sharepoint map a drive

Mapping a Network Drive or Opening Explorer to Access SharePoint Sites

This week, we’re going to look at 2 alternate ways to access and sync your O365 SharePoint sites (or OneDrive for Business) account. They are:

  • mapping a network drive
  • using Windows Explorer

Why would you want to do this? The only two ways I can think of are because you are more comfortable working with mapped network drives than the SharePoint icons, or your Sites are not syncing and you want to work on your documents on your local computer and not from the cloud

Mapping A Network Drive

Mapping a drive is getting a lettered drive from within your Windows Explorer to share storage from another computer over a network. Example below.



Steps to Map a SharePoint Site

Step1 – Log into your site and then go to the corresponding document library that you want to ‘move’ to your local computer


Step2 – Click on library then library settings. This opens up a page with information on your site.


Step3 –  Copy the URL of the document library where it shows web address.

Step 4 – Take the URL and then open up the ‘map network drive  option from ‘My Computer’. Choose which letter you want to map to (defaults to Z).

Very Important: You’ll need to adjust your URL, shortening it to stop right after the name of your site. So for this example, it would be:

After this is pasted in, be sure you click on the ‘reconnect at login’ and click OK or Finish.

If all goes well, you’ll get a message that you’re connected and you’ll see the drive and name in Windows Explorer.

What Can Go Wrong With Mapping a Network Drive

1. The drive won’t map – there are error messages. When I tried to map my drive to demo this for you, I got the dreaded ‘trusted sites’ message. When I tried to troubleshoot this, I saw this is a widespread problem with O365 users. Trying some of them was just a rabbit hole of lost time for me. In my reading of possible solutions and looking at the comments, it seemed it worked for some and not for others and no clear reason why. Of course there are other error messages than this one – just one of the things that can go wrong.


2. The drive becomes ‘un’mapped. After you’ve had a drive mapped for a while, it may need to be reconnected or refreshed. You may use your newly mapped drive all day or even several days and then one day you’ll notice a red X over your mapped drive.This has happened to me for other drives I’ve mapped in the past. I would need to go through the steps again to remap the drive. This happened with my clients – some or all of the drives I had mapped got the dreaded red x.

Researching this, I found that it is pretty typical for drives to become unmapped and needing to be remapped. Not acceptable.

 Using The Windows Explorer Feature in SharePoint

This is an alternate way to be able to work on your SharePoint files on your local computer.

Step 1 – log into your O365 account and then go the the SharePoint site you want to open on your local computer.

Step 2 – Click on Documents and then Library Settings (as we did above).

Step 3 – Click on ‘Open With Explorer’.


I had to wait maybe 5 seconds or so, then a Windows Explorer box opened up and I could see the files and folders from that site on my local computer.


Now I could open and work on any of my documents. When I clicked save, I could see the message a the bottom that it was uploading my changes to SharePoint. This method seems easier and more reliable than mapping a network drive.

What Can Go Wrong With Using Explorer To Open SharePoint Sites

1. Sometimes the link to ‘Open with Explorer’ is grayed out. If this happens, try a different browser. It didn’t work for me in Firefox, but did in IE.

2. You’ll need to keep this Windows Explorer window up or minimized to ‘save your place’. Once you close it down or navigate away, I couldn’t find a way to get back to it. There wasn’t a way to use the ‘open location’ link that is found in Windows Explorer for it either.

SharePoint Site Access Conclusion

If you’re having syncing issues and want to work on your documents on your local computer, then the above two ways ‘can’ work for you. Of course the best solution is to be able to use SharePoint sites as it was intended – with the built-in syncing capabilities.

If you enjoyed this, check out last week’s article where I shared a way I fixed a client’s SharePoint Sites!

If you have a never-fail solution to this, please share in the comments!

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