Microsoft OneDrive Drives Me Nuts

Microsoft's technical support for OneDrive is like a hoary old joke I used to tell:

A pilot is lost in the skies over the Pacific. He radios for help repeatedly until he hears a faint response. "Help! We are lost. Can you tell me where we are?" The voice replies, "You're in an airplane over the Pacific ocean." The pilot then tells his copilot, "Hang a left and you should see Redmond, WA." The copilot is astonished. "How the heck did you know that?" The pilot replied, "The answer was 100% accurate as well as 100% useless, so it could only have come from Microsoft Tech Support."


I mention this not because it's a great joke, but because I'm reviewing the latest version of Office for the Mac (which is  called either Office 365 or Office for Mac 2016, depending upon how you pay for it) and have discovered that OneDrive—Microsoft's answer to iCloud—doesn't work on my Mac.

The OneDrive menu reports 3,803 problems, and has been reporting them for over a month. The problem is that when I select View Details, it crashes and leaves a broad white stripe across my display that can only be eliminated by Force Quitting OneDrive.

Microsoft OneDrive Error

I think it's fair to say OneDrive is useless to me until this bug is squashed.

So, I wrote to Microsoft technical support about the issue on February 9 providing logs, screen shots, and a complete description. It took a month but I finally got an answer. Not a solution, mind you, but at least I got an answer. The answer was 100% accurate and 100% useless to me, so I know it came from Microsoft.

Here's the sequence of events:

February 11: Received my first response:

I am sending these logs for analysis. In the meantime have a look at the Mac sync troubleshooting steps here. Thanks for reaching out if the situation changes with your sync feel free to update us.

February 29: Having heard nothing since February 11, I sent a follow-up:

You told me you were escalating this issue on February 11. It's now February 29. So far I've heard nothing from y'all, and I've tried everything in your support article (and much more), and still the problem — which renders OneDrive useless to me — persists.

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

March 8: No response; sent another follow-up:

I've heard nothing from y'all since February 11 - almost a month. I've tried EVERYTHING in your support article and much more, and still the problem — which pretty much renders OneDrive useless —persists.

The issue (again) is: (Mac OS X 10.11.3) -- The OneDrive menu says there are 3,803 problems with my OneDrive, but if I select View Details, the OneDrive app becomes unresponsive and paints a white stripe across one of my two displays. The only way to fix it is to Force Quit OneDrive. This happens every time and has for as long as I've been trying it (over a month now).

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

March 9: Received a response, but nothing even remotely useful:

Looks like your ticket was overlooked in our system. We apologize. I took a quick look at the logs you sent and do not see any issues presented there. Obviously, there is an issue and I am getting a OneDrive MAC developer to take a look. Thanks for your patience.

March 10: Received an answer. Not a solution, mind you, but not another, "we're looking into it" message, either.

Thank you for submitting your logs and for your patience while we investigated the issues. Unfortunately the sync errors reported by the OneDrive client are due to filenames which are illegal on the OneDrive sync space, such as '|', '?', ':', '"' and leading spaces.

Both the filename restrictions and the fact that the error window is not handling a big amount of errors gracefully are aspects we are working on to improve, but currently there is no workaround I can provide, and we certainly don't expect you to rename your files in order to sync them through the OneDrive client. I'm sorry for the inconvenience we might have caused you.

So, to summarize what took me a month to discover:

  • OneDrive dies when it encounters a file or folder name with a pipe (|), question mark (?), colon (:), quotation mark ("'), or leading space.
  • There is no workaround or fix at this time.
  • There is no indication of if or when it might be fixed.

Remember This

I want you to remember this story the next time Microsoft tries to say how strategically important the Mac is to them. Because Microsoft's engineers had to know that Mac file names can contain pipe, question mark, quotation mark, and leading space character (but not colons). It's been like that forever. Shipping a Mac product that chokes on any file or folder that uses any of those characters is typical of Microsoft's hubris.

Remember my joke way back at the top of this post? It turned out the joke was on me… Microsoft Tech Support was indeed 100% accurate and 100% useless.

Caveat emptor.