Microsoft ties together its visual changes and features with a new set of built-in app improvements, centered more than ever around SkyDrive. Microsoft’s cloud-based storage system really powers Windows 8.1 this time around. The sync engine is built directly in, and Microsoft has made some smart improvements to the way that files sync to Windows 8.1 PCs. Instead of pulling down the entire SkyDrive storage to a local PC, it loads icons, and just enough information required to identify the file. When you open the file, it downloads it on the spot. You can set folders and files to download fully so they’re available offline, or just set an entire SkyDrive instance to remain offline on the PC.
The end result is that all your settings, files, and apps are stored in SkyDrive. This makes it incredibly easy to log in to any other Windows 8.1 PC and start loading apps and documents as if it was your own machine. Like so many things about Windows 8.1, sync seems like a logical update, but it’s one of the most significant improvements to Windows 8.1.