How to delete files from computer in OneDrive without removing from cloud

OneDrive allows users to store their files on the cloud while linking them to the original files on the desktop. But is it possible to delete a file from the desktop without it disappearing from the cloud? The answer is yes, so in this guide, I will show you how to remove a file from your OneDrive folder without removing it from the cloud.

When you install OneDrive on your desktop, it creates a folder that will sync to the cloud. You can right-click the OneDrive folder or files and folders inside and select the option to “Free up space.” That will remove files from your computer while retaining them on the cloud.

  • Firstly, open File Explorer. 
  • Now open your OneDrive folder. 
  • Right-click on a file. 
  • Click on “Free up space” to complete the process. 

Once you complete the steps, you will have managed to remove files from your local desktop while retaining them on the cloud. Please continue reading for a more detailed guide on deleting files from your computer in OneDrive without removing them from the cloud.

An in-depth guide on how to delete files from a computer in OneDrive without removing them from the cloud

Please use our in-depth guide below if you are struggling with any of the steps. The in-depth guide includes a list of resources, such as screenshots, allowing you to navigate the process.

  • Firstly, open File Explorer.  

File Explorer allows users to manage their files on the desktop; you can also manage cloud-based files stored on your local desktop, such as OneDrive. To access File Explorer, you need to click on the start menu and then locate the File Explorer application, or you can use the search tab to find it. 

  • Now open your OneDrive folder.  

When you download the OneDrive application, the program is a folder stored on your desktop. You open the folder and can access all the files or folders offloaded onto your local desktop from the OneDrive cloud. You can access all the content within the folder from the File Explorer section; we have used this method in this example. You can also have a shortcut available on a desktop homepage. 

  • Right-click on a file.  

If you want to remove a file from your local desktop and only have it available on the OneDrive cloud service, you need to right-click the folder offloaded onto your computer. 

  • Click on “Free up space” to complete the process. 

The final step of the process is to clear the files from your computer by clicking on the option for “Free up space.” That option will remove the files from the computer without removing them from the cloud.

Why is the Free up space option greyed out when I try to remove a file?

You may wonder why Microsoft has greyed out the Free up space option when you try removing certain files or folders from the desktop. The file option is unavailable because it isn’t available on the desktop. The file is available on the OneDrive cloud service; however, it is not available on your desktop. 

Users want to know how they can tell if a file has been removed from their desktop or not; it can sometimes be quite difficult to notice whether the file is only available on the cloud service or is it available on both the cloud service and the desktop. However, Microsoft has provided some icons you can use to symbolize which file or folder is available online only or is also available on the desktop. If a file is available on the desktop, you can then use the option to remove the file and only have it available online. 

The iconFree up space option available or notIf you see this icon next to a OneDrive file or folder, the Free of space option will not show when you right-click on that folder or file. This is because the file with this icon is only available online and has not been downloaded onto the desktop. When you try to open a file with this icon, the file will only open online. You will also need a network connection for this file to open.
When you see a file or folder with this icon, it is available online and on your desktop. If you right-click on a folder or file with this icon next to it, it will display the Free of space option, and when you click on the Free up space option, Microsoft will remove the file from the desktop. This file has been offloaded onto your desktop; therefore, you can open it without a network connection.

If the file is not available on the desktop on is only on the cloud service, it will display the corresponding icon, and when you right-click the file, the option to Free up space is not available. You do not have to worry about the file consuming space on your desktop as it’s physically not there; only the option to open the file online is available.


Thank you for reading our content on how you can remove a file from your computer without it being deleted from your OneDrive account. Do not remove the file by deleting it from your computer and clearing it from the recycling bin. Microsoft will remove the file from your computer and your OneDrive cloud if you do this.

You will need to use the method shown here and clear the file from your desktop, which is only available on your desktop. If you encounter any issues following the steps, drop a comment, and we will address them. 

Saajid Gangat

Saajid Gangat has been a researcher and content writer at Business Tech Planet since 2021. Saajid is a tech-savvy writer with expertise in web and graphic design and has extensive knowledge of Microsoft 365, Adobe, Shopify, WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, and more! You can connect with Saajid on Linkedin.

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