Microsoft OneDrive is an effective way to back up, sync, and share specific folders and files, but the service has been hampered by one limitation: Any folders or files you want to back up and sync must be moved to and stored in the OneDrive folder under your Windows profile. As such, certain unmovable folders couldn't be included in your OneDrive backup. Well, that restriction has been removed for three important folders.
With the new folder protection feature in OneDrive, you can back up your desktop, documents, and pictures folders from their default locations. These folders are not only backed up to your online OneDrive space but are also synced, so you can access them from any OneDrive-enabled computer. Folder protection is available for OneDrive personal and business accounts. Let's look at how to set up and use OneDrive's new folder protection.
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The folder protection is still in the process of rolling out, so you may not have it just yet. When the feature reaches your computer, a prompt should pop up to ask you to set up folder protection—you can click that prompt to get started. If you miss it, no problem. Right-click the OneDrive icon in the Windows system tray and select Settings. Click the Auto Save tab. Click the Update Folders button. If you don't see this button, then you aren't yet eligible for folder protection and will have to wait until the feature rolls out to your account (Figure A).
By default, Desktop, Pictures, and Documents will be included in the backup—deselect any of the three folders that you want to exclude. Click the Start Protection button (Figure B).
OneDrive sets up the folder protection. A window appears to tell you that OneDrive is starting to protect your files. You can now close the OneDrive window while the folders are backed up, or you can click the View Sync Progress Button to watch the folders and files as they're backed up (Figure C).
If you chose to view the sync progress, the OneDrive window displays the name of each file being backed up and synced (Figure D).
After the backup has completed, sign into another computer or mobile device on which OneDrive is active. You'll now see the folders that you included in the folder protection (Figure E).
If you ever wish to turn off folder protection for any or all folders, return to the Auto Save tab for OneDrive settings and click the Update Folders button. If you turn off folder protection, any files in that folder stay in OneDrive. You can move the local files to a different folder, but any new files you add won't be protected by OneDrive. Click the link to Stop Protection on the folder you wish to remove from the backup. Click the button to Stop Protection (Figure F).
Restrictions to folder protection in OneDrive
Folder protection is a handy and effective option for OneDrive, but there are restrictions. You can't back up certain files, such as Microsoft Outlook PSTs and Microsoft OneNote files that aren't already being stored in OneDrive. You can't use a personal OneDrive account to protect files on PCs connected to a domain. The entire path name of a file that you want to back up this way must have fewer than 520 characters in Windows 10 and fewer than 260 characters in Windows 7. You can't sync files larger than 20 GB. The folders themselves must be in their default locations.
If you have any questions or bump into any problems, Microsoft's support page on folder protection is an excellent resource.
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Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books—one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.