How to enable Previous Versions to recover files on Windows 11

Windows 11's Previous Versions feature lets you recover deleted and lost files from File Explorer, and here's how.

Windows 11 enable previous versions
Windows 11 enable previous versions

On Windows 11, the “Previous Versions” feature allows you to recover files from File Explorer, and in this guide, you will learn how.

The “Previous Versions” feature works by creating copies of files (and folders) automatically every time a shadow copy is created manually or automatically, which happens every time a restore point or a File History copy is created. 

If you want to be able to recover lost or accidentally deleted files, you can enable the feature by setting up File History, System Restore, or Shadow copies.

This guide will teach you the ways to enable Previous Versions to undelete and restore previous revisions of files stored on your device running Windows 11.

Enable Previous Versions from File History

To enable Previous Versions from File History on Windows 11, connect an external drive to the computer, 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

Once you complete the steps, every backup revision that File History crates on Windows 11 will become available to restore files using “Previous Versions” in File Explorer.

Enable Previous Versions from System Restore

To enable System Restore to recover files on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Click on System.

  3. Under the “Device specifications” section, click the System protection option.

    Settings open System Protection

  4. Under the “Protection Settings” section, select the system drive (C) and click the Configure button.

    Protection settings on Windows 11

  5. Select the “Turn on system protection” option.

    Enable system protection

  6. Click the Apply button.

  7. Click the OK button.

  8. Click the Create button.

  9. Specify a description for the restore point. For example, Restore Point “date” and “time.”

  10. Click the Create button.

  11. Click the Close button.

  1. Click the OK button.

After you complete the steps, you can use the restore points to restore previous versions of files. However, unless you create new restore points manually, the number of previous versions will be limited on your computer.

Enable Previous Versions from Shadow copies

It’s also possible to use the “Volume Shadow Copy” feature with Task Scheduler to create copies of the data on the drive to recover files.

To configure Volume Shadow Copy to enable Previous Versions on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Right-click the Task Scheduler Library folder and select the New Folder option.

  3. Type any name for the folder (for example, MyTasks) and click the OK button.

  4. Right-click the recently created folder and select the Create Task option.

    Task Scheduler create advanced task option

  5. Confirm a name for the task in the “Name” box.

  6. Under the “General” tab, under the “Security options” section, select the “Run whether user is logged on or not” option under the “Security options” section.

    Task Scheduler general task settings

  7. Clear the “Do not store password” option.

  8. Click on the “Triggers” tab.

  9. Click the New button.

  10. Select the “On a schedule” option in the “Begin the task” drop-down menu.

  11. Under the “Settings” section, select when to run the task, such as “Daily.” (Whatever option you select, specify the “Start” settings on the right side.)

    Task Scheduler schedule settings

  12. Click the OK button.

  13. Click the “Actions” tab and click the New Button.

  14. Select the “Start a program” option from the “Actions” drop-down menu.

  15. Type the following command in the “Program/script” box:

    wmic
  16. Type the following command in the “Add arguments” box:

    shadowcopy call create Volume=C:

    Enable Previous Versions on Windows 11 with custom task

    Quick note: Update the command with the correct drive letter if you want to make copies of files located on another driver.
  17. Click the OK button.

  18. Click the “Settings” tab.

  19. Check the “Allow task to be run on demand,” “Run task as soon as possible after a scheduled start is missed,” and “If the task fails, restart every” option.

  20. Confirm your admin username and password (if applicable).

  21. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, the task will run on the schedule to create volume shadow copies, which you can then use to restore files using Previous Versions of Windows 11.

Recover previous versions of files on Windows 11

To restore previous versions of a file on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.

  2. Right-click the parent folder with the file to restore and select the Properties option.

    File Explorer folder properties

  3. Click the Previous Versions tab.

  4. Under the “File versions” section, select the file version to recover and click the arrow button next to the Restore button.
    File restore previous version

  5. Select the Restore To option.

  6. Select the location to restore the file (or folder).

  7. Click the Select folder button to restore the files.

After you complete the steps, the file will be restored to the specified location on Windows 11.

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 About.me.