How to create cloud backup on Windows 11

Windows 11 has built-in tools to backup your files, settings, credentials, and apps to the cloud, and here's the process.

Windows 11 backup app
Windows 11 backup app

UPDATED 9/14/2023: On Windows 11, you can use the “Windows Backup” settings (or app) to back up your files, settings, credentials, and apps to the cloud that you can then restore on a new computer or clean installation and in this guide, you will learn how.

Windows Backup is a collection of features that allows you to create a backup of your computer to your OneDrive account. In the event you lose a file, you can access the OneDrive folder to recover it. If you’re setting up a new device or reinstalling Windows 11, during the initial setup, you will be offered the option to restore your folders, apps, settings, and credentials from the backup with one click.

This guide will teach you the steps to back up and restore your files, settings, and apps on Windows 11.

Create cloud backup from Settings on Windows 11

To create a backup of your files, apps, settings, and credentials to the cloud on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings on Windows 11.

  2. Click on Accounts.

  3. Click the Windows backup tab.

  4. Click the “Manage sync settings” button in the “OneDrive folder syncing” setting.

    OneDrive manage sync settings

  5. Turn on the toggle switch for folders you want to back up to the cloud, including “Documents,” “Pictures,” “Desktop,” “Music,” and “Videos.”

    Windows 11 file backup

  6. Click the Start backup button.

  7. Turn on the “Remember my apps” toggle switch to back up your Microsoft Store apps to the cloud.

  8. Turn on the “Remember my preferences” toggle switch to back up your settings for personalization, language, system, accessibility, and accounts and passwords.

Once you complete the steps, your files, settings, and credentials will upload and back up in your OneDrive account. In addition, the system will make an inventory of your apps and back up their data to the cloud. When restoring, the system will restore the apps from the Microsoft Store, but it won’t install them. Instead, when clicking the app, the system will download the rest of the files from the Microsoft Store and restore their data. 

On the other hand, the Windows Backup app will also restore legacy apps outside of the Microsoft Store, but it won’t install them either. Instead, when clicking the app from the Start menu or Taskbar, you will be redirected to the application website to download the installer.

Create cloud backup from Windows Backup app on Windows 11

Alternatively, Microsoft is also building a new “Windows Backup” app to accomplish the same task on Windows 11 23H2. However, it may be confusing for some users since it includes the same settings available in the “Windows Backup” page in the Settings app, but once the features are enabled, you cannot control them through the app. You have to use the Settings app.

To create a backup of your files, apps, settings, and credentials to the cloud with the Windows Backup app, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for Windows Backup and click the top result to open the app.

  3. Click on Folders.

  4. Turn on the location of files to back up to the cloud, including “Desktop,” “Documents,” and “Pictures.”

    Windows Backup folders

  5. Click on Apps.

  6. Turn on the “Quick access apps on any Windows device” toggle switch.

    Windows Backup apps

  7. Click on Settings.

  8. Turn on the “Accessibility,” “Language preferences and dictionary,” “Other Windows settings,” and “Personalization” toggle switches, depending on the settings you want to protect.

    Windows Backup settings

  9. Click on Credentials.

  10. Turn on the “Wi-Fi networks & passwords” toggle switch.

    Windows Backup credentials

After you complete the steps, the system will backup your files and other data to the cloud on your OneDrive account.

Restore cloud backup from OOBE on Windows 11

On Windows 11, the backup feature has been designed to protect your settings and files. Although you can restore your files through the OneDrive folder, you cannot manually restore your settings and apps on your existing setup. Instead, when setting up a new device or installation, during the initial process, you will have the option to choose to restore everything on the new setup.

To restore your settings, files, and apps on a new Windows 11 installation during the out-of-box experience (OOBE), use these steps:

  1. Choose your region and click the Yes button.

  2. Select your keyboard language and click the Yes button.

  3. Click the Skip button.

  4. (Optional) Confirm a name for the computer and click the Yes button.

  5. Choose the “Set up for personal use” option. (Option only available in the Windows 11 Pro setup.)

    Set up for personal use

  6. Click the Sign in button.

    Create device account

  7. Confirm your Microsoft account and click the Next button.

    Quick note: Use the same account that you utilized to back up your device.
  8. Click the “Restore from this PC” button.

    Windows 11 restore backup

    Quick note: The system will intelligently select the most suitable backup to restore. However, you can always use the “More options” button to choose the backup manually.

Once you complete the steps, the system will finish the setup, restoring your files, settings, and apps automatically. You will also notice that this process will even preserve the app pins in the Taskbar.

The only caveat about the Windows Backup solution is that it doesn’t provide an interface to restore items individually, nor you can’t use it to restore the entire setup after hardware failure or file corruption. Instead, the files will always be available through OneDrive, and you can only recover your apps, settings, and credentials during the installation of the operating system through the Out-of-box Experience.

Although this is the way that Microsoft wants users to back up their systems, you can use the legacy System Image Backup to create a full backup. Alternatively, you can also create backups with third-party tools, such as Macrium Reflect and Veeam.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].