By Delia / Last update October 18, 2022

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.

windows 11 file history not working

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 SettingsSystem > 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.

windows 11 backup options

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.

control pane backup options

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.

turn-on-file-history

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.

file history advanced settings

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 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 AOMEI Backupper) 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.

- JonSnoGaryen

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 that occurred in Windows 7, 8 , 10still exist in the latest OS Windows 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 in Windows 11

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.

start file history service

Case 2. Windows 11 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.

check disk

Solution 3: Create a network share and set it as target drive. Details can be found in backup Windows 11 to network.

Case 3. Windows 11 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 is too long and directory is 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. Windows 11 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.

Solution:

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. 

uncheck efs

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 that works with all PCs running Windows 11, 10, 8, 7, etc. It allows you to select files, folders, partitions, operating system or even entire disk for backup and supports schedule automatic backup on basis of daily, weekly, and monthly. 
If you find frequent backups taking up too much space, you can use incremental backup to save only changed files, choose a higher compression level to create smaller backup files, backup only used sectors of file system, automatic splitting backup image to smaller.

You can even set up automatic backup cleanup, or filter out unwanted file types in the source directory if you upgrade to Professional edition.

Download the AOMEI Backupper Standard to have a try!

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

(The standard and professional edition only works on Windows 11/10/8/7/XP/Vista. To backup selected folder in server computer, try AOMEI Backupper Server. $70 off for one server computer.)

How to back up selected files/folders in Windows 11:

1. Launch the software, go to Backup tab and choose File Backup.

file backup

2. Click Add Folder or Add File to specify the data you want to back up.

add folder

3. Then select a target path. It could be internal/external drive, USB flash drive, network share, NAS or cloud.

select-destination

4. Click Schedule Backup to enable automatic backup, and click OK to confirm. By default, it will use Incremental Backup to backup only changed files if you set a scheduled task. Then, click Start Backup to execute the task.

start backup

Useful options

Schedule Backup: Options include daily, weekly, monthly, event triggers and USB plug in. The last 2 are supported by the Pro edition. Upgrade now  and enjoy 5% discount now!

schedule options

Backup Method: You can choose full, incremental or differential. Note differential backup is available in the Pro edition. For differences between them, check content in the incremental or differential backup.

Automatic Backup Cleanup: Auto delete old backups by quantity, time or schedule. Available in Pro edition.

backup scheme

Options: You can comment, set email notification, enable pre/post-command, use intelligent sector backup, change normal compression level to higher, etc.

AOMEI Email SMS Notification Settings

Bonus tip 

There is a growing trend to backup files to cloud storage. You can backup files to AOMEI Cloud if you have an AOMEI account. You'll get 1TB free storage for 15 days after you sign up for an AOMEI account.

AOMEI Cloud

Conclusion

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.