Understanding offline files


If you've ever needed to access important files stored in a shared folder on your network but couldn't because your laptop was disconnected from the network, then you can understand the need for offline files. With offline files, you can access copies of your network files even when your computer isn't connected to the network.

Working with offline files is easy. You just choose the files (or folders) on your network that you want to make available offline. Windows automatically creates a copy of each file on your computer. These copies are called offline files. You can work with these files even when you're not connected to the network, and the next time you connect, Windows will automatically sync your offline files with the original files in the network folder.

For detailed instructions on how to use offline files, see Working with network files when you are offline.

Illustration showing a laptop accessing a network file when it's connected to the network
You can access network files when you're connected to the network where the files are stored.
Illustration showing a laptop accessing a local copy of a network file when it's not connected to the network
You can access local copies of network files when you're not connected to the network.

Reasons to use offline files

Offline files offer several advantages if you work with files stored in shared network folders. By working with offline files, you can:

  • Remain unaffected by network outages. When you use offline files, it doesn't matter if your network goes down or the network folder you are accessing becomes unavailable. If either occurs, Windows automatically opens offline copies of files stored on your computer instead of the files on the network folder, and you can continue working without interruption.

  • Work with files while you are away from the network. When you're disconnected from the network, you normally can't open any files stored on the network. With offline files, you can disconnect from the network and still have copies of all the network files you've made available offline. This is particularly useful if you travel with a laptop.

  • Easily sync with network files. Anytime you want to sync with the latest version of files in a network folder, you can do so with the click of a button.

  • Boost your efficiency when working over a slow connection. When you are connected to a network with a slow connection, working with files in a shared network folder can be inefficient and slow. To speed things up, you can easily switch to working with offline copies of your network files at any time.

Keeping your offline files in sync

When you select a network file or folder to make available offline, Windows automatically creates a copy of that file or folder on your computer. Anytime you reconnect to that network folder, Windows syncs the files with those in the network folder. You can also sync them manually at any time.

That's all you really need to know to keep your offline files in sync. However, for the curious, here are some additional details:

  • If you are working offline and make changes to offline files from a network folder, Windows automatically syncs any changes you made to the files the next time you connect to that network folder.

  • If you are working offline while someone else changes a file in a shared network folder, Windows syncs those changes with the offline file on your computer the next time you connect to that network folder. If you have also changed the file since you last connected to the network folder, a sync conflict will occur and Windows will ask you which version you want to keep.

    Depending on the size of your hard disk, you might need to manage the amount of space your offline files use. For more information, see Manage disk space for offline files.



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