How to Create a Full Backup on a Windows 11 Computer

How to back up files in Windows 11

What to Know

  • Connect an external drive and create automatic backups with File History.
  • Go to Start > Control Panel > System and Security > File History > Turn on.
  • Alternatively, back up files to OneDrive or use a third-party backup program.

This article will show you how to back up files on Windows 11 so that you can recover them in the event of a data loss.

How Do I Back Up All My Files on My Computer?

There are three principal methods to preserve your files and folders in Windows 11:

  • Back up with File History
  • Back up with third-party system image tools
  • Back up to OneDrive

File History is in the Control Panel. You can also back up to the cloud with OneDrive using the 5GB of free storage space available to every Windows user. The OneDrive folder syncing feature is available under Settings.

As the limited free cloud space is only helpful for partial backups of some files, it's always better to use a combination of offline and online fallback sources.


There are several free backup software tools for Windows. Choose from them when you need more advanced backup and sync features like selective backup and sync.

How to Back Up Windows 11 Using File History

File History is the default backup and data recovery solution in Windows 11. It was introduced in Windows 8 and allows you to take automatic and incremental backups of files and folders stored in the Library. Files are backed up in an external drive or a networked folder.

  1. Select Start (the Windows icon) in the taskbar.

  2. In the search bar, enter Control Panel and select the top result to open the panel.

    Control Panel in Windows 11 Search
  3. Select System and Security.

    System and Security in Windows 11 Control Panel
  4. Select File History. If File History is switched off, connect an external drive and refresh the window.

    File History in Windows 11
  5. From the left pane, select Advanced settings.

    Advanced Settings in File History on Windows 11
  6. In the Save Copies of Files drop-down list, set the schedule. The default is Every hour.

    Every hour in Windows 11 File History Advanced Setting
  7. You can also set how long it will keep the backup version of the files. Select the dropdown for Keep saved versions and change it as per your needs. The default is Forever.

    Forever (default) in Windows 11 File History Advanced Settings
  8. Go back to File History and select Exclude folders from the left pane. choose Add to list folders you don't want to back up. Navigate to the folder in Explorer and select them for the list.

    Add in Exclude folder in Windows 11 File History
  9. Return to the main File History screen. Select the Turn On button to enable File History. Windows starts backing up the files from Libraries, Contacts, and Favorites.

  10. Allow it to continue. You can select Turn off to terminate the process if you want to for some reason.

    Turn off highlighted in Windows 11 File History

To remove the backup created by File History, go to the hard drive used to back up files, then locate and delete the File History folder manually. Alternatively, the Cleanup versions feature under Advanced settings will remove copies of your backup older than the time you have set it to save.

  • How do I use OneDrive in Windows 11?

    To back up files with Windows OneDrive, open File Explorer, right-click OneDrive in the left pane and select OneDrive > Settings. In the Accounts tab, select Choose folders and select which folders you want to back up.

  • How do I restore my Windows 11 backup files?

    To restore files with File History, connect your external storage device and go to Control Panel > System and Security > File History, then select Restore Personal Files.

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