Extending Shared PC Mode With OneDrive Sync

Shared PC Mode has been around for a while now and it’s a great way to configure the Windows client experience on devices that might exist in your computer labs or libraries, or really just any space where you have multiple users signing into a single device with separate account details.

Microsoft Intune makes it pretty easy to deploy some key settings, top among them:

  • Account deletion
    • configuring whether accounts are automatically deleted when signed out of, or retained (based on period of inactivity or disk storage thresholds)
  • Local Storage
    • Configure if users can save to the local disk or only to OneDrive in the cloud
  • Education Policies
    • Choose whether key policies intended to be deployed in Education contexts are actually turned on or not.

Additional documentation on this can be found here if you’re wanting to dive deeper on Shared PC Mode.

So if Shared PC Mode Is So Great, What’s the Problem?

The one missing feature in Shared PC Mode was the inability to turn on the OneDrive Client sync mode – i.e. allow for easier access to cloud files stored in OneDrive from the File Explorer on the shared device. At first glance, it’s super obvious why this might be turned off by default and not able to be turned on: allowing an automatic sync of a user’s OneDrive files down to the local PC could potentially:

  • Create a lot of overhead on bandwidth as files start to sync down to the device from the cloud
  • Blow out the local shared device storage as potentially large files sync for each user on the shared device.

In many ways this was a tradeoff – the need to easily manage and maintain the performance of the Shared PC vs easy access to files stored in the cloud.

Of course, the calculus of that tradeoff changed in 2017 when “Files on Demand” was released, something I blogged about in May 2017. This allowed files to be visible on the local device’s File Explorer, but to be stored in the OneDrive cloud and only downloaded when double clicked to open. This way, the ease of access problem was solved, but without the risks of unnecessary bandwidth consumption syncing all files, and clogging up the precious SSD storage on the local device.

However, it’s taken a fair while for Shared PC Mode configuration settings to catchup! Until now.

Configuring Shared PC Mode With OneDrive Sync Enabled And Configured

I’ve previously shared some of the great blog posts from Microsoft MVP Peter van der Woude as he writes excellent blogs about device management with simple, easy to follow instructions on how to configure features. His latest blog post addresses this new feature in Shared PC Mode – allowing and enabling OneDrive sync. I encourage you to read the entire blog post here:

Configuring Shared PC mode with OneDrive sync enabled and configured – All about Microsoft Endpoint Manager (petervanderwoude.nl)

The key, in my mind, is to use the OneDrive sync configuration in the Settings Catalog to:

  • Enable Use OneDrive Files On-Demand, to automatically configure the files on demand feature for the OneDrive sync app

This way, files will be visible in File Explorer, but using a fraction of the bandwidth and storage compared to allowing all files in OneDrive to sync to the local device. In fact, I’d go as far as saying you’re creating a real headache for yourself in Shared PC Mode if you do not enable this setting!

Final Thoughts

It’s great to see more choice being given to IT Administrators around how devices can be managed via Microsoft Intune. It shows that there is rarely a “one size fits all” practice, and whilst “best practice” may be recommended for most users, there are always outliers that require something a bit different.

By unlocking the ability to enable OneDrive sync on Shared PC Mode, I know of at least one IT guy that is going to be very happy with this, solving an historical gripe he’s had over this missing feature. The reality is the more choice institutions have around how they can configure endpoints, the more value they can add to their customers resulting in happier students and teachers.

I am always keen to discuss what I've written and hear your ideas so leave a reply here...