05/03/2012 16:11 | By Matt Farrington-Smith, editor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

Windows 8 and SkyDrive

With Windows 8 you'll be able to turn your entire PC into your own private cloud, sync your settings and share files right from your desktop.

The excellent "Building Windows 8" blog (curated by Steven Sinofsky, Predident of Windows Division) has gone into quite some detail about the blossoming relationship between Windows 8 and Microsoft's cloud storage solution - SkyDrive.

SkyDrive on Windows 8. Image Microsoft

What is SkyDrive?

In case you need a primer, SkyDrive is a service from Microsoft that grants you an indeterminable amount of free online storage. Traditionally this has required logging into the SkyDrive homepage to upload documents, photos, files etc. Windows Phone users could choose to upload newly-taken pictures to the cloud as well as OneNote documents. More recently an app was released for both Windows Phone and iPhone users that allowed greater control over files.

Microsoft Office Apps (free web-based versions of the popular productivity suite) also took advantage of SkyDrive's online document storage capabilities. Read our guide to SkyDrive

Bringing SkyDrive to the masses

In a recent blog post SkyDrive Group Program Managers Mike Torres and Omar Shahine broke the silence on Microsoft's plans to bring personal cloud storage to the masses.

"We think what people want in personal cloud storage is a single drive that's available across all of their devices, providing instant, secure, and private access to their files."

It continues: "To bring this to billions of people, our approach is to seamlessly connect the file that people have today on the PC with the app and device experiences that they will use in the future. Rather than using a patchwork of services, people can use one service to connect to their files... No copying files from one cloud to another just to share or collaborate."

So how will this be achieved in Windows 8?

Enter the new SkyDrive app. There will be two flavours of SkyDrive in Windows 8; a touch (Metro style) app and a more traditional desktop app (for the Windows 8 non-touch interface). An early version of this Metro style app is now available in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

The Metro SkyDrive app will be a fast, fluid, touch-first version of SkyDrive that makes it quick, easy, and even fun to browse and access your files. And equally as significant - your SkyDrive will be available for use from any Metro style app via Windows 8's file picker (open/save) and the new Share charm.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview now available
How to install Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Preview of the SkyDrive desktop app. Image Microsoft

A preview of the SkyDrive desktop app as seen in Microsoft's blog post.

On the SkyDrive desktop app - the blog post continued: "We're happy to announce that we will be releasing a desktop app. The benefits are obvious: easy drag-and-drop upload and download support for SkyDrive, anywhere access to your data, offline access, and the power of Windows Explorer to manage your files and folders. All of these things will be available with SkyDrive on the desktop." The desktop app is not yet available to download.

It will come as no surprise to the Microsoft hardcore to learn that the new app is based on the learnings Microsoft took from their Mesh and FolderShare/Sync technologies.

The cherry on the cake comes via the following nugget: "This app will be available with an installer that's less than 5MB and that takes about 10 seconds to install. You'll only need to install it once per PC, as SkyDrive will always keep itself up-to-date. Once installed, your entire SkyDrive will start syncing into the folder you choose (the default location is in a SkyDrive folder under your user folder: %userprofile%\SkyDrive\) and it will always be up-to-date with your latest changes. As you update files on your PC, they're uploaded immediately to the cloud-and as changes are made in the cloud or on another device, they'll sync back down to the PC."

Has a storage limit been announced?

The blog post states the following: Each SkyDrive account will have an "available quota of storage" and there's an opportunity to unlock more storage.

In terms of large file support, SkyDrive will support individual files up to 2GB through Windows Explorer.

Access your entire PC (aka the "Forget something" feature)

It is worth noting that SkyDrive won't just sync your cloud files to your PC (and devices), you can also turn your entire PC into your own private cloud. Effectively what this means is you can browse, access and stream the files stored on your home/office PC by simply fetching them from SkyDrive.com.

Using this feature means you can "reach across" to your remote PC that is running SkyDrive on the desktop. The SkyDrive team also reveal that they've done "special work to enable remote streaming of video" which is promising news indeed.

Protecting your files on SkyDrive. Image Microsoft

Extra security measures will protect your files.

Protecting your files

Obviously we don't want everybody rooting through our files and folders so an extra level of security has been added to protect abuse (especially when it comes to online SkyDrive-connected PCs). A second form of authentication (via code to your mobile phone or alternate email address) will be required for this form of access.

Sync your settings

It has already been revealed that syncing personal settings across your Windows 8 PCs and devices will be possible. Blog: Signing in to Windows 8 with a Windows Live ID, and you can see this feature in practice by using the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

Sync your settings in Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Image MSN

Sync your settings in Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

Asssociating your Windows Live ID with Windows 8 means your saved settings are available when you sign in to your account on any Windows 8 PC. Your PC will be set up just the way you are used to. This also applies to apps: "the settings and state for your Metro style apps stay in sync between each PC you use... You can pick up on the same page of a book, the same level of a game, or the same place in the movie you were watching as you switch between your Windows 8 PCs."

On top of SkyDrive Metro app and desktop functionality, the following items will be available to sync in Windows 8: personalize, themes, ease of access, language preferences, apps, web browser, some passwords, and other stuff.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview now available
How to install Windows 8 Consumer Preview

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