I use OneDrive for Business on Windows 11 and I want to back up the Documents folder on my harddrive to OneDrive.

In the OneDrive settings I go to "Sync and backup > Manage backup". Here, I see three switches to toggle backup for Documents, Pictures and Desktop. All three switches are off and I can't switch any of them on, apparently because my Pictures folder contains my iCloud photos. The error message I get is: "We can't back up your Pictures folder in OneDrive, because it contains another cloud storage. Please turn off the cloud service syncing in this folder and try again." While this explains why OneDrive won't back up my Pictures, it's not clear to me why I can't turn on backup for Documents or Desktop, since I don't have iCloud sync anything in those folders.

How can I switch on backup for Documents? I don't need to switch on backup for Pictures and I don't want to turn off iCloud.


  • 1
    "it's not clear to me why I can't turn on backup for Documents or Desktop." - It actually does. iCloud like OneDrive does not keep every file on your system. You can't expect OneDrive to be abe to keep files syncrhonized if the actual file isn't on the system.
    – Ramhound
    Oct 31, 2023 at 12:17
  • 1
    In addition to Ramhound's answer, syncing a file can create a writelock, one service can lock a file while the other wants to access it and visa versa, similarly to having 2 virus scanners installed at the same time slowing down a system significantly as both scanners fight for the same file.
    – LPChip
    Oct 31, 2023 at 12:52
  • @Ramhound That would make sense if iCloud would actually sync something in those folders, but it doesn't. It just syncs photos. So I do understand why I can't turn on Pictures, but I don't understand why I can't turn on Documents and Desktop, since iCloud doesn't do anything there. I didn't state that clearly, so I updated my question. Thanks for pointing it out.
    – Rinke
    Nov 1, 2023 at 11:31
  • So what folders have you configured iCloud to synchronize? Is one of those folders within the Pictures directory? Your screenshot doesn’t indicate the other two directories cannot be synchronized
    – Ramhound
    Nov 1, 2023 at 12:28
  • @Ramhound iCloud only syncs one subfolder of de Pictures folder, called "iCloud Photos". That's it. It doesn't sync anything else. The switches in my screenshot are greyed out, but you're right: it's not super clear. That's why I mentioned it explicitly in my question.
    – Rinke
    Nov 3, 2023 at 11:29

3 Answers 3


I recommend relocating your iCloud files and folders to a location outside the area you intend to back up with OneDrive. Given that you already have iCloud automatically backed up on its platform, duplicating this backup by storing those synchronized photos on OneDrive is redundant.

Change where your files and folders are stored

Your files and folders are stored in C:\Users\[user name]\iCloud Drive by default. If you have iCloud for Windows 14, you can choose a different location.

  1. On your Windows computer, open iCloud for Windows.
  2. If iCloud Drive is enabled, deselect it, then click Apply.
  3. Click the Options button next to iCloud Drive, then click Change.
  4. Choose a different disk drive that’s formatted as NTFS, click OK, then click OK again.
  5. Click Apply.

To get started with iCloud Drive on your Windows computer, learn how to view, add, or remove files and share files and folders.


Furthermore, consider exploring an extended solution by creating a symbolic link to the folder where you've made changes to the iCloud storage folder. This symbolic link would reside within the original Pictures\iCloud Photos subfolder, would be named iCloud Photos, but would point to the new location you've designated for iCloud synchronization (e.g. C:\users\<username>\iCloud Photo).

Command Line - CMD

mklink /D "C:\users\<username>\Pictures\iCloud Photos" "C:\users\<username>\iCloud Photos"

You can now seamlessly access the original path again just as was done before the modification.

enter image description here

Steps and Recap

  1. Transition iCloud to store files in the C:\users\<username>\iCloud Photos directory and allow sufficient time for the transition to be successfully completed.
  2. Delete the original C:\users\<username>\Pictures\iCloud Photos folder if it is still present.
  3. Create a symbolic link directory named "iCloud Photos" at the original location, directing it to the new location where iCloud files are stored.

Supporting Resources

  • 1
    @Rinke.... consider system rebooting for step #2 listed there if you run into trouble getting that to delete. I also left a link to another answer post of mine to help too should you have trouble getting that to delete post the transition in order to make the link as stated in my answer. Good luck, and let me know how it goes, if you run into any trouble, or need further assistance with other trivial adjustments. Nov 9, 2023 at 2:09
  • mklink I don't think works with onedrive, not sure on icloud, and definitely not with dropbox. Dec 17, 2023 at 18:09
  • Does this imply that OneDrive won't back up the symbolic link leading to an iCloud location on a separate path, or will it indeed do so? While it's likely to function properly, I'm interested in understanding the specific functionalities that have been confirmed as not operational. The goal of this solution is to relocate iCloud storage outside of the default OneDrive-backed-up folders while establishing a link to the new location. This ensures a seamless user experience, allowing access to the original folder path as if it hadn't been moved. @JohnnyVegas Dec 17, 2023 at 19:24

You need to duplicate the folders that interfere with icloud.

Firstly, create a folder by opening a cmd prompt and typing

mkdir %userprofile%\pictures_onedrive

Every time the computer starts, a batch file will run, cloning the interfering folders - for example in this case, pictures.

xcopy /s /c /d /y %userprofile%\pictures\*.* %userprofile%\pictures_onedrive

Copy the above and save to a file called onedrive_help.bat

Either add the onedrive_help to startup or add a scheduled task for running at startup.

Go into onedrive and make sure pictures folder is not selected to be backed up, and pictures_onedrive is.

  • I voted this answer down because it can lead to inconsistencies. Where it may work with photos, others may do the same with files that are say... documents, and then edit a copy on one location and then on another and lose their work. This solution is very janky and can lead to dataloss if done improperly.
    – LPChip
    Oct 31, 2023 at 12:24
  • For example, lets say I have this implemented. I go to a friends house and I show them my photos through OneDrive but complain that the colors are bad. They have photoshop and show me how they cna make the photo better. We spend 2 hours touching up 25 photos, and then upload them back to OneDrive. I come home, fire up the computer and the script overrides the photos. All work gone.
    – LPChip
    Oct 31, 2023 at 12:27
  • 1
    Next time, read the question rather than downvoting. Did you notice the word backup? If the user takes files out the backup to show someone then after edit, put them back into onedrive, the folder then is no longer a backup - Wouldn't of answered if the user wanted to sync. Oct 31, 2023 at 17:57
  • Although I can agree that this is no longer a backup, I also know that when an inexperienced user asks for help, they'll use the wording that comes with the app. OneDrive calls their solution a backup solution, yet there are many companies that work with their files locally and then upload it to OneDrive, and then edit it elsewhere. They consider the online portion their backup and then change it to cloud storage and cloud computing even.
    – LPChip
    Oct 31, 2023 at 18:54
  • they just need their inexperienced pictures on two inexperienced systems. Dec 17, 2023 at 14:49

A good explanation why having iCloud Pictures blocks also the backup of Documents or Desktop is found in the Ask Leo article of The Problem With OneDrive Backup. Note that the sub-title of the article is "Good intentions? Maybe. Confusing mess? Definitely."

Here is the quote with the explanation (the bold highlight is mine) :

Here’s what really happens when you enable this (again, we’re focusing on your Documents folder, but the backup feature also takes over your Pictures and Desktop).

  • The contents of your computer’s Documents folder (C:\Users\<username>\Documents) are moved to the OneDrive Documents folder (C:\Users\<username>\OneDrive\Documents), leaving your computer’s Documents folder empty.
  • The OneDrive app notices that files have been added and dutifully begins sending them to OneDrive.com cloud storage.
  • The Documents shortcut present in Windows File Explorer is changed to point to C:\Users\<username>\OneDrive\Documents. In Windows File Explorer, the Documents icon that used to say “Stored locally” will now say “Leo – Personal” (or its equivalent for your sign-in), indicating that it’s now pointing at OneDrive.

The backup feature moves your personal folders elsewhere, so is disabled when another backup is also pointing to the same folders that OneDrive wishes to move.

I do not know why OneDrive insists on an all-or-nothing approach for all the three folders, Documents, Pictures and Desktop, but it's a matter of the OneDrive implementation (which already by the above description seems very kludgy).

(Personally, I would advise against the use of a backup method that permits itself such liberties with your personal folders.)

  • Thanks for this good background info. It certainly is messy. Any idea how to switch OneDrive's messy backup on for my Documents only? I can live with the fact that it's not really a backup, but more a move.
    – Rinke
    Nov 6, 2023 at 11:41
  • 1
    I have purged OneDrive from my computer, simply because it's messy and problematic, so I cannot test. But according to the above source it relocates all three folders, even if it only backs-up one of them. If it's truly like this, then there is no solution.
    – harrymc
    Nov 6, 2023 at 13:44

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