I started with Windows LiveMesh, which later became SkyDrive, as a way to automatically sync documents from my laptop, where I do a lot of writing, to my desktop, where I do a lot of publishing. It’s a tool I’ve been using for four or five years. I just save my writing to a predictable folder, and without me having to remember to do anything, all my files are available when it comes time to publish.
Dropbox came along, then Google Drive, but I liked that LiveMesh — and then SkyDrive — was a Microsoft product, built to work seamlessly in the operating system. So I stuck with it as my primary tool, even after the other services came along.
After years of syncing, I’m sorry to say that SkyDrive is broken for me. It happened this weekend, when I installed Windows 8.1 on my laptop.
Windows 8.1 breaks the old SkyDrive
Technically, SkyDrive still exists. But once you install Windows 8.1, you must relinquish control of your computer’s login — the login that happens when you turn on your computer — to Microsoft, or you will not be able to use SkyDrive.
That’s right; you can either choose to keep your computer on a “Local Account,” or you can have SkyDrive — but not both. If you want SkyDrive, you must agree to use your Microsoft account to unlock your own computer.
I don’t love the idea of joining those two accounts. If someone hacks my Microsoft account, they can get into my computer, and vice-versa. If you have different passwords for your physical computer and your Microsoft account, being hacked on one does not compromise the other. But that’s not actually my complaint — not exactly.
Different passwords for different situations
I think the SkyDrive team failed to imagine my own scenario.
Currently, I log in to my computer using a password that I can remember and that I can actually type pretty quickly. That gets me in to Windows, lets me check email, type some notes, and so forth. It’s not my best password, but I have the added security that it’s not much good by itself — you would have to steal my computer and hack my password to get at my data. And really, if you’ve stolen my computer there are probably easier ways at getting my data than guessing my Windows password.
But I am much more careful about my Microsoft account, as I am with all my Internet accounts. I have a unique, and supremely good password for my Microsoft account. It is stored in an encrypted vault. I don’t even know what the password is, and when I look at it now, I realize it would take 60 seconds to carefully type, and I’d probably make a mistake or two along the way.
Obviously that’s not how I’ve been logging into my SkyDrive folder. What I do instead is open my password vault and let it log in to my Microsoft account for me.
So to return to the great Windows 8.1 SkyDrive lockdown, since there is no way I’m going to memorize a complicated, long, and difficult password just to check email or type some notes, my remaining options are:
- keep SkyDrive, but weaken my Microsoft password
- drop SkyDrive, after several years of loyal service
- hope that Microsoft reads this blog and offers another solution
In the meantime, I’ve got writing and publishing to do, so I suppose I’ll be reading up on my options from #2.