How to Turn On or Off File History in Windows 11

The File History feature helps back up essential files automatically. Here’s how to turn on or off File History in Windows 11.

For a long time, in fact, for the past few versions, Windows has had a built-in mechanism called File History. Using the File History feature, you can configure Windows to automatically backup files and their changes. For this, File History uses the NTFS’s feature, Change Journal.

The best thing is that the File History feature is a set it and forget feature. That means there is no need to manage the feature to create backups constantly. It does everything in the background automatically.

Of course, you can restore the files from File History if the original files are accidentally deleted, lost, or damaged. It takes a couple of clicks to get your important files back.

Follow the below steps to turn on File History or turn off File History in Windows 11 via the Control Panel.

Table of contents:

Are you using Windows 10? Here’s how to turn on and use File History in Windows 10.

File History requirements

You need an external hard drive or add a network location to Windows to use the File History feature.

Without the external hard drive or a network location, the File History feature won’t work. You can’t even turn it on. So, attach either one of those and proceed with enabling the File History feature.

Additionally, ensure the external hard drive or the network location has sufficient space and uses the NTFS file system.

Turn on File History in Windows 11

In Windows 11, you must use the Control Panel to enable or turn on the File History feature. If you are wondering, Microsoft removed the feature from the PC Settings app, unlike in Windows 10.

Here are the steps to turn on File History in Windows 11.

  1. Plug in the external hard drive or connect to a network location.
  2. Click the “Start” icon on the taskbar.
  3. Search and open “File History” from the Start menu.
  4. Click the “Turn on” button.
  5. Close the Control Panel window.
  6. With that, you turned on the File History feature.
  7. Windows will automatically backup Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, and Desktop folders to the external hard drive or network location when available.

Steps with a bit more detail:

First, attack the external hard drive or connect to the network location.

Click the “Start” icon on the taskbar to launch the Start menu. Search for “File History” in the Start menu and click on the result to open the File History tool.

Note: You can open File History from the Control Panel too. Search and open “Control Panel” from the Start menu, and set the “View by” to “Large Icons.” Find and click the “File History” option.

open file history in Windows 11

Now, click the “Turn On” button at the bottom. The File History feature is turned on as soon as you do that.

turn on file history in Windows 11

Windows 11 will automatically backup files in the Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, and Desktop folders to the external drive or network location.

Remember that the network location or the external drive should be available/attached to the computer to run the File History backup.

Turn off File History in Windows 11

You can turn off the File History feature with just a single click. Here are the exact steps on how to do it.

  1. Open the Start menu.
  2. Search and open “File History.”
  3. Click the “Turn Off” button at the bottom.
  4. This action turn’s off the File History feature.
  5. You can close the File History window.
turn off file history in Windows 11

As you can see, it is pretty simple to turn off the File History feature in Windows 11.

File History limitations in Windows 11

Unlike the older versions, the File History feature in Windows 11 is pretty limited.

One of the main ways Microsoft limited the feature is by removing the ability to add custom folders to the File History. i.e., it will only backup files inside the Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, and Desktop folders. Additionally, it may also backup offline files in the OneDrive folder.

If you are looking for a reliable and full-fledged backup system, I recommend you use third-party programs like Macrium Reflect, Acronis, etc.

Unfortunately, there is no good first-party backup software from Microsoft as of writing this. So, you have to depend on third-party software.

That is all. It is that simple to turn on and off File History in Windows 11.

I hope this simple and easy Windows 11 how-to guide helped you.

If you are stuck or need some help, comment below, and I will try to help as much as possible.

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