Merge Microsoft 365 Files That Have Been Split Between SharePoint and Personal Data Locations

In today’s cloud-based world it is easy to accidentally end up with files that are split across different locations. For example, if your company has files in SharePoint and SharePoint encounters an issue, your file editor (Word, Excel, etc.) may prompt you to “Save a Local Copy” as a precaution. If you save a local copy to your OneDrive or hard drive, the file you are working with now exists in two distinctly separate places. The problem can be compounded if multiple people have received the prompt to save a local copy.

Sometimes split data can occur when a worker wants to access a file from another system. They may email a copy of the shared file to themselves or use some other method that makes a distinct copy. Both SharePoint and OneDrive are accessible from any computer connected to the Internet. Typically all that is required is to open a browser and go to https://sharepoint.mycompany.com or https://onedrive.mycompany.com to access your files.

This situation can be very confusing in shared environments. If you and/or others continue to work on the file after it was saved to personal locations the edits will not be reflected in the shared version. Furthermore, if the file is closed and then re-opened from one of the many “Recent Files” lists available in Office applications, it may be inadvertently opened from the non-shared version again.

Tip:

In Microsoft’s cloud environment (Microsoft 365 / Office 365), it can be helpful to think of the names as being literal. “SharePoint” is where “shared” files belong. “OneDrive” is for “one” person and where your personal data belongs. That is not to say files in your OneDrive cannot be shared with others or that files in SharePoint cannot be locked to one person, both are possible, but not the main function of the software. For comparison, you can drive your commuter car on a racetrack, but you won’t be winning any races that way.

Resolution

There is no automatic way to correct files that have been split across multiple paths. It is up to the editor to understand where their data is being saved and make decisions accordingly. There are many strategies that could be employed to re-combine the separated data into a single shared file, one of the most effective is outlined below.

  1. Stop making changes to the shared or individual files; have everyone close them.
  2. Locate all the versions. Each person that has worked on the file after it was fractured should be contacted to see if they also have an individual version. If SharePoint encountered a technical problem and prompted to save a local copy, it likely prompted everyone that was in the file at that time. If a file was emailed to multiple recipients, each may have an individual copy they have worked on.
  3. Make a folder in the shared location named “Recovery Collection” and place a copy of each person’s file in that folder with their name appended to the title.
  4. Also place a copy of the original shared file in the Recovery Collection folder
  5. Merge the data from the individual file copies into the shared file copy. The operation chosen to merge the data will depend on the type of file, type of data, and how many changes have occurred.
  6. Rename the original shared file. Be sure that nobody is currently editing the original shared file and rename it (I suggest putting -old after the files name) then copy your updated shared file into the correct location so that people may begin using it instead of the original.
  7. Once you are certain the new shared file is correct and that everyone can use it, delete the recovery collection folder and the old copy of the shared file to reduce disk usage and future confusion. You should also instruct each person to delete their individual copies of the file(s) to prevent further confusion

About Kevin Trent

IT professional with almost 30 years of experience in Infrastructure, Architecting, Administration, Development, and Communications.

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