be called “Auto Save” instead of Backup.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Backup
  1. If your Documents, Desktop, and Pictures folders are automatically being backed up, select “Manage backup” to change the settings and disable automatic backups. Also, uncheck all boxes to avoid automatically saving and syncing photos, videos, and screenshots.

Uninstall OneDrive

If you’ve decided OneDrive isn’t right for you, uninstall it. This won’t remove any files from your PC’s local hard drive or in the cloud. However, if you have files stored on OneDrive that aren’t on your PC, you won’t be able to access them unless you login to your OneDrive account on the web.

  1. Go to Start and type OneDrive.
  2. Select Uninstall under the OneDrive result.
Troubleshooting Onedrive Sync Issues Remove Onedrive

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Where is my OneDrive icon?

If you’re using the OneDrive app from the Microsoft Store, you won’t see an icon. If you’re using the OneDrive app downloaded from Microsoft.com or as part of Microsoft Office, you should see an icon in your notification tray. However, it does disappear sometimes.

To fix the problem, start with our guide to restoring a missing icon. This should restore it. Also, you can access OneDrive’s settings by right-clicking the OneDrive folder in File Explorer. Select “OneDrive-> Settings”.

2. Why does re-syncing take so long?

OneDrive has to re-establish a connection with every file and folder you choose to sync. This means the more files and folders you have, the longer the process will take. Depending on how much needs to sync, the process can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours or more. This is especially true when you’re trying to sync or even upload over 100,000 files at once.

3. What if I’m having OneDrive sync issues on another device besides a Windows PC?

You can use most of the same troubleshooting steps. Common ways to resolve most sync issues on all devices include:

  • Restarting the device
  • Restarting OneDrive
  • Verifying your connection is working
  • Moving a file out of a frozen or stopped OneDrive sync folder and resuming the sync
  • Uninstalling and reinstalling OneDrive
  • Updating OneDrive

4. Can OneDrive sync issues be caused by a virus?

Yes. A virus can affect all areas of your PC. It’s a good idea to scan your PC just to be safe. However, sync issues don’t mean you do have a virus or any security problems. You should remember to use a strong password for your OneDrive account to prevent unauthorized access. You can also encrypt your files to add an extra layer of security.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Erlando F Rasatro

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