Microsoft – still asleep at the wheel

Another day, and yet another rant at Microsoft.

I’ve already ranted about the fact that the OneDrive ‘Files on Demand’ feature is a step backwards from the old ‘Smart Files’ feature in Windows. I’ve also complained numerous times that the Microsoft Photos app is severely lacking in comparison with the Windows Photo Gallery, which Microsoft has withdrawn from the market, and no longer supports.

And now these two – ‘Files on Demand’ and the Photos app – have together created the perfect storm, which has blown into the latest version of Windows 10 running on my Surface 3 tablet.

A few weeks back, the Surface 3 began acting up – the screen kept on breaking up. It had all the appearances of a fault in the graphics hardware or the screen, but I thought I would try doing a factory reset on the device. That actually worked, and I was back up and running in Windows 10 in a couple of hours. Of course, I had to reinstall all my apps and Office, but at least I had a working machine again.

All my documents and photos are now held in OneDrive, and shared across all my devices. I’ve got about 500 GB of data in OneDrive, and my Surface 3 only has about 80GB free. So I instructed OneDrive to use the Files on Demand feature, and save space by only downloading files as I used them on the Surface 3.

OneDrive 23

That was all fine and dandy, but the following day when I picked up the Surface 3 to use it, it immediately became apparent that it was running really slowly. A restart had no effect, and it wasn’t until I looked at the File Explorer that I realised why – there was only 110 MB of free space left on the C: drive. I have 330 GB of photos up on OneDrive, and OneDrive was trying to download all of them into the Surface 3.

I straightaway set the properties of all the files and folders in Pictures to ‘clear space’ – so that space would be regained, and sure enough, the amount of free space began to climb as the ‘Files on Demand’ placeholders were used instead of the full files.

I breathed a sigh of relief, but it was short-lived, as it quickly became apparent that OneDrive was starting to re-download all the files again. Something was going through all the files and folders in Pictures and accessing them. It certainly wasn’t me. OneDrive was saying that the ‘Runtime Broker’ application was doing it, and this was enough to make OneDrive copy the file from the cloud storage down to the Surface 3.

It turned out to be that damned Photos app – even though I wasn’t using it, it now apparently runs in the background, and naturally includes the Pictures files and folders as a default location. It spawns the Runtime Broker for some devious purpose of its own. It’s probably running the facial recognition algorithm to look for people’s faces in photos, and in order to process the photo, it needs to have the photo present locally on the Surface 3.

I thought perhaps something might have gone wrong during the initial re-install of Windows 10 – after all, surely I can’t be the only person suffering from this issue? So I did a second factory reset, and the issue is still there – OneDrive is still trying to pour a quart into a pintpot at the prompting of the Photos app.

As a temporary workaround, I’ve deleted the Pictures folder from the locations scanned by the Photos app, and that seems to have stopped this unwanted behaviour.

But the question remains, surely I can’t be the only person with this issue? Looking through Microsoft’s Feedback Hub reveals others – but we seem to be relatively few. Certainly too few for Microsoft to have noticed that anything is wrong. Doubtless it will never get fixed.

Addendum 2 December: I had sent this issue through to Microsoft as feedback on the 26th November. I had the following reply:

We have received your request for assistance and are busy researching a potential solution. We may need additional information. You can count on us to get back to you within within [sic] the next 24 hours.

Naturally, I’ve not heard anything further… Why am I not surprised?

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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