Spring cleaning. Air out the house after months being closed up. Dust everything even baseboards and tops of cabinets that no one can see. Get rid of worn-out items and start fresh. I am running out of space on my 8-year-old laptop. My son deleted unnecessary program files accumulated over the years. Then, it was my turn for a serious look at everything else, especially genealogy files.
I started by moving most files to OneDrive, an online storage program that syncs with your computer. Files can be online only or downloaded to your device but are also available online for viewing from other devices. You can identify files as “always available on this device”. Then, I looked for and deleted duplicate files and folders. Next, I backed up all files to external hard drive because I hadn’t done that in 2 months. Should I have done the external hard drive backup first?? Identifying older and rarely used files as “online storage only” seemed like the next logical step.
I queried Google how to move files from hard drive to online only. One advice column mentioned that deleting a file from hard drive would still preserve it online. Other message boards seemed to support the same action. So, I began the process of deleting some files from PC hard drive. When I clicked on “Delete”, a message popped up that file would be permanently deleted from PC hard drive but would still be available online. I deleted a few files from OneDrive online.
The next day, I had an email alert from OneDrive – (paraphrased) “we noticed that you have deleted a lot of files. These deleted files will remain in the Recycle Bin for 30 days then be permanently deleted from your OneDrive files.” PANIC!! I DON’T WANT TO PERMANENTLY DELETE THE FILES FROM ONEDRIVE ONLINE ACCOUNT!!
Calm down a little! I do have the files backed up on external hard drive. I use multiple devices and do not always have external hard drive with me. Doubtful that I will need any of these older files when I am away from home and the online program is part of my backup plan. Daily emails with OneDrive support team ensued. Their first response was basically a standardized answer that made little sense to me as a person who is not fluent in tech jargon. Five days later, we may have answers.
First, my primary computer was not synced with OneDrive online files. Not sure why or when that happened. A link to a program upgrade fixed that issue. Second, some files still show a sync issue with an error message – “You already have a file or folder with this name in the same location.” Suggested fix is to rename item on either PC or online to keep both. Another option is to delete version on PC to download the online version. That seems to work well for individual files and not so well for folders. I am still scared that those files will disappear completely from both PC and OneDrive.
Some files are readily available online and easily accessed from my PC, just like files that I save only to PC hard drive. When I open these files, the dropdown menu includes an option to “Free up space”. This option moves the file to online only access and frees up space on hard drive. This is the option that I should have been using instead of deleting files from hard drive. Restart main PC. More or less space on PC? At the time of this post, I have more space on main PC.
Will some of those files that I deleted earlier still disappear from OneDrive online? Support tech said “Yes”. I’ll let you know in 30 days!
FYI—I started Genealogy Do-Over in 2017. Renaming files is one task. How many “1880 United States Census (4)” transferred with GED files from Ancestry? One in each family tree. I keep each family line in a separate tree. My spring clean-up revealed multiple files with same name, such as “img_004” in various folders. I also found complete folders saved as subfolders under other folders. Example: Gravestone pictures from our 2017 Pennsylvania trip were saved under 3 different folders!! Fear of losing information led to a hoarding-type situation! As a result, I sometimes couldn’t find specific items. Hmm, genealogy hoarding disorder??
A backup plan is essential to prevent loss of your work. Create a plan and stick with it at regularly scheduled intervals. Test plan on a small dataset and include a restore test.
Thomas MacAntee suggests a 3-2-1 plan: 
- “At least 3 different backups.” Personally, I use cloud, external harddrive, and personal computer. Personal computer may not reliable as a backup.
- “Use 2 different media for backup.”
- “At least 1 backup must be offsite, and away from the original source computer.” Use of the Cloud is one example.
So, the work continues.
This has been a difficult week. A family emergency took me away from home for 8 days. The email notice about files potentially disappearing only increased my stress. Fortunately, I had internet access and could correspond daily with OneDrive Support staff. I didn’t have access to my primary PC so I couldn’t try any of the suggested fixes until I got home. I still don’t know if those ‘deleted’ files will actually disappear from OneDrive online.
What I learned: Don’t follow advice of only one person. Read all instructions about program or service carefully. When in doubt, contact Support Team. Follow 3-2-1 back up plan on regular basis.
What helped: A very patient tech who responded with non-technical terms when I kept asking the same questions. Remembering that I had multiple backups of all files in more than one location.
What didn’t help: Being away from home and primary computer. Initial sense of panic.
To-Do: Continue process of using ‘free up space’ option on primary computer to move older and rarely used files to ‘online only’. Check that each file is on external hard drive and another Cloud location before using ‘free up space’ option. Buy new primary computer!
For more information about Microsoft OneDrive, watch this video:
© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots 2019
 Thomas MacAntee, The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook (Hack Genealogy : 2019), Step 12. Securing Research Data, 59-60; digital images, PDF version.