Easy Guide to Set Up OneDrive Incremental Sync

How to use OneDrive Incremental Sync? Read this article to learn the meaning of OneDrive Incremetal Sync and the steps, to answer common questions about it for you, and to learn how to expand your OneDrive space for free.


by Zoey Lasted Updated April 24, 2024

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What is OneDrive Incremental Sync?

OneDrive is Microsoft's cloud storage service that works like a traditional external drive but differs in that it can provide additional features via the Internet, and incremental sync is one of those features. The initial OneDrive Incremental Sync feature didn't support all types of files until after an update in late 2019 when it started supporting all types of files, which means you can now incrementally sync all types of files.

The difference between Sync and Incremental Sync is that when a file backup is completed with OneDrive, the Sync feature allows the entire file to be uploaded again, while Incremental Sync uploads the changed portion to the corresponding file in OneDrive, allowing you to sync files faster and using less data, which saves you time and bandwidth to a great extent.


OneDrive Incremental Sync is perfect for larger files. Because when the size of files is large, OneDrive syncs take longer and use more data, using OneDrive Incremental Sync means you don't have to upload the entire file, even if you only change one character, you can achieve differential syncing, which will drastically reduce the time and bandwidth required for syncing, which improves your productivity.

How to Set Up OneDrive Sync

OneDrive offers desktop applications for Windows PCs and Macs that help users automatically sync files to the cloud. In addition, OneDrive integrates perfectly with other Microsoft products, such as Office 365 and Windows 10. However, how does OneDrive sync work? We should first download and install the OneDrive application, and depending on the device type, there are two ways.

For Windows users: You can download the OneDrive desktop application from the Microsoft website; if you are using Windows 10, then OneDrive is already pre-installed on your computer and you can open the application directly.

For iPad/iPhone/Android users: You will need to go to the App Store and download the appropriate mobile version of OneDrive first.

Next, we will take Windows 10 as an example, and introduce the setup method of OneDrive sync in detail for you.

1. Click the Start button, find and open the OneDrive application in the menu bar.

Search Onedrive

2. Enter your Microsoft account and click the "Sign in" button (to use OneDrive you must have a Microsoft account).

Set Up


3. Next you can choose the sync location for OneDrive and click on the Next button. If you want to specify a different path for the folder, click on the "Change location" option.

Folder Location

4. Now you can select the files or folders you want to sync, click "Next", and finally open the OneDrive folder.

Choose Sync Folder

Note: After confirming that OneDrive is successfully installed, you can find it in Explorer, and if you want to sync your files, just drag and drop them into the OneDrive folder.

How to Set Up OneDrive Incremental Sync

OneDrive Incremental Sync is also called OneDrive Differential Sync. To set up OneDrive Incremental Sync, you have to add files to the OneDrive folder in these ways:

Drag files to the OneDrive folder (dragging files may have an impact on other applications, so if you are not sure of the consequences, it is recommended to copy the files to do so).

Copy the files to the OneDrive folder.

Add Folder

When a file is already in the OneDrive folder, a blue or blue cloud icon appears to indicate that it is syncing, and a green icon indicates that the file has been automatically synced to the OneDrive cloud.

When we set up OneDrive Incremental Sync, OneDrive will only sync the changed contents of the file instead of uploading the entire file again, so we can change the data in the OneDrive folder directly and it will automatically sync incrementally to the cloud even after saving.

Note: Currently OneDrive incremental backup is not supported, the file will be synced to the cloud directly when it is modified.

How to Tell If OneDrive Sync Is Done

As you can also see from the above, OneDrive icons can visually reflect the completion of OneDrive Incremental Sync, so we need to learn to identify these OneDrive icons.

Red Circular Icon

A red circular icon with a white cross: It indicates that you cannot sync files or folders, and this icon is displayed in File Explorer or on the OneDrive notification area icon.

Grey Cloud IconA gray cloud icon with gray double vertical lines: It indicates that the file sync is currently paused and the file has not finished syncing.

Grey Cloud With ArrorwThe gray cloud icon with a circular arrow: It indicates sync is in progress, including uploading files and OneDrive syncing new files from the cloud to your computer.

White CloudThe white cloud icon with a blue border: It indicates that the file is only available when you are connected to the Internet and does not use local storage. You need to double-click the file to complete the download and open it using the application.

White Icon With Green BorderThe white icon with green borders and checkmark icon: The files are available offline, you can open them without an Internet connection, and they take up local storage space.

Green Icon

The green icon with a white checkmark icon: You will see this status icon when you use the "Always keep on this device" option to ensure that important files are available offline.

OneDrive Incremental Sync FAQs

OneDrive Incremental Sync is not complicated, but some users will definitely encounter various unexpected situations during the operation and need to get solutions. For this reason, we will answer common questions about OneDrive Incremental Sync to ensure that all of you can use OneDrive Incremental Sync smoothly.

#1. Can OneDrive Incremental Sync Perform Automatically?

Sure, OneDrive can automatically sync files incrementally. All you need to do is open OneDrive Settings > switch to the General tab > tick the "Start OneDrive automatically when I sign in to Windows" checkbox and OneDrive will start when you log in to Windows.

Turn On Self Start

Synchronization will start automatically when there are folders and files that have not yet been synchronized. Incremental sync will start automatically when you make edits to synchronized files.

#2. What Is OneDrive Sync Pending Stuck?

OneDrive sync pending stuck means that a folder or file is waiting to be synchronized, usually due to a large number of folders and files waiting to be synchronized. However, it is important to note that sometimes files may get stuck and never sync. If this case happens, you may want to consider the following solution to resolve the OneDrive sync pending stuck issue:

Stop the synchronization. Try saving the file with a new name (using alphanumeric characters only), then restart the sync.

Check if the file has been moved to the Recycle Bin or Personal Vault. If it did, you may need to add it back to its original location.

Try not to sync too many folders and files at once. If you have started syncing a large number of files and folders, then you need to move certain folders and files out of OneDrive by pausing the sync and resuming the sync again to fix the problem.

Contact Microsoft support. If you really can't solve the problem, then contacting Microsoft directly for technical support would be the best solution.

#3. Why Does OneDrive Incremental Sync Take A Long Time?

Normally, OneDrive Incremental Sync or Sync does not take too long, but if your OneDrive Incremental Sync is taking too long, it could be due to 4 reasons:

Your network bandwidth is insufficient.

Multiple large files are being synchronized.

OneDrive is limiting your upload or download rate

Multiple files and folders are being synced incrementally at the same time.

If there is no limit set, OneDrive Incremental Sync or Sync will run as fast as the available width allows, but they will still need to compete with other network traffic.

Thus, you need to change it in the OneDrive settings: Open OneDrive Settings > switch to the "Network" tab > set both upload speed and download speed to "Don't limit".

Unlimited Download And Upload Speed

Note: To ensure faster sync of large files or folders, it is recommended to add files to the OneDrive desktop application rather than syncing through the OneDrive website.

#4. How to Pause OneDrive Incremental Sync

If you have too much content to sync incrementally, you can pause the sync to relieve the pressure and avoid the OneDrive sync pending stuck issue.

To use the "Pause Sync" feature, please right-click the OneDrive cloud icon in the Windows notification area, select "Pause Syncing" in the pop-up menu, and select the following 3 available times according to your needs: 2 hours, 8 hours, and 24 hours. 8 hours and 24 hours.

Pause Onedrive Incremental Sync

When your preset time expires, the sync will resume on its own. If you want to resume syncing in advance, then you can click "Resume Sync" in the OneDrive desktop client.

Resume Synchronization

#5. How to Expand OneDrive Space for Free

OneDrive will provide each user with 5GB of cloud storage for free, but it must be not enough in the long run. For this reason, you can choose to upgrade your account to get more cloud storage space, but this will cost extra, and for most users, it's not cost-effective.

If you want more space but don't want to pay extra, CBackup is the best choice for you. CBackup is a free and professional backup software for Windows 11/10/8/7/XP and many other system versions. The Combine Cloud feature in CBackup can help you expand your OneDrive cloud storage space for free.

CBackup supports popular cloud drives in the market, such as OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox. You can add as many accounts of these cloud drives as you can to combine to form a huge backup space without paying any extra fees. Next, here are the steps to extend the OneDrive cloud storage space for free:

1. Download and install the CBackup desktop application, create a free CBackup account and log in.

2. Switch to the "Storage" tab in the left sidebar, select OneDrive and click "Authorize Now", then follow the step-by-step instructions to grant CBackup access to OneDrive.

Add Cloud

3. After adding multiple OneDrive clouds, you can see all your OneDrive accounts. Click on the "+ Add Combined Cloud" option.

Add Combined Cloud1

4. Tick all the OneDrive accounts that need to be merged, then click "Next" and follow the prompts to complete the operation of the combined cloud.

Combine Cloud Onedrive

5. Next, you will have a new "Combined Cloud" in your cloud list, which you can use as a backup destination when creating backup tasks.

Select Combined Cloud

In addition, CBackup can also provide you with professional cloud storage services:

Providing free 10GB CBackup Cloud disk space.

Support mainstream cloud drives: including Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive, etc.

Backing up files to Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, CBackup Cloud and Combined Cloud.

Enables cloud to cloud backup and sync and provides useful features: scheduled backup, file filtering, email notifications.

Written in the End

OneDrive Incremental Sync will only sync those newly changed content, which means it will largely reduce the time and bandwidth requiring, and is well suited for syncing large files. However, because the OneDrive free storage space is small, it is easy to give users anxiety about the lack of space during use, so it is recommended to use CBackup to expand OneDrive space for free.

CBackup is a free and stable cloud backup software for multiple Windows system versions, with a Combine Cloud feature that helps you expand your OneDrive space for free. In addition, CBackup can also provide you with cloud to cloud backup and sync to further improve your data security.

Zoey · Editor
Zoey works as an English editor of CBackup. She provides tech information about cloud backup, cloud sync and some other cloud services as well. She hopes that her articles will be greatly helpful for users. She is fond of music, film, and photography.

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