OneDrive’s Personal Vault is a secure way to store your important files.

Do you use Microsoft’s OneDrive to back up your important files? Are you nervous about your sensitive files being accessed by hackers or someone with access to your computer? You can now store these files in a “Personal Vault” within OneDrive. The Personal Vault will encrypt the files and requires two factor verification for access. It works on Windows 10, iPad, iPhone, Android and the web.

It’s a great place to store legal documents, identity documents like copies of your passport, financial documents. Really anything that can cause you harm if stolen.

Access to files in your personal vault will require a two factor code such as a PIN, a fingerprint or facial authentication. You can also authenticate with Windows Hello if you are running Windows 10. The vault will lock after 20 minutes of inactivity. You will have to re-authenticate to access it. If you access the vault via the OneDrive website nothing will be cached to your browser.

Files you place inside the vault are encrypted and are also encrypted on your hard drive so they are well locked down from intruders. You cannot share files that are in your Personal Vault. If you have shared a file and then later move it to the vault; sharing becomes immediately unavailable.

If you install the OneDrive app on your phone you can scan documents or take photos and send them directly to your personal vault without storing them elsewhere on your phone. Instant storage and encryption!

Should You Use OneDrive’s Personal Vault?

Although it’s an excellent feature which is as yet unavailable on other platforms such as Google Drive, Apple iCloud Drive and Dropbox; Microsoft OneDrive is not the most secure encryption out there. Microsoft’s documentation notes that “Personal Vault on Windows 10 doesn’t protect the names and hashes of the files in your Personal Vault when the Vault is “locked” but Microsoft is “committed to extending protection to these attributes in a future update.”

Before You Start

Be aware that if you are using the free version of OneDrive you are likely on the100gb plan and it restricts you to putting only 3 files into your personal vault. You can get around this by putting multiple files into a ZIP file or similar. Moderately annoying if you have to access those files more than just occasionally.

However, if you are using Office 365 which typically comes with 1TB of storage you can put as many files as you like into your personal vault up to your full storage limit. Office 365 Home is $129 per annum and can be shared with 6 people each of who get 1Tb storage. The Personal Vault is not available in Office 365 Business or Student plans.

It also isn’t available for macOS, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows Phone, Xbox, HoloLens, Surface Hub, or Windows 10 S.

How to Use Your Personal Vault

To use your Personal Vault, open your OneDrive folder on a Windows 10 PC, on the smartphone app or via the website and click on the “Personal Vault” folder.

OneDrive will require User Account Control authorisation to enable the Personal Vault the first time you access it. Setup is guided by a short setup wizard. You can now place whatever files you want into your Personal Vault.

The vault will lock after 20 minutes of inactivity but you can lock it manually by right clicking inside the Personal Vault folder and selecting “Lock Personal Vault”. Once locked you will be prompted for additional authentication when you try to access the folder again. This will typically be a two-factor authentication that is dependent on what you chose during your initial setup.

Like OneDrive itself, your Personal Vault will be available to you on any platform you have connected to your Microsoft account be it Windows 10, the website or the smartphone app.

In summary, OneDrive’s Personal Vault is a great feature – easy and convenient to use and hopefully will become available on competing services in time.


Related: Google Drive vs. Microsoft OneDrive: A point-by-point comparison

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