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Protect your files by saving them to OneDrive

When you save your files to OneDrive, you can get to them from anywhere and your files are safe in OneDrive if anything happens to your device. Now, you can set up protection for your important folders in Windows, such as Desktop, Documents, and Pictures when using either your personal OneDrive account or work or school account. Here's how to set up folder protection.

Set up folder protection

If you're eligible to protect important Windows folders (such as Desktop, Documents, or Pictures) you'll see a prompt to set up folder protection.

  1. Click the prompt to protect your important folders.

    Or, if you already closed the prompt, select the white or blue cloud icon in the Windows notification area, and then in the activity center, select More > Settings > Auto Save > Update folders.

    Important: If you don't see the Update folders button in OneDrive Settings, you aren't eligible for folder protection and the rest of this article doesn't apply to you. But you can begin saving your files to OneDrive by changing the selections next to each folder name from This PC only to OneDrive. You'll be prompted to protect important folders only if you're eligible.

  2. In the Set up protection of important folders dialog box, make sure the folders that you want to protect are selected.

    Screenshot of the Set up protection of important folders dialog box in OneDrive

  3. Select Start protection.

  4. You can close the dialog box while your files sync to OneDrive. Or, to watch your files sync, select View upload progress. If you already closed the dialog box, select the white or blue cloud in the notification area to open the OneDrive activity center.

When the files finish syncing to OneDrive, they're protected and you can access them from anywhere in Documents, Desktop, or Pictures. When you protect your Desktop folder, the items on your desktop roam with you to your other PC desktops where you're running OneDrive.

Change folder protection settings

If want to stop protecting or start protecting an important folder in OneDrive, you can update your folders in OneDrive Settings.

Important: When you stop protecting a folder, the files that were already protected by OneDrive stay in OneDrive. If you no longer want those files in OneDrive, you'll need to move them to a local folder on your PC yourself. Any new files you add to that folder on your PC won't be protected by OneDrive.

  1. Open OneDrive Settings (select the white or blue cloud icon in your notification area, and then select More > Settings.)

    Screenshot of getting to OneDrive Settings

  2. In Settings, select Auto Save > Update folders.

  3. To stop protecting a folder, select Stop protecting and then confirm that you want to stop protection in the Turn off protection dialog box.

    Screenshot of when you stop protecting folders in OneDrive

  4. To start protecting a folder, select any folder that doesn't say Files protected, and then select Start protection.

Fix problems with folder protection

Here are a list of errors you might see when you set up folder protection and how to resolve them:

  • The following file types can't be protected: Outlook database files (.pst) and OneNote files that aren't already stored in OneDrive (.one, .onepkg, .onetoc, .onetoc2). To continue protecting the folder, Move a OneNote notebook to OneDrive or remove these items from the folder you want to protect, and then try again. 

  • Folder protection is unavailable: A common reason for this error is that important folders on PCs that are connected to a domain can't be protected in a personal OneDrive account (when you're signed in with a Microsoft account). Please contact your IT administrator about data protection solutions. You shouldn’t have this issue with a work or school account.

  • File exceeds the maximum path length: Make sure the entire file path, including the file name, contains fewer than 520 characters on Windows 10 or under 260 characters on Windows 7. An example of a file path is:
    C:\Users\<UserName>\Pictures\Saved\2017\December\Holiday\NewYears\Family…
    To resolve this, shorten the name of your file or the name of subfolders in OneDrive, or select a sub-folder that's closer to the top-level folder.

  • File exceeds the maximum file size: OneDrive can't sync files over 20 GB. Remove these files from the folder you want to protect and then try again.

  • The file name isn't allowed in OneDrive: File names can't start with a space or include any of these characters: \ : / * ? < > " |. Please move or rename the file to continue.

  • The folder isn't selected for syncing: The folder with the error is not syncing to your PC. To resolve this error, open OneDrive Settings (right-click the white or blue cloud icon in your notification area, and click Settings), click Choose Folders, and then make sure the folder you want to protect is selected. If Pictures is showing this error, make sure that Pictures, Screenshots, and Camera Roll are all selected (or don't exist). It's also possible that the OneDrive folder has a different name from the Windows important folder.

  • The folder is on a different volume than OneDrive: OneDrive is set up to sync on a different volume than the folder selected for protection. (for example, OneDrive is on the D: drive, but the Documents folder is on the C: drive). To resolve this issue, set up OneDrive on the same volume as the folder you're trying to protect. In OneDrive settings, click Unlink this PC. After unlinking, sign in again and choose the root folder location to be on the same volume as the folder you want to sync. You can also manually move the folder you want to sync to the same volume as OneDrive by right-clicking the folder, selecting the location tab, and choosing a location that's on the same volume as OneDrive.

  • Important folders aren't in the default locations: The folder with the error contains another important folder and can't be protected until the contained folder is moved. Important folders that may be contained within the folder include: Documents, Desktop, Pictures, Screenshots, Camera Roll, or the OneDrive folder.

  • Folder contains a reparse point (junction point or symlink): The folder you want to protect contains a special file type that links parts of the file system together. These items can't be protected. To protect the folder, remove the file causing the issue.

    Caution: Some applications may depend on these links to function properly. Remove only the links that you know are safe to modify.

Need more help?

Check the OneDrive help center.

If you’ve followed the steps in this article and still need help, email the OneDrive support team.

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