How to create short links for download on OneDrive

Here is how you can create short links for download after storing content on OneDrive.

Create short links for downloads on OneDrive

Estimated reading time 4 min

In the previous article, I mentioned about using short links from OneDrive. I received queries asking me how it is done. So here are the details… with some additional information.

The steps

  1. Upload content to OneDrive
  2. Share it by :
    1. Specifying email ids of relevant persons (useful if you know their email ids)
    2. Create a link (view only or editable)
    3. Make it public (everybody can see it)

We are talking about option B here.

Choose the content – not the folder

OneDrive - create short links - Choose content

Now Share it

Click the sharing icon – top right corner.

Share documents on OneDrive

A separate window (pane) opens on the right side.

Be careful. This is a common mistake.

Don’t share folder – share the item

If you see Share Folder link, it is not what you want.

OneDrive sharing options

Usually we want to share a file at a time. Therefore, let me say this again.

CHOOSE the content first and then click the Share button.

Now the option shows a thumbnail of the content and shows the Share option below.

Share on OneDrive

If multiple items are selected, the resulting link points to a ZIP file containing all items.

Choose Sharing Option

OneDrive choose Sharing Options

The link created is very long. But don’t worry. There is a Shorten Link button below it.



Now the link can be copied and shared with others.

Download link does not start download

Whether it is a file or a video, clicking on the link DOES NOT start downloading the file. It shows the file first in a browser page. If it recognizes the format, it shows a preview – Office online for Office files. Starts playing music or video. Or just shows a thumbnail.

BUT IT DOES NOT DOWNLOAD. There is a download button on top which you must click to start the download. Of course stop the streaming in case of audio or video first – to save the bandwidth. OneDrive is not designed for streaming. It is better to download media first and then play locally.

Remember to put these instructions along with the download link.

Link usage statistics

Often we want to know how many people downloaded the content, which geography did they come from, the date and time, and so on.

OneDrive does NOT provide any analytical information (as the time of writing this article).

Therefore, if you want tracking information (which is a good idea anyway), here is what you do.

DO NOT create the short link in OneDrive. Take the original link created and use some other third party URL shortening site like bit.ly, goo.gl

These provide tracking and extensive analytics.

Unfortunately using third-party url shortening service providers have their own disadvantages.

Disadvantages of using URL shortening services

  1. The service may close down making your URL useless. Why would they close, because their revenue models are not very robust.
  2. Another reason for closure – These services are hosted in different countries. The country may ban or close down the site due to changes to internal policies and laws.
  3. Many email providers and servers block short URLs because they are extensively used by spammers

OneDrive for Business

Of course, if you have OneDrive for business, you can use the same method to create a link. This provides better control and auditing third party cloud providers.


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