Protect your files

How to enable ransomware protection on Windows 11

Windows 11 has a feature to protect your files against ransomware attacks, but you must enable it manually – here's how.

Windows 11 ransomware protection

On Windows 11, you can enable the “Controlled folder access” feature to protect your files against ransomware attacks, and in this guide, you will learn how. Microsoft Defender Antivirus is your default security solution to protect your computer against viruses, spyware, rootkits, and many other types of malware. However, you probably didn’t know that the anti-malware solution also includes an option to protect your files from ransomware, but you need to enable the feature manually.

In a nutshell, “ransomware” defines the form of malware attacks that encrypts the files on a computer, making any files inaccessible and unreadable. Once the attack is successful, the malicious individual will then demand ransom to unlock the device and files.

Controlled folder access is an anti-ransomware feature that monitors the changes that apps make to your files. If an app tries to modify the files inside a protected folder, and the app is blacklisted, you’ll get notified about the suspicious activity.

In this guide, you will learn the steps to enable and configure Controlled folder access using Microsoft Defender Antivirus to protect Windows 11 and files against ransomware. (See also this video tutorial walking you through every step to enable the feature.)

Enable ransomware protection on Windows 11

To enable the Controlled folder access anti-ransomware protection on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Windows Security.

  2. Click on Virus & threat protection.

  3. Under the “Ransomware protection” section, click the Manage ransomware protection option.

    Manage ransomware protection

  4. Turn on the Controlled folder access toggle switch.

    Enable ransomware protection

Once you complete the steps, Microsoft Defender Antivirus will monitor the protected folders as applications try to modify your files. If suspicious activity occurs, you’ll get a notification about the threat.

Allow apps ransomware protection on Windows 11

The security feature has a basic understanding of the apps that are allowed to make changes to your files. However, sometimes an app you trust may get blocked. If this is the case, you may need to manually allow a particular app.

To allow trusted apps through the ransomware protection feature, use these steps:

  1. Open Windows Security.

  2. Click on Virus & threat protection.

  3. Under the “Ransomware protection” section, click the Manage ransomware protection option.

    Manage ransomware protection

  4. Click the Allow an app through Controlled folder access option.

    Allow an app through Controlled folder access

  5. Click the Add an allowed app button and select the “Recently blocked apps” or “Browse all apps” options to select the app to allow.

    Select allowed app

After you complete the steps, the app should be able to run freely to modify files in the protected folders.

Protect other folders against ransomware on Windows 11

The anti-ransomware feature, by default, protects the Documents, Pictures, Movies, and Desktop folders. While you can’t remove these folders from the list, you can include additional locations to the list to protect your data from ransomware and other malware.

To add more folders to the ransomware protection list on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Windows Security.

  2. Click on Virus & threat protection.

  3. Under the “Ransomware protection” section, click the Manage ransomware protection option.

    Manage ransomware protection

  4. Click the Protected folders option.

    Protected folders settings

  5. Click the Add a protected folder button.

    Add a protected folder option

  6. Select the new folder location to protect against ransomware and click the Select Folder button.

Once you complete the steps, Control folder access will begin monitoring the new folder locations for malicious activities to prevent ransomware attacks on Windows 11.

Disable ransomware protection on Windows 11

To disable the ransomware protection on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Windows Security.

  2. Click on Virus & threat protection.

  3. Under the “Ransomware protection” section, click the Manage ransomware protection option.

    Manage ransomware protection

  4. Turn off the Controlled folder access toggle switch to disable the ransomware protection.

    Windows 11 disable ransomware

After you complete the steps, the “Controlled folder access” feature will stop monitoring for ransomware malicious activities on your Windows 11 computer.