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How to Back up OneDrive to an External Drive & Transfer Data

Published By Deepa Pandey
Anuraag Singh
Approved By Anuraag Singh
Published On December 29th, 2023
Reading Time 7 Minutes Reading
Category Office 365

Ever since its introduction OneDrive has been one of the favorites in the arena of cloud storage. Despite all of One Drive’s wonderful features, relying solely on the cloud is not a reliable strategy for many. One way to mitigate this issue is knowing how to back up OneDrive to an external drive efficiently and regularly. That’s exactly why we have prepared this write-up. It contains all the different ways in which users can move the OneDrive content onto a local storage. Before discussing the solution let’s first explore the reasons behind this request.

Reasons to Download OneDrive to External Hard Drive Explained

Here is a list of reasons why anyone would want to bring the data present on their OneDrive to an external storage unit.

  • Free up cloud storage
  • Reverting to an On-premise setup
  • Avoid unwanted premium upgrades
  • Ensure offline access to critical data
  • Compliance with data retention policies
  • Get rid of redundant files from the cloud
  • Prioritizing personal storage over the cloud
  • Faster recovery in case of cloud service outages
  • Protect against accidental deletions or corruption
  • Reduce dependency on internet bandwidth for large file transfers
  • Streamline collaboration by sharing files directly from the external drive
  • Maintain versioning control without relying solely on cloud mechanisms
  • Guard against potential security breaches or data breaches in the cloud

Use the Web App Copy Files from OneDrive to USB

Step 1. Fire up a browser 

Step 2. Change the default download setting. 

Refer to the table below and make changes to your browser

Browser Steps
Crome Click 3 verticle dots at top left >> scroll to find settings >> click Downloads on left pane >> click Change >> Browse and select folder 
Safari Go to Settings >> General >> click on “File download location” >> and change the location
Firefox Click on the Hamburger menu at top left >> click settings >> scroll to find  Downloads >> click Browse >> select folder 
Edge Press Alt + F >> click on settings >> click Downloads on left pane >> click Change >> Browse and select folder 


Tip: Most browsers have the option to  “ask for the location after download”. You can also toggle it instead of changing the default location.

Step 3. Login to your OneDrive Account 

Step 4. Select the files you want to download

Step 5. Click on the download option from the toolbar

Note: Multiple files are downloaded in a zip format

Use OneDrive Desktop App as a Data Transfer Intermediary

You might be in one of two camps either you don’t have the app pre-installed on your computer or you have. If you belong to the former then download the app and directly skip to step.  For those who already have the app, there are some changes to be made in the default configuration.

The following steps are valid on a Windows PC.

Step 1. On the taskbar find and click on the OneDrive Icon.
How to Back up OneDrive to an External Drive Step 1

Step 2. In the Dialog box click the gear icon on the top right.
How to Back up OneDrive to an External Drive Step 2

Step 3. From the dropdown menu choose Settings
How to Back up OneDrive to an External Drive Step 3

Step 4. In the new window that opens select the Accounts Tab
How to Back up OneDrive to an External Drive Step 4

Step 5. Then press the “Unlink this PC” button
How to Back up OneDrive to an External Drive Step 5

Step 6. Confirm the operation by hitting the “Unlink account” option
How to Back up OneDrive to an External Drive Step 6

Step 7. It toggles the sign-in page to pop up. Leave it as it is.

Step 8. Go to the original One Drive desktop location it is usually the following 

“C:\Users\admin\OneDrive” and copy all existing items.

Step 9. Open the sign-in portal and log in with your credentials

Step 10. On the next screen press the “Change location” and select the external drive.

Step 11. Afterward, continue to choose the following options on the upcoming screens.

Step 12. Next >> I’ll do it later >> Not now >> Next >> Next >> Open my OneDrive folder.

If Manual Backup Seems Tough we have some alternatives to the download process. However, none of them is a sufficient answer, we have provided the reasons for the same.

Don’t Know How to Transfer Files From OneDrive to Hard Disk Try Out these Alternatives

Alternative 1: Increasing Cloud storage limit

Possible Problem: Purchasing additional cloud storage is not a one-time payment so users have to buy either a monthly or yearly subscription. How much one needs to spend is not predetermined but calculated based on a continuous cycle. As a result, costs can quickly rack up and become out of budget for individuals and small-scale businesses. Moreover, this is not a solution in the sense that it merely delays the storage issue further down the line. 

Alternative 2: Create a new OneDrive Account to transfer ownership or share files 

Possible Problem: This is a rather unorthodox strategy as companies have limits on how many accounts can belong to a single individual. Moreover, users might have heard the news about Google already announcing that it is pulling back the support from inactive accounts. 

This means that they are going to delete inactive accounts (not accessed for 2 years in a row) irrespective of the data present in them. It is done as a cost-saving measure. So it is highly likely that other companies (like Microsoft) follow in their footsteps and do the same.

Alternative 3: Migrating to different cloud storage

Possible Problem: If users want, they can use these smart techniques for OneDrive to Google Drive transfer. However, migration is a permanent change and comes with its own set of issues. Additionally, after getting used to OneDrive a new cloud interface may feel foreign. As none of these alternatives work according to the requirements. We should look into a better way to back to the backup on a hard drive. So let’s see how.

Automated Way to Download OneDrive to External Hard Drive

Regardless of the situation the only tool trusted by IT every admin is the SysTools Office 365 export software. With a legacy of successful clients, professional utility is the best choice present on the market.

Download Now Purchase Now

To put it simply, it’s a blend of user-friendly design and powerful algorithms that ensures swift and accurate backups for all users.

Step 1. Install the software. Upon opening it, select Office 365 as your source and File System as the destination.
enter source and destination

Step 2. Navigate to Workload selection, check the box next to ‘Documents,‘ and apply any desired date filters for precise backups.
workload screen

Step 3. Validate both the Office 365 source and destination folders one after the other.

Step 4. Fetch users directly, Import pre-made CSV file, or Download and modify the template for seamless user mapping.
fetch users

Step 5. Review your selections, adjust priorities if needed, validate once more, and click “Start Export” to initiate the backup process.
start button

Features of the Utility

Here is a list of reasons that support the fact that the tool is the best answer of how to back up OneDrive to an external drive. 

  • Efficiently Export Documents from OneDrive to Your Device
  • Download All OneDrive Files and Folders Concurrently
  • Copy items present in OneDrive Account of Multiple Users Together
  • Use Date Filters for Targeted File Exports
  • Define Your Preferred Storage Destination
  • Activate Concurrent Backups for Enhanced Speed
  • Track Progress in Real-Time Through the Dashboard
  • Easily Retry Export for Any Unsuccessful Items
  • Delta Backup Feature for Recent OneDrive Additions
  • Preserves Original Folder Structure and Data Integrity
  • Supports all Windows 11, 10 (64-bit), Platforms.


With this, the discussion on the topic of how to backup OneDrive to an external drive is now complete. Here users got to know all the different ways in which they can bring the data located inside the OneDrive platform onto their local storage. Apart from the obvious manual methods we also provided some distinct alternatives to the transfer. At last, we gave a detailed tutorial on how to use the automated utility for the task. We hope that with the software at hand, all user queries on data copying from OneDrive can be put to rest.


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