How to use File History backup on Windows 11

Protect your files from accidental deletion, modification, and corrupting with File History backup on Windows 11.

Windows 11 File History
  • To enable Windows 11 File History, open Control Panel > System and Security > File History.
  • Connect the external USB hard drive to your computer.
  • Click the “Turn on” button to create a file backup.
  • To use a network location, open “Select drive” and click the “Add network location” option.
  • On Windows 11, you can’t select additional folder locations to include the backup.

On Windows 11“File History” is a legacy feature that allows you to create a file backup on an external or network drive to have the means to recover files in case of accidental deletion, modification, or corruption.

File History backs up your files in the Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music, and Desktop folders, including the OneDrive files locally stored on the device by default. However, on Windows 11, it’s no longer possible to include additional folder locations in the backup.

Although you can still use File History to create automated backups of files, on Windows 11, Microsoft is no longer exposing the feature through the Settings app because it wants you to subscribe to OneDrive to keep the files backed up in the cloud. However, if you prefer a local solution, it’s still possible to use the feature through Control Panel.

This guide will teach you the steps to set up File History on an external drive or network folder on Windows 11.

Windows 11 File History backup to external USB drive

To enable File History to create a file backup on Windows 11, connect an external drive, and use these steps:

  1. Open Start on Windows 11.

  2. Search Control Panel and select the top result to open the app.

  3. Click on System and Security.

  4. Click on File History.

    Open File History

  5. Click the “Turn on” button if the backup drive already shows in the list.

    File History enable option

    Quick tip: If you want to use another drive, click the “Select drive” option on the left to change the settings.
  6. (Optional) Click the Advanced Settings option from the left pane.

  7. Under the “Advanced settings” section, choose how often File History should create an incremental backup of your files using the “Save copies of files” setting.

    File History backup frequency and retention

  8. Choose the backup retention using the “Keep saved versions” setting.

  9. Click the Save changes button.

  10. (Optional) Click the Exclude Folders option from the left pane.

  11. Click the Add button.

    File Explorer exclude locations

  12. Select the folder location to exclude from the backup.

  13. Click the Select Folder button.

  14. Click the Save changes button.

Once you complete the steps, File History will begin saving copies of your files in the external storage.

On the “Advanced Settings” page, you will also find the “Event logs” section with an option to open the Event Viewer, where you can check errors and other events generated by File History.

If you want to stop File History, you can always click the “Turn off” button.

Windows 11 File History backup to network folder

To create a file backup to a network folder with File History, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search Control Panel and select the top result to open the app.

  3. Click on System and Security.

  4. Click on File History.

    Open File History

  5. Click the Select drive option from the left pane.

    File History select drive

  6. Click the “Add network location” option.

    Add network location

  7. Select the network folder to backup files with File History on Windows 11.

  8. Click the Select Folder button.

    Quick note: It’s assumed that you already have access to the shared folder. Otherwise, you can use these instructions to set up file sharing on Windows 11.
  9. Click the OK button.

  10. Click the “Turn on” button to enable Windows 11’s File History.

    File History enable network folder

  11. (Optional) Click the Advanced Settings option from the left pane.

  12. Under the “Advanced settings” section, choose how often File History should create an incremental backup of your files using the “Save copies of files” setting.

    File History backup frequency and retention

  13. Choose the backup retention using the “Keep saved versions” setting.

  14. Click the Save changes button.

  15. (Optional) Click the Exclude Folders option from the left pane.

  16. Click the Add button.

    File Explorer exclude locations

  17. Select the folder location to exclude from the backup.

  18. Click the Select Folder button.

  19. Click the Save changes button.

After you complete the steps, the feature will create a backup of your files to the network location.

Windows 11 File History restore

To restore files backed up with File History, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search Control Panel and select the top result to open the app.

  3. Click on System and Security.

  4. Click on File History.

    Open File History

  5. Click the Restore personal files option from the left pane.

  6. Use the back and forth buttons to navigate to a point in time to restore your files.

  7. Select the content that you want to recover.

  8. Click the green button to restore your files to their default location.

    Quick tip: You can also click the gear button in the top-right corner and use the Restore option to restore files to an alternate location.

Once you complete the steps, the files will be restored to the specified location on Windows 11.

It’s important to note that File History has been designed for the occasional recovery of files. This means that this feature is perfect for restoring one or a group of files after accidental deletion or modification. However, the feature is not meant to recover all of your files after performing a clean installation of Windows 11 or restoring all of your files since you will have problems reconfiguring the feature. If you managed to make the feature work, restoration could take a long time if you have a lot of files.