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Overview of Skydrive
If you've been looking for a free, reputable site to store and share files online, Windows Live SkyDrive is a great choice. To access SkyDrive, all you need is a Windows Live ID, which is easy enough to create if you don't already have one. Once you have an account set up, you can store up to 25 GB of data on SkyDrive with a limit of 50 MB for each data file.
One downside to SkyDrive is that the Windows Live browser-based interface can be a bit annoying if you want to be able to easily access your files on a regular basis. However, you can work around this problem by mapping Skydrive as a network drive and setting up the folder on your desktop so that you can access your files the same way you would for any file stored on your personal hard drive.
There are a few different ways that this can be done, but we'll focus on two of the simpler ways, both of which take advantage of a free utility that can be downloaded and installed on your system to help you manage files stored in SkyDrive. The first method uses a tool developed by Gladinet, and the second uses SkyDrive Explorer.
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Using Gladinet to Map Skydrive
First, we'll walk through the process of using Gladinet to set up SkyDrive as a network drive.
Step 1: To get started, you'll need to download the Gladinet Free Starter Edition that can be found at this link. Click on either the 32-bit or 64-bit download button, depending on which version operating system you are using. (Click on any image in this article for a larger view.)
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The installer will walk you through a series of steps. You should be just fine if you accept the default options for each question asked.
Step 2: At the end of the installation process, you can choose to immediately launch Gladinet Cloud Desktop by making sure there is a check in the appropriate box. If you decide to wait until later to set everything up, you can access the application from the Start menu.
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Continue on to the next page for a second method you can use to access SkyDrive files directly from your desktop.
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An alternative way to access SkyDrive files from your desktop is to download and use SkyDrive Explorer. This free utility may not offer all the advantages of our first option, but it does provide a quick and easy means to organize and access your SkyDrive files.
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Alternative Method - Using SkyDrive Explorer
If you're not a fan of Gladinet or if you'd rather just not have reminders about upgrading to the professional edition, you might want to take another route and use SkyDrive Explorer to access and organize your SkyDrive files. SkyDrive Explorer may not be as robust as Gladinet Cloud Desktop, but it has a very simple setup and should be enough to take care of the needs of most users.
We'll walk through the steps of SkyDrive Explorer's installation process here.
Step 1: First, download SkyDrive Explorer from this link at CNet's Download.com.
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Now, anytime you want to access SkyDrive files, you can return to My Computer and just click on the SkyDrive Explorer link. If you want to make it even easier to access your SkyDrive files, right-click on SkyDrive Explorer and choose Create Shortcut to place a shortcut right on your desktop.
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Which is Better - Gladinet or SkyDrive Explorer?
SkyDrive Explorer may be just a little easier to install, but the Gladinet tool currently offers a lot more functionality. One big difference is that the Gladinet application lets you save documents directly to SkyDrive from within the application you are using. This way, you can work totally online without having to first save the file on your PC and then transfer it to SkyDrive. For that reason, I prefer Gladinet, since it removes a step from the workflow process. However, if you plan to store a copy of the file on your personal hard drive anyway, this benefit may not matter much to you.