Warning: Windows 8.1 kills SkyDrive's remote 'Fetch' feature

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SkyDrive sinks its tentacles deeply into Windows 8.1, and in many respects, that's a good thing. Newfound features include system-level SkyDrive integration with the Windows File Explorer, a modern-style file picker, app syncing, and the ability to save your files and photos straight to the cloud for any-PC-anywhere computing capabilities.

So far, so great, right? But it's not all roses: If you choose to save your files locally, rather than to the cloud, SkyDrive for Windows 8.1 strips out a feature, making it harder to snag files from afar in a pinch.

The "Fetch" feature in the SkyDrive desktop program allows you to remotely access any locally stored files on your PC, assuming you set up the feature first. It works great for those "Oh no!" moments—especially if you don't want to clog your SkyDrive with every document and presentation you've ever created.

Fetch is gone in Windows 8.1.

Actually, the entire SkyDrive desktop program is gone in Windows 8.1, no doubt due to the service's system-wide integration. Upgrading simply wiped the SkyDrive desktop app from our PCs. But even if you reinstall the discrete desktop software, Fetch will still be unavailable. From Microsoft's "Fetch" FAQ:

You can use a PC running Windows 8.1 to fetch files that are on another PC, but you can't fetch files that are on a PC running Windows 8.1, even if you install the SkyDrive desktop app on that PC.

In a word: Laaaaaaaaaaame.

Remember, Microsoft only offers 7GB of free cloud storage, even if you choose to save all your Windows 8.1 files and photos to the cloud, so it's still impractical to save your all great gigabytes in the Sky(Drive). SkyDrive's premium storage plans are reasonably priced as far as those things go, but they can still add up quick.

Find a new Fetch

All is not lost if you still want to snatch your locally stored files from far away locales, however. PCWorld recently published a roundup of Windows remote desktop tools, all of which can scratch your Fetch-like itch. Microsoft also just released its own Remote Desktop app for iOS and Android.

Any third-party option requires slightly more work on your end than Fetch needed, and you'll need to pay for some of them. Nor do they have the flexibility of Fetch, which worked over any web connection once the SkyDrive program on your PC was configured to support it. Windows 8.1 is still a very worthwhile upgrade for Windows 8 users, but a warning would have been nice, Microsoft.

And hey, while you're busy restoring functionality found in desktop software anyway, check out PCWorld's guide to eliminating the modern interface from Windows 8.1.

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