In Microsoft’s own words, Windows 8 is ‘cloud-connected’. When you sign in to your Windows 8 device with your Microsoft account, you’re immediately connected to your settings (be it your Start screen, themes, language preferences, browsing history or favourites), your contacts, services that you’ve linked your Microsoft account to, as well as your photos, documents, and other files that you’ve stored in the cloud. One thing that plays a huge role in enabling this idea of ‘Windows everywhere’ is Microsoft’s very own SkyDrive. And in Windows 8.1, it’ll be even more tightly integrated with the OS.
Of course, SkyDrive on Windows 8.1 is just one of the many pieces of this ‘access anywhere’ puzzle. Since many of us now work and play with more than one device, for this lofty ambition to succeed, it’s paramount that Microsoft gets SkyDrive onto as many platforms as possible. And this is exactly what Microsoft is doing. Besides Windows 8.1, Windows Phone also comes with SkyDrive built in. Not using Windows Phone? There are SkyDrive apps for both Android and iOS, so it’s easy for you to view, share, and upload your files from these mobile devices. If you don’t want to use an app, you can also access SkyDrive by going to SkyDrive.com in a Web browser.
When Microsoft says SkyDrive is ‘deeply integrated’ into Windows 8.1, they mean it. For one, you now get to configure it when you’re setting up the OS. As you can see from the screenshots below, after signing into your Microsoft account during Windows Setup, you can choose to setup your PC using saved settings from another machine (after an identity verification step), or as a new PC. Next, you can choose if you want to use SkyDrive as your cloud storage. By default, this is turned on, so SkyDrive will automatically backup your camera roll and PC settings; new documents will also be saved by default on SkyDrive. At the bottom of the screen, there’s an option to turn off this syncing. While you can’t choose what gets backed up at this stage, you can when the OS is up and running.
In Windows 8.1’s heavily beefed up PC Settings, you’ll notice a SkyDrive section in place of the old Sync Your Settings section. Here’s where you access your SkyDrive-related settings. For example, under File Storage, you can see how much SkyDrive storage is available, buy more storage (additional 20GB, 50GB, and 100GB yearly plans are available), and enable/disable document saving to SkyDrive.
Under Camera Roll, you can enable/disable automatic photo uploads and choose the upload quality (either good or best). You can also enable/disable automatic video uploads.
Under Sync Settings is where you’ll find the familiar options that you see now in Windows 8’s PC Setting’s Sync Your Settings section. The settings are now better grouped (a must considering there are now more settings to adjust), with categories like Personalization Settings (for Start screen layout, colors, background, lock screen, themes, taskbar, etc.), App Settings (for app list and app data), and Other Settings (for browser settings, history, favorites, passwords, language preferences, accessibility settings, etc.).
Right at the bottom of this Sync Settings menu, there’s an option to enable/disable backing up of the in-use PC’s settings. At first glance, this setting sounds confusing. What’s the difference between this ‘Back up your settings for this PC’ and the ‘Sync your settings on this PC’ setting at the very top? In short, the former lets you back up settings (even those that aren’t synced to SkyDrive), so that you can easily restore them back to the PC in the future, while the latter is to enable you to sync your settings across devices.
Lastly, you’ve the Metered Connections section, which governs how SkyDrive and syncing/backup use metered connections.