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Opening Office documents from removable storage

Can or should you open Office documents directly from removable storage like portable hard drives, USB ‘memory sticks’ or even floppy disks?

Since we wrote about removable drives and drive letters we’ve had long time Office users asking about opening documents directly – should it be done at all.

Many years ago, it wasn’t a good idea to open a document directly from a non local hard drive – meaning a floppy disk or network share.

Office users got into the habit of copying the document to a local drive, working on it in Word / Excel / Powerpoint, closing the document then copying it back to the floppy disk or network share.

In those days floppy disks were very slow and the few computers on networks were also quite inefficient – plug-in USB hard drives were years in the future. But the main problem was Office and especially Word – not only would it open the document directly but all temporary or working files were saved to the same location. With a floppy disk it was easy to run out of disk space and even when you didn’t get an error, Word ran very slowly.

These days things are quite different. Floppy disks are all but dead and their replacement, USB ‘sticks’ are much more reliable and considerable faster. Network performance and reliability has improved beyond belief.

Office 2007 / OOXML documents are much smaller than their ‘doc/xls/ppt’ predecessors which reduces the disk read/write requirements even more.

With all those changes over time, Office users are in a good position to directly open documents from modern removable storage (like USB drives) and work on them without a pre/post copying ritual. 

Floppy disks are generally too small, slow and unreliable – it’s best to copy the documents to a hard drive before opening or editing.  Consider buying some small USB ‘sticks’ which are sooooo much better than floppy disks.

Copy remote documents to your computer

From Word 2007 onwards there’s an option to make a copy of documents you open from network or removeable drives before editing. 

It’s at Advanced Options | Save | Copy remotely stored files onto your computer, and update the remote file when saving 

There is a small performance cost in this choice which is probably why the option is defaulted off.  However it is a prudent choice if you often work with documents on external drives or network shares.

There’s no equivalent option in Excel nor Powerpoint.

Writeable CD’s

We’re obliged to Office Watch reader Chip who reminds us about writeable CD disks, a medium we’ve overlooked:

as with our users, when they’re using a document from a CDR disk (which hasn’t yet been finalized); the temporary files will eventually destroy all remaining free space.

It seems Office considers a writeable CD as a suitable medium for temporary files, which it isn’t.  While a CDR is writeable the space written to isn’t reusable.  Opening a document in Office and editing it for a while will create a succession of temporary files gradually filling up the CDR disk.

For the purposes of Office it’s best to consider all CD disks as ‘read-only’ (most are) and copy files to a hard drive before editing.

Make a consistent drive letter or path to a removable drive
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