Resolving OneDrive for Business file conflicts

In a recent post:

Working with OneDrive for Business offline

I highlighted a scenario where if a user edited files synced with OneDrive for Business desktop app offline while another user edited those same files online, when the first user tried to sync, after coming back online, they would get an error. This could also potentially result the loss of one of the copies of the changed document.

I believe I have a solution to solve that issue so let me run through it here. So here’s the scenario first.


Robert is using OneDrive for Business in Office 365 and has a number of files as you can see above stored in there and accessible via a browser.


He has shared a document ‘cloud qualification worksheet’ with user Lewis Collins directly from his OneDrive for Business, as you can see above. Robert has also allowed Lewis the ability to edit this document.


Robert has also synced his OneDrive for Business to his local laptop using the free desktop app and all the files are up to date as you can now see from the above screen shot.


Lewis can work with the document in Word or using Office Online.


Robert can do the same and because both are online any changes get replicated to both users and to Robert’s desktop.

Ensuring that all his OneDrive for Business documents are synced and up to date Robert gets on a plane and goes offline.


While offline, Robert opens the file from his desktop and makes the changes you see above. This means the file in his desktop version of OneDrive from Business is different from the original.


While Robert is offline, Lewis also goes into the same file and changes it as shown above. Because he remained online, this version now becomes the one that is saved into Office 365.

So now we have 2 different versions of the same file. One is in Office 365 and one is on an offline notebook.

Robert completes his travel and goes back online.


At the next sync, the desktop app now indicates an error, because the file in Office 365 has been edited by someone else and so has the local copy. It therefore displays a sync error on that file as shown above, indicated by a red icon on the file on Robert’s notebook.


If Robert now right mouse clicks on the file with the error and selects the OneDrive for Business option and the View sync problems option from there he sees:


At this point you need to be careful of what you do to retain both copies of the file so you can manually merge the changes.

Step 1 – Copy the original offline edited file

On his laptop Robert need’s to take a copy of the file that is displaying the error and allow it to sync back to Office 365.


As you can see, now on his local machine he now has the original file with the error and a copy of it synced to Office 365.


If he now navigates to his OneDrive for Business via the browser he sees this new file is also in the cloud.

Step 2 – Delete the original offline file

Returning to his laptop, Robert now deletes the file with the error from the OneDrive for Business location on his laptop. Remember, he has already made a copy of this file before deleting it.


His laptop now looks like the above with no errors and all files synced.


As expected, when he refreshes his browser he see exactly the same thing in his OneDrive for Business in Office 365.


If he opens the copy of the file he made, Robert sees that it has all the changes he made while offline as shown above. The original file is now not in either location, that is why you need to copy the offline edited version first and allow it to sync.

Step 3 – Restore the deleted file from the Recycle Bin via the browser


From OneDrive for Business in the browser Robert selects the Recycle Bin link on the left.


From the Recycle Bin Robert selects the file he just deleted in his desktop and then selects Restore Selection.


He confirms the restore by pressing OK.


If Robert then returns to his OneDrive for Business by selecting the My Documents link on the top left he will see that the original file has not only been restored but it is also still shared!


If Robert now views that file in a browser he sees that it contains the edits that Lewis made online as shown above.


In a matter of moments that restored file synced to his desktop using the desktop sync app as shown above.


He can now open the file from his desktop and merge the changes with his original (which is saved as a copy here as well) and then update the original back to Office 365, while retaining all the user sharing he enabled earlier.


So if you get a conflict with a file that has been changed in the cloud and on a synced desktop performed the following:

1. Create a copy of the desktop file saved to OneDrive for Business.

2. Delete the desktop file from the local machine.

3. Restore the file from the recycle bin via the browser and OneDrive for Business online.

That process will allow you to retain a copy of both files as well as the original OneDrive for Business sharing.

I am sure there are other ways of doing this but this worked for me. It is important to follow the process in that order and from the right locations, otherwise you risk losing one of these files.

Hopefully, an upcoming iteration of OneDrive for Business will do this auto-magically for you, however until then this should do the trick for those occasional times when two people edited the same file while one of them was offline.

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