Tip: Enable OneDrive Folder Protection

Posted on August 15, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in OneDrive, Windows, Windows 10 with 13 Comments

OneDrive’s folder protection feature is now available to everyone with Windows 7 or newer. Here’s how to enable it and use this feature to protect your PC’s most important files.

Folder protection was previously available to OneDrive for Business users, and to those with a commercial version of Microsoft Office. But as the Microsoft support website notes, this feature is now available in the consumer version of OneDrive for Windows as well.

You may see a prompt to enable folder protection. But going forward, this prompt will appear when you set up a new Windows 10 PC or reset the PC. I saw this when I was in Sweden, for example, when I reset a Surface Book 2 running Redstone 5.

If not, you can still enable folder protection via OneDrive settings. To find that, select the OneDrive system tray icon and then choose More and then Settings. Then, navigate to the Auto Save tab.

By default, the three special folders you can auto-sync with OneDrive—Desktop, Documents, and Pictures—are configured normally, as “This PC only.” But you can change one or more of them to “OneDrive” to sync them with the cloud.

There are two benefits to doing this.

First, this lets you sync these folders between each of your PCs. So, for example, the contents of your Desktop folder could be identical on each PC you use and provide you with access to the same files you keep there.

Second, files stored in OneDrive are protected against potential ransomware attacks, where malware on your PC prevents you from accessing your files. Since the files are synced to OneDrive, you don’t have to worry about not having access. You can just reset the PC and start over.

Thanks to The Verge for reminding me about this feature.


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Comments (13)

13 responses to “Tip: Enable OneDrive Folder Protection”

  1. LT1 Z51

    I already did this manually by moving my Pictures and Music files into my OneDrive Folder (and remapping my user accounts folder location).

    • wbhite

      In reply to LT1 Z51:

      I did the same, but I think it's a great feature for someone like my parents who have no idea where they save their documents - hands off, worry free backup.

      • chrisrut

        In reply to wbhite:

        We did the same in my enterprise years ago - using folder redirection group policies to store everyone's desktop, documents, settings etc. onto central file shares, and protecting the heck out of the shares rather than the workstations. This way, if something goes wrong at the workstation we just blow it up and reimage - no worries about user data loss. Meanwhile the user can sign on to any other domain-joined machine and be back in business within a couple of minutes. That system has worked flawlessly for many years - still does today. Better actually, with O365/OneDrive dramatically reducing the loads on those local servers - and our local backup systems.

        The same is true personally I'm using W10 Insider Fast Ring on my main workstation, and because everything important is in the cloud, I just don't even think about it anymore.

        At 70, like your parents, I truly enjoy "hands off, worry free backup." :-)

    • JacobTheDev

      In reply to LT1 Z51:

      Yea, I've been doing the same thing for years with symlinks. Glad to see this coming for "normal" users though, hopefully it'll help mitigate the "my computer died and all my files are gone!" problems so many of my family members have had...

  2. waethorn

    Um....this was in OneDrive for consumers for a long time.

    • ratkutti

      In reply to Waethorn:

      You mean the third, Auto Save screenshot in the article?

      • crfonseca

        In reply to ratkutti:


        The 3rd screenshot with the autosave tab is the "old" version of the OneDrive sync client app. It's the second one, the one saying "Set up protection for important folders" that is new, but it seems to be just a redesign of the old one, since for me, because I had already chosen those 3 folders to be saved to OneDrive, it just gives me the option to stop syncing.

        Still, if you have a Office 365 Home account, there's really no reason not to sync them to OneDrive.

  3. gregsedwards

    Interestingly enough, I had already done this (manually) on my SP4. For my own convenience, I had opted to map my local folders to my personal OneDrive account, since my organization doesn't widely use OneDrive for Business. However, now when I go to check my OneDrive account settings, it tells me the feature isn't available to be used with a personal OneDrive account because this is a "work" device. So, apparently I've been grandfathered in, but presumably at some point I'll need to update them to point to my work account's OneDrive for Business storage. Makes sense from a security perspective. Neat.

  4. Tony Barrett

    First tip for protecting your most important files - don't store them on OneDrive in the first place. OneDrive is just a sideline for MS, to get you to actually store your data on their servers. Just pay a few $ every month to a company who's BUSINESS is cloud storage, and they will take much better care of your data, and ONLY use cloud storage as a backup, not primary storage!

  5. Belralph

    Yeah I've been doing this with dropbox for years. Just right-click your user folders and select "Location" and move them to your dropbox folder. This is a good tip for those that run Office 365 Home/Personal with the 1TB of storage.

  6. jwpear

    If ransomware overwrites the files locally, wouldn’t this also overwrite them in OneDrive? My understanding is that OneDrive recently began supporting file versions, but I don’t quite understand how recovery from ransomeware would work if ransomed files were synced to OneDrive. Do I have to manually recover each file or is there some way to recover everything as of a certain date like a traditional backup/restore process like Carbonite offered?

  7. james_wilson

    I save files to Onedrive by default, but backup my local Onedrive folder using File History on Windows and Time Machine on Mac. This way, your workflow is based around Onedrive (save everything there by default) but you still have local offline copies if needed.