What’s Going On-Office 365 and OneDrive For Business Sync Clients

OneDriveThe Microsoft Office 365 OneDrive For Business Sync engine has created a lot of confusion. There are multiple sync engines (Next Gen and Groove) that are used – depending on :

  • what version of office is installed
  • when they originally began using O365
  • if they use both OneDrive (consumer) and ODFB
  • maybe other factors I don’t knowSharePoint

Here’s the quick and dirty…

Next Gen Sync Client works with:

OneDrive Consumer
OneDrive for Business – O365*
*does NOT sync with your SharePoint Sites – you will need to get the old ‘Groove’ sync client and have both co-exist together. They say it should work, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Does Not Sync With:

SharePoint On Premises Server
Office 365 SharePoint Sites

When Will I Be Able to Sync My SharePoint Sites?

Microsoft is aiming for an update to solve all these problems in the December, 2016/ January, 2017 time frame.

The original sync engine was built on Groove – a decades old product that was used for syncing and sharing way back when. It’s been revised and worked on for years by Microsoft and used in the consumer OneDrive originally. When Microsoft instituted Office 365, some 4-5 years ago now, they brought this sync engine into use with this product. If you want to really know the history, check out this excellent presentation by John White called ‘OneDrive, TwoDrive, White Drive, BlueDrive’.

Demise of Groove Sync Client and Start of Next Gen Sync Client

As O365 progressed and became increasingly popular, the SharePoint and OneDrive for Business (ODFB) sync engine was constantly refined and developed. It became apparent that the Groove sync engine was not going to work well with the more corporate-like O365.

Microsoft has been working (diligently, we know), on a solution. They were getting overwhelmed with support calls and emails from people whose SharePoint sites had sync errors. The solution was the ‘Next Gen Sync Client’ that came out earlier this year.

Microsoft pushed publish on this new Next Gen OneDrive sync client knowing that it would sync only Office 365 OneDrive for Business files and folders and not SharePoint Sites. For those of us who are not SharePoint admins or IT Pros, (like me), it was easy to miss that part of the documentation written about it because when an upgrade is available, many of us just click the ‘update’ button and it’s taken care of in the background. It was apparent many were confused as evidenced by many support tickets and questions about syncing SharePoint Sites.

How OneDrive For Business & Groove Can Work Together

This section gives you scenarios of how the OneDrive sync engines can work together and information received while speaking with a Microsoft support engineer.

Microsoft says you can run more than one OneDrive sync client at a time. Here’s a look at my set-up where I have three sync clients. Consumer (white cloud) and two OneDrive for Business clients. Neither of them say SharePoint. The one I point out as “Groove”, doesn’t say Groove on it, it still says OneDrive For Business. The Next Gen blue cloud says “OneDrive – Extreme Virtual Support”, which is my business name.

OneDrive for business next gen sync client settings

OneDrive for Business Sync Clients – How They Work-And Don’t Work Together

  • If you have Windows 10, you automatically get the newest sync client (next gen). This client/program is designed to sync your OneDriveSyncclientsstorageAug25 (consumer), and ODFB. Most of us probably did the free upgrade. You can tell if you have the Next Gen sync client because when you right-click on it, one of the menu items will be ‘Settings’. This is where you can get both your consumer and business accounts set up and choose which folders you want to sync. Here’s a look at my Next Gen Account. See at the bottom where you can add a business account – this means an Office 365 account.
  • I have three working sync clients. I am able to sync my SharePoint sites with the Groove sync client and my ODFB folders/files are synced with the Next Gen client. My Consumer OD files are also synced with the Next Gen sync client.
  • I originally started with Windows 7, Office 365 and Microsoft Office Pro Plus 2013 (MSI-I had a disk and product key). I also started with OneDrive (consumer), before adding O365. This is probably why I have the white cloud.
  • A Microsoft Help Desk Engineer I spent an hour on the phone with said if you are running the business-type Office set-ups ‘sanctioned’ by Microsoft for users of O365, you have a better chance of being able to run 3 sync clients together in harmony. These would be Office Pro Plus or Office Small Biz Premium.
  • If you are running Microsoft Office 2013 Home & Business and you upgrade to a new Office 365 plan, this could disable the Groove sync engine (the one that syncs SharePoint sites). I had this happen with a client who needed to change to a different O365 plan. When we did this – the process is to disconnect all users from their current licenses, apply the new plan and then reconnect them all. For one user, this process took away the Groove (SharePoint) sync engine and we could not reinstall it (with the Microsoft guy’s help). However, other users were not affected as drastically.

What Is Going On With Your OneDrive For Business & SharePoint (Office 365)

The answer is, it depends. It depends on your OS, which Office 365 Plan you’re on, which ODFB sync client version you have, which brand/version of Office you’re running and what your computer’s history of sync engines has been. It’s very complicated. This is why the O365 community forums are full of support questions. Doing searches from Google or Bing will take you right inside the forums where you can look at questions and answers from Microsoft support staff.

I’ve spent a lot of time in there and have come to realize that because there are so many variables, the solution that worked for one user may not work for another. It depends on your setup. This article is about how to tell which sync client you’re running.

Then they say, “If what you want to sync includes one or more SharePoint or on-premises locations, you need to have the previous OneDrive for Business sync client, even if you also have the new OneDrive for Business sync client. Make sure your sync client is up to date – see Update the OneDrive for Business sync app.” They don’t tell you that sometimes installing the old Groove client doesn’t work, as in the case of my client I mentioned earlier.

The article above takes you through the scenarios if you have an MSI (you used a disk and product key), to install Office, or the Click-to-run type of Office (this one automatically updates itself).

We haven’t even touched on the variables of having Office 2016. You would think if you are running the latest and greatest version of Office, everything should work well together, but it doesn’t. The below YouTube from my friend, @ToddKlindt, (start at the 14.30 minute mark), has a really good rundown (or rant), on what the current state of OneDrive For Business is. Todd is a SharePoint expert and also a Microsoft MVP, so he knows what he’s talking about!


What Should You Do If You Have Questions/Problems with the Office 365 Sync Engines

If you’re a typical user, the fastest and best way to get answers for your particular situation is to log into your Office 365 account, go to the need help with office 365Admin Center and look down to the lower right where it says, ‘Need Help’. Expand that and type in a question and leave your phone number. It’s amazing how quickly you’ll get a call. You will need to have admin access to your account to do this.

These O365 support reps are actually quite good and they can remote into your computer (with your permission) and you can show them what’s going on and they will help you fix it.

What are your experiences with the various OneDrive sync clients? Have you found other solutions or workarounds to the problem? Please leave me a comment.







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