How to secure your sensitive OneDrive files with a Personal Vault

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I use Microsoft OneDrive to back up and sync my documents, photos, and other files across my various PCs and mobile devices.

Although my OneDrive files should be safe and secure in the cloud and across my various devices, I am still concerned that files containing confidential or sensitive information could be exposed. That’s why I use a feature in OneDrive called Personal Vault.

By including specific OneDrive folders or files in this vault, you can add an extra layer of authentication required to access that content.

By default, the vault stays locked until you need it. You unlock it with whatever method you use to protect your Microsoft account. After you unlock the vault, it will automatically lock after a period of time to protect your files again.

Likewise: How to get a grip on OneDrive [Ask ZDNET]

requirements

To take full advantage of Personal Vault, you need a Microsoft 365 Family or Personal subscription. Both plans allow you to add as many files to the vault as space allows. Without a Microsoft 365 plan, you can only have three files in your vault, which is probably not enough for most people. Additionally, Personal Vault is only available with the personal OneDrive app and not with OneDrive for Business. Otherwise, the vault works the same in Windows 10 and 11.

How to back up your sensitive OneDrive files with a Personal Vault

Before activating the Personal Vault, you should secure your Microsoft account and OneDrive access with the right type of multi-factor authentication, e.g. B. an authenticator app or a physical security key. In this case, use the Microsoft Authenticator app, which you can set up to send a notification to your mobile device when you want to unlock your Personal Vault.

Microsoft approved sign-in request pop-up

Turn on Personal Vault.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Likewise: Multi-factor authentication: how to enable 2FA to increase your security

For the next few steps, I’ll assume you’re already using OneDrive to back up and sync important folders and files. Right-click the OneDrive tray icon and select the option for watch online. Sign in to OneDrive with your Microsoft account. Under My Files, double-click the Personal Vault folder. You will be asked to authenticate this access using the multi-factor authentication in place for your account. Authorize sign-in using the Microsoft Authenticator app on your mobile device.

My Files section in Personal Vault.

Get ready to move folders and files to your personal vault.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

The next screen will then prompt you to move the files you want to protect to Personal Vault. Look at the files that contain the most private or confidential information, such as B. Financial or tax data and personal ID numbers. press the Pull it off heading at the top.

Browse the different folders in OneDrive and select the subfolders and files you want to move to Personal Vault. Then click on the heading for move article. Continue this process until you have moved all the required items.

Moving items to Personal Vault

Select folders and files to move to your personal vault.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney

When you’re done, you should see the selected folders and files in Personal Vault. Close the OneDrive online site. Wait for the folders and files to sync to your local OneDrive storage.

Folders and files in Personal Vault.

View the folders and files that have been moved to your Personal Vault.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

After you enable your Personal Vault, there is one setting you want to tweak. Right-click the OneDrive tray icon and select Settings. Select the Account tab and click the Personal Vault drop-down menu. This is where you set the amount of time Personal Vault should wait before locking automatically after you unlock it and stop using it. I set mine to 20 minutes to be on the safe side, but you can choose a longer duration if you’d like. click OK.

Duration options to automatically lock Personal Vault

Set the time when your personal vault will be automatically locked.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Suppose you need to access certain files in your Personal Vault. Right-click and select the OneDrive tray icon Unlock the Personal Vault.

Option to unlock your personal vault

Unlock your personal vault.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

If this is your first time doing this, the Personal Vault will need to configure a few settings. You will then be asked to confirm access with your authentication method.

Authentication login requirement to unlock Personal Vault.

Confirm authentication to unlock your Personal Vault.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Likewise: Two-factor authentication is a great idea. But not enough people use it

The Personal Vault folder appears in File Explorer to show the folders and files it contains, so you can open and view them now. When you’re done, either wait for your vault to automatically lock itself again, or right-click and select the OneDrive icon Lock Personal Vault to block it immediately.

Option to lock your personal vault

Lock your personal vault.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Finally, you can move folders and files out of your Personal Vault if you decide they no longer need the extra security. Go to your online OneDrive storage. Open the personal vault. Select the folders or files you want to move. Choose Move to Select the folder you want to move them to at the top, then click come here Button.

Move Here option to move folders and files.

Remove folders and files from your Personal Vault.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

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