Can you use File History to backup folders in Windows 11?
File History was first introduced in Windows 8, and inherited in Windows 10. It allows you to backup specific folders to another drive automatically, which is a convenient option for continuous data protection. Therefore, many users may want to continue using File History to backup folders in Windows 11 while worrying it won't work anymore.
In fact, File History is still included in Windows 11 and the operation hasn’t changed much. But in terms of specific configurations, it does have some changes compared to Windows 10. For example, you cannot select non-preset folders to backup, some believe this is to promote the newly added OneDrive backup feature.
How to access and enable File History in Windows 11
If you are still unfamiliar with the interface of the new OS and are not quite sure how to enable and disable File History in Windows 11, then you can refer to the following information.
In Windows 11, you can find all available backup tools in Settings > System > Storage > Advanced storage settings > Backup options. File History is also listed here.
Same as Windows 10, you can Add a drive as backup destination and then toggle on Automatically backup my files to enjoy the service. You can also toggle it off easily when you no longer need it.
But to facilitate advanced settings, it’s more recommended to launch it through Control Pane > Large icons/small icons > File History. Alternatively, you could directly search for it in Windows search bar.
In this pop-up window, you can click Select drive on the left pane to add a target device. It also allows you to add a network location. Then click Turn on to enable it. You can also turn it off at any time.
How to check if your file history is working properly
There’s an “Event logs” section in the Advanced settings tab of File History. You can click on “Open File History event logs to view recent events or errors”. It will show you details about what happened in File History.
It is also a good idea to check your destination drive from time to time, to see if all the libraries you have selected are backed up as expected. Because there is a possibility that File History not backing up all files.
Windows 11 vs Windows 10 File History: you cannot select folders
The most criticized point of Windows 11 File History is that you can't add the folders you want to backup like in Windows 10. All you can do is to exclude the ones you don't want to back up from the preset folders.
This means that if you want to back up other folders, you either need to use another backup tool (like Backup and Restore) or move them to the preset folders first.
Is there a way to add folders in Windows 11 File History?
It’s clear that you cannot add directories from the UI as in Windows 10. If you want to schedule backup selected folders with equally simple operation, it’s recommended to use automatic backup software. But if you don't want to give up on File History, you can try editing the config file to add new directories.
I will quote the solution provided from reddit:
Found the solution. You must edit the config file(s) to add the new directories. From there I followed the opening and closing argument tags and put the directory. I was able to add my local and roaming app data as well as a few more directories from the D drive even, which is not something you can do from the Win 10 I believe. Start a backup, in the root of the backup Dir there's two ini config files. Edit both with your new locations. If you edit anything as exclusion, it will remove it. So exclude all, then manually edit.
Possible scenarios where Windows 11 File History not working
Windows adds new backup options to new systems from time to time, but rarely optimizes the old backup tools. As a result, some backup errors occurred in Windows 7, 8 still exist in newer OS like Windows 10, 11.
Here I listed some common situations where File History not working and their solutions for your reference.
Case 1. File History doesn’t recognize this drive
If your Windows 11 File History stopped working and prompts you it doesn’t recognize this drive, or no usable drive was found error, this may be due to inadvertently turning off File History, wrong startup type setting, etc.
Solution 1: Reconnect the target drive, and turn on File History.
Solution 2: Search for “Services” in Windows, and navigate to "File History Service". Right-click it to Start it, and choose Properties to change its "Startup type" into Automatic.
Case 2. File History drive is disconnected
If you receive an error message like: Reconnect your drive. Your File History drive is disconnected. this may be due to connection problems or hard drive errors of the target disk, or you’ve made some changes to the drive after setting it as the backup target.
Solution 1: Reconnect the target device, then navigate to File History, reselect the drive for backup.
Solution 2: Run “chkdsk.exe /f x:” in Command Prompt to check the hard drive for bad sectors. “x” refers to the drive letter of your target device.
Solution 3: Create a network share and set it as target drive. Details can be found in backup Windows 11 to network.
Case 3. File History not backing up all files
The convenience of File History is that it only requires an initial setup to be executed automatically on time, but some users find out after a long time that File History does not backup all the specified folders. For this kind of problem, there is no official explanation, so there is also no certain effective solution. One possible cause is that the filename being too long and directory being too deep.
Solution 1: You can check the target drive to see if your files that were not backed up match this scenario. If yes, maybe you can simplify the filename or re-arrange the folders and try again.
Solution 2: You can turn File History off and then turn it on to do a forced refresh. If it doesn’t work, delete the backups from the target drive, set up File History again from scratch, and try excluding folders that were already backed up to cloud drive or network locations.
Case 4. File History not working on EFS files
File History could not backup encrypted file system (efs) files. If you receive errors like “File History has found files that are encrypted with Encrypting File System”, what you need to do is to decrypt these files or mapped drives.
Find the file or folder in File Explorer, right-click it and choose Properties, tap Advanced… button under General tab, then uncheck the box of Encrypt contents to secure data and click OK.
Also, you can check the Properties of each library and choose to Remove network path in Library locations.
Better solution to backup selected folders in Windows 11
For users who are used to backing up selected folders with File History, the changes in Windows 11 may be frustrating. Therefore I’d like to provide an alternative solution with greater flexibility and simpler operation.
AOMEI Backupper Standard is a free backup software works with all PCs running Windows 11, 10, 8, 7, etc. It supports schedule automatic backup on basis of daily, weekly, monthly, and allows you to select files, folders, partitions, operating system or even entire disk for backup.
If you find frequent backups taking up too much space, you can use incremental or differential backup to save only changed files, or choose a higher compression level to create smaller backup files.
You can even set up automatic backup cleanup, or filter out unwanted file types in source directory if you upgrade to Professional edition.
Download the AOMEI Backupper Standard to have a try!
How to back up selected files/folders in Windows 11:
1. Launch the software, go to Backup tab and choose File Backup.
2. Click Add Folder or Add File to specify the data you want to back up.
3. Then select a target path. It could be internal/external drive, USB flash drive, network share, NAS or cloud.
4. Click Backup Schedule to enable automatic backup, and switch to Backup Scheme to select a Backup Method. Then you can confirm the settings, and click Start Backup to execute the task.
☆ Useful options ☆
Backup Schedule: Options include daily, weekly, monthly, event triggers and USB plug in. The last 2 are supported by Pro edition.
Backup Method: You can choose full, incremental or differential. Note differential backup is available in Pro edition.
Automatic Backup Cleanup: Auto delete old backups by quantity, time or schedule. Available in Pro edition.
If you are bothered by Windows 11 File History not working properly or not being able to select folders, then it is time to try other more convenient file backup tools.
AOMEI Backupper is a simple and reliable choice It contains powerful backup & restore features to suit your different needs and provide you with continuous data protection. As a comprehensive software, it also includes disk cloning features and can be used as a migration tool to transfer Windows 11 from one SSD to another.