OneDrive, TwoDrive, ThreeDrive

John White

by John P White on 12/2/2015

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Date Revised:

Applies to:
OD4B, OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, OneDrive sync, SharePoint

I'm calling it ThreeDrive now.

The much ballyhooed "Next Generation Sync Client for OneDrive for Business” rolled out with the Windows 10 November update. You'd be excused for not noticing, because it looks pretty much the same as the old OneDrive consumer client. In fact, it IS the new OneDrive consumer client, but it supports OneDrive for Business too. It's not obvious that it supports OneDrive for Business because as of this writing, it requires a registry key entry. If you sign up for the OneDrive for Business preview, you'll get the new sync client and the instructions, but for convenience, the key is:

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\OneDrive] - "EnableAddAccounts"=dword:00000001

Presumably, at some point that registry key will be switched on for everyone by an update. Once it has been added, when you open the OneDrive settings, you will now see an option to add a business account.

After you enable the registry key, you can add a OneDrive for Business Account to the OneDrive (personal) sync

Once added, your Office 365 OneDrive will be synchronized using the same (more robust) engine as the consumer client, you'll be able to do selective sync of folders, etc. Once you add your business account, you'll see two sync "clouds" in your system tray, one blue, and one white. White is your consumer OneDrive, and blue is your OneDrive for Business.

OneDrive icons are distinguishable by color

I'm pretty sure that this brings us to TwoDrive. You'll also get (at least) two entries in your Windows File explorer, one for Personal, and one for your corporate OneDrive. If you connect to multiple Office 365 accounts, you'll get multiple blue cloud icons, and multiple explorer entries.

In File Explorer, labels for the icons let you distinguish between OneDrive Personal and OneDrive for Business

I don't know why the consumer client icon is blue, but it is what it is. To me, white would help with understanding. We do, however, have a single sync client! Well, not so fast. If I need to sync SharePoint libraries from either on-prem or Office 365, I will still need the older OneDrive for Business sync client, with all of the same limitations. This is also true for the OneDrives contained in an Office 365 group.

Once that's installed, by syncing a library, you'll get another blue cloud icon that is indistinguishable from the icons created by the new sync client, and you'll get an entry in File Explorer for SharePoint.

Icons in the system tray may help you visually tell the difference between OneDrive (consumer), OneDrive for Business and SharePoint  In File Explorer, a SharePoint icon added with the OneDrive icons

Everything should be working at this point. However, although I have gotten my head around this, I find it pretty confusing, and I work in this environment for a living. I know that I'm not alone. I recently spent about an hour with my friend and fellow MVP, Marc Anderson, helping him get his head around it, so it's certainly not simple.

I am quite happy to see the new sync client and the harmonization that it brings. I also know that the need for the old OneDrive for Business sync client will go away as the new client gains the ability to sync with SharePoint libraries and Group-based OneDrives. I personally use cloud-based storage solutions from a number of vendors, and they all have strengths and weaknesses. OneDrive is still the best deal out there, and it's also the best solution for corporate sharing. I am, however, concerned about the complexity. I can imagine the following future conversation with a customer.

Me: You should really look at OneDrive for Business for offline access to your content.

Customer: Oh, I have OneDrive already. Didn't Microsoft just limit its storage capacity?

M: No – they had only turned on unlimited storage for a small test group. They just decided not to move forward with it as earlier announced. Besides, that's only for the consumer OneDrive, not OneDrive for Business.

C: So they're not the same thing?

M: No – OneDrive is a consumer product, and you log into it with a Microsoft account. OneDrive for Business is a business product, and you get it with an Office 365 business account. You need a corporate account to use it. It gives each person that uses it 1 TB of storage.

C: So if it's they're different things, why are they both called OneDrive?

M: I know. Never mind.

C: OK, so how do I get them both working?

M: Well, you have the November update for Windows 10, right? All that you need to do is to go into your OneDrive settings, and add your business account.

C: Oh, so they use the same sync client?

M: Yes. That's fairly new. There used to be an exclusive OneDrive for Business client, but you don't need it now.

C: OK. (adds the business account) So how do I work with it?

M: You see those two cloud icons in your tray? The white one is your consumer account, and the blue one is your business account.

C: I thought that it was one sync client. Why are there two icons?

M: That's so you can see the two different repositories. They are both driven by the same sync engine. It makes sense.

C: OK, cool. And how do I access my files?

M: Just open up File Explorer. The one that says OneDrive – Personal is your consumer account. The one that says OneDrive – your company name is your business OneDrive.

C: So the business one is my personal OneDrive in Office 365?

M: Yes. I know… the term "Personal" is a bit confusing, but it is what it is.

C: That's fine. Why is personal cloud icon blue in File Explorer but not in the tray?

M: I have no idea.

C: OK – so how do I sync my Office 365 Group OneDrives?

M: Oh. Remember when I mentioned the old sync client? You'll need that to sync those. The new client doesn't support them yet, but it will.

C: I thought the old one doesn't work very well?

M: It's not as good, but it'll do for this purpose.

C: OK, how do I install that?

M: You have Office installed, so you already have it. Just open up the OneDrive in your browser, and click on the sync icon.

C: OK (does it). So how do I know it's working?

M: Open up your tray. See that you have another blue cloud icon? That's the older sync client.

C: How do I tell the difference between this and the other one?

M: Just hover over the icon. The one that's just called OneDrive for Business is the older engine. The one that contains your company name is the new one.

C: Am I going to get another icon for every OneDrive that I sync?

M: No – in this case, they all use the same icon. If you hover over and select open the folder, you'll see what's syncing.

C: OK. So where do I find my files?

M: Open up File Explorer. Under your two OneDrives, you'll see a new entry for SharePoint. Click on that, and you'll see your content.

C: What's SharePoint?

M: *sigh*

I really quite like OneDrive, and what it can do. It's even more valuable to me when the people that I interact with use it too, and after walking through this explanation over the past few days, I can see a few barriers to entry. I'd love to see this whole thing simplified.


You can find John’s original blog here:

Topic: OneDrive for Business

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