C:\ONGRTLNS.W95, OneDrive

I’ve been using BitTorrent Sync for a while, because I like the idea of keeping my files on my own computers. But recently, I had some issues with it, when it repeatedly overwrote a file with an older version of itself. Since it doesn’t have a real file version history, I decided to switch back to a hosted file synchronization solution. I really like SpiderOak, which I used previously and always worked well for me. But right now, Microsoft has the best offer by far, and I trust their ability to create stable cloud infrastructure more than I trust most other companies. So I decided to go with them.

In hindsight, not a good idea.

Problem 1: CPU

Ever since I’ve started using OneDrive, my MacBook Pro’s fan has been on at its highest level constantly. The reason is not hard to guess:

OneDrive consistently sits at around 100% CPU usage. AppTamer fixes this problem, but then, I’m not sure what throttling does to OneDrive. I don’t really want to mess with the system I rely on to synchronize files between my computers.

Problem 2: Path Length

OneDrive restricts the path length of its files severely. A lot of files that were syncronized just fine in BitTorrent Sync or Dropbox no longer work in OneDrive. To add insult to injury, every time OneDrive encounters a file whose path is too long, it just shuts itself down and completely erases all of its settings. So for every single file that had a path that was too long, I had to set up OneDrive from scratch, including going through two-factor auth. This, as it turned out, was the case for quite a few files.

Problem 3: File Names

OneDrive has some crazy restrictions on file names. For example, you can’t start files with a space, something a lot of people do to move files to the top of alphabetical lists.

«Hi there, it’s me, 1994! Remember me? Yeah, I’m fine too! Look, I’m just calling to tell you, that… uh… you still have my file name restrictions? Can I have them back please?»

Problem 4: My Microsoft Account

This is probably not OneDrive’s fault, but as it turned out, my screwed up Microsoft account kind of affected OneDrive, too.

I’ve had a single Microsoft account for a long time, starting way back when it was called Microsoft Passport. At some point during that time, something must have gone wrong, because that account is now effectively broken. I first noticed that something was wrong when I was unable to buy games on my Xbox One. It had always worked fine on my 360, but on the Xbox One, the store suddenly stopped accepting my Swiss credit card. Fine, I won’t buy any Xbox One games online. You win, Microsoft.

The problem got worse, though. After playing around with OneDrive for a bit, I noticed that I only had 12 gigs of space. I do have a subscription to Office 365, which should give me a lot more space. So I went to my microsoftstore.com account page. Nope, doesn’t list anything under my Order History: «No orders were found». I tried to contact support. I got as far as the «Enter Your Microsoft Product Information» screen, where Microsoft helpfully informed me that «The product ID number that you entered is not supported in the country that you have selected. Enter another product ID number or select a different support option below.» Obviously, there was no «different support option» below.

Somehow, I managed to get to a European section on microsoftstore.com. Again, I logged in, and this time, it listed Office 365 Personal on my account page. Just for fun, I tried to buy another Office subscription, but this time, the Euro store informed me that I can’t buy an Office subscription, because I’m in the store for the wrong region.

Let’s go through this.

  • Xbox thinks that my Microsoft account is a US account, and won’t allow me to use my Swiss credit card.
  • If I try to convert my Xbox account to a Swiss account, it just gives me a useless error number.
  • By the way, switching the Xbox account region removes all your money from your account. However, I can’t use the money that’s still in the account, because it’s not enough to buy anything, and I can’t add more funds to the account so I can use the money for something more expensive, because see above.
  • microsoftstore.com allows me to log into both the Euro section and the US section, and my purchases only appear in the Euro section — including a subscription to Office 365 I’ve bought previously.
  • But I can’t buy another subscription to Office 365 in the Euro section, because the store now thinks that I’m in the wrong section — despite of the fact that it had worked earlier.
  • Presumably, if I switched to the US section, as instructed, I couldn’t buy anything there, either, because, again, my credit card is Swiss.
  • The OneDrive app on my Mac, meanwhile, does not see my Office subscription, and does not give me the storage space that I should have.

I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I think this qualifies as «Kafkaesque». The only conclusion I can draw from this is that Microsoft is doing everything it possibly can to prevent me from giving them my money.


I’m probably not going to be using OneDrive anymore. I’m probably also not going to be buying anything on my Xbox One anymore. And I’m not sure if I’ll be able to renew my Office subscription. At this point, I’ll probably have to abandon my Microsoft account, create a new one, and hope that it won’t prevent me from doing that because I’m already using my credit card for an existing account.

I assume that OneDrive works better on Windows than on a Mac, but having a Mac client that’s this janky is inexcusable. Restricting what kinds of characters can be in a file name might have been (barely) acceptable in 1994, but shouldn’t be okay in this decade.

File synchronization tools like Dropbox or OneDrive need above all else to be completely reliable; getting file synchronization wrong isn’t just annoying, it’s actively harmful.

I don’t think OneDrive on the Mac is in a state where it is actually functional for the average user. It’s fine for synchronizing a few Office files between an iPad and Mac. If you want to do more than that, it’s probably not for you.


Gabor Lenard points this out. Make of it what you will.

Update 2

I’ve now received an email from Microsoft, noting that «Your Office 365 account now has access to unlimited OneDrive storage.» This change seems to have triggered OneDrive on my Macs to finally recognize that I have an Office subscription; I now have access to more than 12 GB of storage.

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