SharePoint Online (Office 365) files mysteriously move from subdirectories to Documents root

I worked with a customer for over 4 hours yesterday trying to troubleshoot an issue where files that were stored in some sub-directories were mysteriously moving back to the Documents root within 10 minutes. I verified that the files were syncing in the sub directories properly, but within 10 minutes, the files would suddenly be back in the root of the Documents library.

The first part was to determine what was causing the files to move after they had already happily synced where they were supposed to be. After over an hour of troubleshooting, I finally discovered (via audit logs) that the files were being moved by another user than the one I was working with who had noticed the problem.

From what I read online, there are a multitude of possibilities that could cause this problem. I ultimately ended up re-installing Office 365 Business twice on the user’s computer (the one responsible for the files being moved) before I finally got the problem resolved. Ultimately, it appeared to be an obscure issue with cached credentials & permissions in SharePoint. I’m not sure which steps are required or if any can be skipped, but here is what I did:

  1. Uninstall all Microsoft Office, SkyDrive and OneDrive software listed in Add/Remove Programs.
  2. Look in %APPDATA%\Microsoft and %LOCALAPPDATA%\Microsoft for any OneDrive or SkyDrive folders — delete all of them. (Note: If you get an error about files in use, you may need to restart explorer.exe or reboot the computer first)
  3. Look in C:\ProgramData\Microsoft for any SkyDrive or OneDrive folders.
  4. Run the Microsoft Office 2013 Removal tool to ensure complete removal of Office 365 products. (Link)
  5. Reboot the computer
  6. Open Microsoft Credential Manager: In a Run window, type: control /name Microsoft.CredentialManager
  7. On Windows 8 only: you will need to click on “Windows Credentials”
  8. Under the Generic Credentials section, you will need to look for any saved credentials for Office relating to the user in question. I removed all accounts that had the user’s email address in them. To remove an account, just click the drop down arrow and then click on the “Remove” link.
  9. After all saved credentials are remove, it is time to log back into their account, download the Office software and setup OneDrive for Business syncing again.

After that last step, files synced up just fine. The Credential Manager part is what seemed to do the trick. I did all setups up to there the first time and as soon as the sync started, the files went back to the root again. It wasn’t until after I did the whole process again AND deleted the credentials that sync worked properly.

UPDATE (9/15/2015):
I ran into enough problems and limitations with Microsoft’s OneDrive sync and ended up discovering this third party tool called ZeeDrive ( It doesn’t have the same limitations of OneDrive such as a 5,000 file sync limit per library. It also doesn’t actually sync files. Instead, it allows you to map a SharePoint library to a drive letter on the local PC using the users credentials, so permissions are still in effect as you’d expect. It basically emulates having a local file server. It’s great for transitioning users from a local server to SharePoint as it gives the same feel via mapped drives. It’s not free, unfortunately, but it’s well worth the cost to eliminate the problems that I ran into with OneDrive sync. You can get a 14 day free trial run.

7 thoughts on “SharePoint Online (Office 365) files mysteriously move from subdirectories to Documents root

  1. Hi Josh,
    I have the same issue with a few users that share a collection.
    Can you give me any pointers on where to look to find the user I need to reset?

    1. I turned on Auditing for the collection in question. The audit logs are saved into a folder that you specify inside the collection. After setting up Auditing, attempt to make a folder and then check the audit logs after the folder /file had been moved or deleted mysteriously. The audit logs will show when the file was moved /deleted and by what user account. That’s the account with the issue and will need to be reset on the client PC.

      1. No problem. Report back if this ends up working for you as well. I haven’t had any feedback on this particular problem or my solution yet besides in my own case.

  2. We are having exactly the same issue. Some sensitive files are being stored in the root folder by some automatic process. Not good at all
    I will turn on auditing to see what is going on, but I know its happened from multiple users machines

  3. Great article Josh. We are also experiencing this problem on one of our document libraries. I suspect you are correct here that it is related to a specific user. Our site is organized by department and each department has its own library. We are only seeing the issue on one library, which leads me to believe that a single user is causing the problem. Turning on auditing and hopefully this resolves our issue.

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