For those who are using Windows Phone Mango, or those who are looking forward to using Windows Phone Mango later this year, you’ll probably want to find an easy way to access the cloud-based free 25Gb SkyDrive that Windows Phone is so well integrated with. Sure, the SkyDrive website works pretty well, but why isn’t it just fully integrated with Windows via some sort of app that you just sign in to? Unfortunately there is no such app from Microsoft, but you can pretty easily set up your SkyDrive storage to be accessible from Windows Explorer as if it were a network drive.
First you have to figure out your SkyDrive URL. It is going to be something like https://cid-BUNCHOFNUMBERSANDLETTERS.office.live.com and the trick is to find the characters after the “cid-” part. There are a couple of ways to do it. This tutorial shows you a method using Office 2010’s Share to Web feature. At WinSuperSite.com there’s a good tip that shows you how to get your SkyDrive URL using a free viewer application that you can download here. Once you have the proper URL for your specific SkyDrive server, you’ll want to copy that and then launch the “Map Network Drive” wizard that you can find in the normal Windows Explorer toolbar (when browsing “My Computer”).
The WinSuperSite.com tip suggests mapping a SkyDrive share to a specific disk drive letter, but you might notice another link in the Map Network Drive wizard that says “Connect to a Web site that you can use to store your documents and pictures.” If you click that, you’ll get the “Add Network Location” wizard, which will also allow you to add your SkyDrive URL to Windows Explorer. I liked this method better since you don’t have to map a specific folder. You can have all of your SkyDrive folders available at the same time.
After you get your SkyDrive set up as a Network Location, you’ll have full access to any of the files that you may want to store there. You’ll see videos and pictures from Windows Phone, Office Documents and OneNote Notebooks from Office 2010, video messages from Windows Live Messenger, and videos you may have uploaded from Windows Live Movie Maker. You can easily cut and paste any of the files back to your hard drive for archiving or to free up storage room. Of course, you can also upload files for access from your Windows Phone as well.
Unfortunately there are still some things missing here. You can’t see SkyDrive folders that have been shared with you, and there’s no interface for managing the viewing/editing permissions of any of your folders. Those kinds of things would be better served by a dedicated SkyDrive app that integrates with Windows Explorer. You might be thinking, “Shouldn’t the Windows Live Mesh app do this?” The Windows Live Mesh application that you can download as part of Windows Live Essentials does not give you direct access to your 25Gb SkyDrive storage. The Live Mesh application is something totally different that syncs files to a separate 5Gb SkyDrive location that isn’t part of your 25Gb SkyDrive and not accessible from your Windows Phone.