Taylor Gibb is a professional software developer with nearly a decade of experience. He served as Microsoft Regional Director in South Africa for two years and has received multiple Microsoft MVP (Most Valued Professional) awards. He currently works in R&D at Derivco International. Read more.
The problem with storing all your files on a file server or networked machine is that when you leave the network, how are you going to access your files? Instead of using a VPN or Dropbox, you can use the Offline Files feature built into Windows.
Note: You should probably not be using this guide to make your 2 terabyte movie collection available offline—while it may work, it is not recommended just because the Offline Files feature isn’t made for storing massive amounts of data offline.
Setting Up Offline Files
If you’re new to networking, be sure to check out our guide to networking Windows 7 with XP or Vista, or the guide on how to share files and printers between Windows 7 and XP.
First you’ll want to connect to the PC that hosts the shared folder. There’s a number of ways to do this, but one easy method is to use the Windows + R key combination to bring up the Run box, and then type two backslashes and the IP address or hostname of the PC you want to connect to. You could also do the same thing in the Windows Explorer location box, of course.
Once you connect to the machine (you may need to input a username and password, depending on how your network is setup), you’ll see the folders that are shared on the other computer. Right-click on the folder and select Map Network drive. On the next screen, you’ll be asked to pick a drive letter and optionally use different credentials.
Note: again, you could map the drive a different way if you want.
Once you’ve mapped a drive and opened it up in Windows Explorer, you can go to any sub-folder of the drive and select “Always available offline” from the context menu.
Once all the files have been processed you will get a message telling you that they will be available offline.
For example, I have made a single folder called “Personal” available offline, which contains a single text file called My Plans, which contains “Text Text Text Text” as seen below.
So now if you disconnect from the network you should still be able to access your document, as seen in the following screenshot:
Note: You will be able to see a list of the other folders, as it has cached a list of the folders, but if you try open a folder that you have not made available offline it will appear to be empty until you connect to the network again.
So now that offline files is set up you can open your files and make changes to them.
Manually Initiating a Sync
While most of the time you would want your syncing to be done automatically, you could always do it manually if you choose, by right-clicking on the folder that contains offline files, selecting Sync –> Sync selected offline files from the context menu. You could alternatively do this on a per-drive basis.
Scheduling Sync Jobs
If you would rather automate things, you can set up the syncing to take place automatically. To do this, type Sync Center into the Start Menu and press enter. When the sync center opens click on the View sync partnerships link on the left hand side, then double-click on the offline files that appear on the right hand side to get a list of what you files are available offline.
Once you have selected the folder that you want to schedule syncing for, the Schedule button will become available on the menu bar. Once you select it, a screen will appear asking which folders you want to create a schedule for, and a wizard will take you through the rest of the process to configure the schedule.
If you edit a file while you are offline and somebody else on your network also edits the same file, you’ll have a conflict that needs to be resolved. Windows will skip syncing those files and mark them as a conflict, but that’s easy to fix.
Type Sync Center into the Start Menu and press enter.
When the Sync Center opens, click on the View sync conflicts link on the left hand side, where you will find a list of all the files that did not sync.
To resolve the conflict, right-click on the file and select View options to resolve from the context menu.
This will give the options to either keep the version that you created while you were away, keep the version on the server that someone else edited while you were away, or keep both versions and rename the one that you created.
Adding Some Security
You can add a layer of security to your offline files by using EFS(Encrypting File System), which is disabled by default and needs to be enabled. Note: This will only encrypt your offline files and not the files on the server.
To enable offline files, type Sync Center into the start menu and press enter. When Sync Center opens click on the Manage offline files link on the left hand side, which will bring up a dialog box. You’ll need to switch to the Encryption tab and then click the Encrypt button.
While the offline files feature isn’t the same thing as Dropbox, it’s definitely a useful feature that’s worth a look if you use networked folders.
The Offline Files feature of Windows 7 allows you to cache copies of files on your computer so you can access them when the computer is off the network. This feature is usually configured by a network administrator in a corporate office environment to synchronise when a user logs in.
For some users offline files are not required at all, for example desktop users who are always connected to the network. For these users Offline Files just slows their computer down, making the log on process slower, particularly when a lot of files have been configured to synchronise. For these users it can be disabled manually.
The following steps detail how to manually disable Offline Files in Windows 7. This will disable Offline Files for the computer, making it disabled for all users which user the computer.
Please note: you will need local administration rights to disable this feature.
- Open the Windows Start menu and then click on ‘Control Panel’
- Using the ‘Search Control Panel’ box at the top right of the window, type Offline Files
- Click on the ‘Manage offline files’ link
- Click on the ‘Disable offline files’ button – if you do not have local administrator rights you will be prompted to enter an administrator password.
- Click ‘OK’ to save the changes.
- You will be prompted to restart the computer. Once the computer is restarted the changes will take affect.
Are you looking for a way to access network files when you’re offline at home or travelling? Windows 7 ships with Offline Files which allows users to designate files or folders in a network as Offline Files. This designation tells Windows 7 to create a copy of the files on your computer so that they can be accessed when you are not on the network. Once you return to the office and log in to the network the files will automatically synchronize so that the server and your laptop has the latest version of the files. The guide below will show you how to enable offline files in Windows 7, the first step to working with online files. If you have any comments or questions please use the comments form at the end of this post.
Software/Hardware used: Windows 7 Ultimate.
How to Enable Offline Files in Windows 7
Note: Offline files is only available in Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise.
1. Click the Orb to open the Start Menu.
2. Enter offline files in the search box.
3. Click Manage offline files under Control Panel in the search results list.
4. When the Offline Files window opens, click Enable offline files.
Note: You may see a User Account Control message, click OK to continue.
5. Click OK to save the changes.
You’re set, we’ll cover using offline files in the next couple of articles.
I have offline files disabled on my network through group policies. I’ve confirmed this by going into the sync center and clicking on ‘Manage Offline Files”. When the window appears the “Enable offline files” button is greyed out, and below that it says “Offline files is currently disabled”.
However if I right click on one of my mapped network drives (H:\), under the general tab it says “Offline” and the file system is listed as “CSC-CACHE”. The pie graph also shows the current capacity and free space of my C:\ drive and not the network drive.
If I right click on any of my other network drives it shows the file system as “NTFS” and the pie graph shows the current free space of the actual network drive.
Even if I try and manually navigate to the network location using windows explorer it still is showing the cached info. I can tell this as some of the files have a grey “x” over their icon and I can’t access them. And also if I make changes to files they save ok, and the new version will open up fine on my Win 7 laptop. But if I look at the file from a different computer it still has a last modified date of a couple of days ago and none of my changes are in there.
Can someone please advise how I can permanently disable offline file caching for this particular network location? I would’ve thought having offline files disabled would’ve prevented this?! Is there a way to post screenshots as it might make this easier to explain?
Applies to: Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2019, Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows (Semi-annual Channel)
This topic describes how to disable Offline Files caching on individual folders that are redirected to network shares by using Folder Redirection. This provides the ability to specify which folders to exclude from caching locally, reducing the Offline Files cache size and time required to synchronize Offline Files.
This topic includes sample Windows PowerShell cmdlets that you can use to automate some of the procedures described. For more information, see Windows PowerShell Basics.
To disable Offline Files caching of specific redirected folders, your environment must meet the following prerequisites.
- An Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) domain, with client computers joined to the domain. There are no forest or domain functional-level requirements or schema requirements.
- Client computers running Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows Server 2019, Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012 or Windows (Semi-annual Channel).
- A computer with Group Policy Management installed.
Disabling Offline Files on individual redirected folders
To disable Offline Files caching of specific redirected folders, use Group Policy to enable the Do not automatically make specific redirected folders available offline policy setting for the appropriate Group Policy Object (GPO). Configuring this policy setting to Disabled or Not Configured makes all redirected folders available offline.
Only domain administrators, enterprise administrators, and members of the Group Policy creator owners group can create GPOs.
To disable Offline Files on specific redirected folders
- Open Group Policy Management.
- To optionally create a new GPO that specifies which users should have redirected folders excluded from being made available offline, right-click the appropriate domain or organizational unit (OU) and then select Create a GPO in this domain, and Link it here.
- In the console tree, right-click the GPO for which you want to configure the Folder Redirection settings and then select Edit. The Group Policy Management Editor appears.
- In the console tree, under User Configuration, expand Policies, expand Administrative Templates, expand System, and expand Folder Redirection.
- Right-click Do not automatically make specific redirected folders available offline and then select Edit. The Do not automatically make specific redirected folders available offline window appears.
- Select Enabled. In the Options pane select the folders that should not be made available offline by selecting the appropriate check boxes. Select OK.
Windows PowerShell equivalent commands
The following Windows PowerShell cmdlet or cmdlets perform the same function as the procedure described in Disabling Offline Files on individual redirected folders. Enter each cmdlet on a single line, even though they may appear word-wrapped across several lines here because of formatting constraints.
This example creates a new GPO named Offline Files Settings in the MyOu organizational unit in the contoso.com domain (the LDAP distinguished name is “ou=MyOU,dc=contoso,dc=com”). It then disables Offline Files for the Videos redirected folder.
See the following table for a listing of registry key names (folder GUIDs) to use for each redirected folder.
On our servers we have a folder called “Monks” inside of it are all of the profiles of our various users. The user in question has a HUGE profile, and so I broke it out into a folder called username.stuff.
That folder has four sub folders: Desktop”, “Local D”, “Music”, and “Pottery”
The data in thse folders are correct and intact. (Lucky Me!)
He cannot access them from his computer. I can go to \\network\Monks\Username.stuff, and can see the folders. They all have an “X” on them and none of them will open. The bottom status line reads “Status Offline (not connected); and “Sync status: Files are in conflict”
I know that the computer is connected to the network, I am controlling it from my office. (LION is not about to plow through the snow banks to get to his office).
I can see the folders and contents from my computer (Right Monitor) but not on his machine (Left Monitor)
I can’t copy them from one computer to the other since the place that I would copy them to is the exact place where they already are. I did not think that they were saved on his computer at all, and I do not see them anywhere on his C drive.
James Walker | February 24, 2021 July 5, 2019 | How-To
To sync a network share for offline use:
- Right-click the share in File Explorer and choose “Always available offline.”
- Launch Sync Center from the Start menu to manage your offline files.
Network drives are often used to share common files across organisations, particularly where migration to cloud-based infrastructure such as OneDrive has not yet occurred. One of OneDrive’s big advantages is its seamless offline syncing support, which lets you keep using your files without an Internet connection.
It’s possible to replicate this functionality using a traditional on-premises network drive and Windows’ Sync Center component. Although essentially unchanged since the days of Windows 7, Sync Center is still alive and well in Windows 10. We’ll show you how to set it up to keep your network files accessible even when you’re offline.
Creating a sync connection
First, you’ll require a mapped network drive to work with – you can follow our guide if you need to create a new connection. Next, open File Explorer and right-click the drive under “Network locations.” From the menu which appears, click “Always available offline.” You can also choose to sync a set of folders within the share, rather than the entire share itself. In this case, navigate to the folder, right-click it and choose “Always available offline” instead.
Windows will now start to synchronise the contents of the network share or folder. This may take some time, depending on the size of the files within the share. You’ll see the Sync Center icon appear in your system tray to alert you to the current sync status.
Once the sync completes, your files will be ready to use offline. Disconnect from the network and you’ll still be able to browse all your files using the network share. Any edits you make, or new files you create, will be automatically uploaded to the share once you’re back online. Likewise, new files saved to the server while you’re away will download to your device when you return.
Use Sync Center
To manage your synced files, open the Sync Center by either double-clicking the tray icon (green circle with two yellow arrows) or searching for it in the Control Panel. The Sync Center interface lets you see the sync status of all your offline files. You can also take action to resolve conflicts which may occur during the sync process.
Set up a schedule
Sync Center lets you customise when it should sync your files. Click one of the synced shares under “Folders” and then press the “Schedule” button at the top of the screen to open the scheduling wizard.
The first screen of the wizard lets you choose whether to create, edit or delete a schedule. Click “Create a new synchronisation schedule” to continue. You can return to this screen later when you want to adjust your sync schedules.
You’ll now need to choose which shares to include in your schedule. Click Next once you’ve made your selection.
Finally, you’ll be prompted to choose between time or event-based scheduling. Using the time option, you can tell Sync Center to sync on a periodic schedule, such as every 15 minutes or once a day. Events let you force a sync whenever a certain event occurs, such as when you unlock your PC. Select the relevant option and use the next screen to configure the time or event you want to use.
You can now save the schedule to start using it. If you want to combine multiple schedules – for example, to sync files periodically and when you unlock your PC – you can create another schedule using this method and apply them both to the relevant shares.
Manage storage space
Sync Center also gives you control over how much space your offline files use. Click “Manage offline files” in the left sidebar to open a new popup window. Switch to the “Disk usage” tab to see how much space your offline files and temporary files are using.
Click the “Change limits” button to adjust the maximum disk space which offline files can use. Beyond this point, Sync Center will stop pulling down network files to your device, so you won’t be able to use them offline. Temporary files refer to files you edit or create while offline which are cached on your device before they’re saved to the server.
Another option with the Sync Center management dialog is encryption. Click the “Encryption” tab to configure optional encryption for your offline files. This can give you peace-of-mind if your device is lost or stolen, ensuring any sensitive data won’t be accessible without the encryption key. Click “Encrypt” to start the encryption process – you’ll be given a recovery key which you should backup to a secure location.
Sync Center: file sync without the cloud
While Sync Center isn’t often talked about, it remains a useful component of Windows 10 for those businesses and organisations which either can’t or won’t move to cloud storage.
Sync Center offers many of the capabilities of cloud storage clients, including seamless offline file access and the ability to create files on network shares while you’re offline. If you’ve ever been caught out trying to access a company network share while on the go, enable Sync Center to avoid the situation next time you leave the office.
Build 14271 Windows 10.
In the past I have moved the location of off line files using regedit. Although I know that, also in the past MS have said it is not recommended, they should put this in writing to companies like ASUS, where the system partition is locked down and deliberately very small, surrounded by recovery partitions which MS advice is not to touch. Impenetrable logic, really
So how do I edit the registry for Windows 10 to move the offline file cache to a bigger local disc?
Thank you for posting on Microsoft Communities.
I will be glad to help you with the issue you have with the computer. I understand the frustration when things don’t work the way it should.
Please follow the below steps to move offline file cache in Windows 10:
- Create a folder for your offline file cache. Something like D:\Offline .
- From an elevated command prompt type the following: Takeown /r /f C:\Windows\CSC .
- Open the Sync Center and go to Manage Offline Files.
- Click Disable Offline Files and restart the machine.
From an elevated command prompt issue the following commands:
(or whatever your folder name is, but be sure to use the quotes if you have space(s) in the name).
Reopen the Manage Offline Files window and Enable Offline Files.
Hope this information is helpful. Please post in case you have any further issues, we will be glad to help you further.
Some information relates to prereleased products, which may be substantially modified before it’s commercially released. Microsoft makes no warranties, expressed or implied, concerning the information provided here.
Available in the latest Windows 10 Insider Preview Build. This policy setting makes subfolders available offline whenever their parent folder is made available offline.
This setting automatically extends the “make available offline” setting to all new and existing subfolders of a folder. Users do not have the option of excluding subfolders.
If you enable this setting, when you make a folder available offline, all folders within that folder are also made available offline. Also, new folders that you create within a folder that is available offline are made available offline when the parent folder is synchronized.
If you disable this setting or do not configure it, the system asks users whether they want subfolders to be made available offline when they make a parent folder available offline.
This is an ADMX-backed policy and requires a special SyncML format to enable or disable. For details, see Understanding ADMX-backed policies.
You must specify the data type in the SyncML as