I use the copy and paste functionality quite a bit on my PC but am constantly overwriting what I’ve copied previously, just to realize I needed that information too. Tedious! Is there a clipboard history feature in Windows 11 that doesn’t involve me installing a third-party app?
Sometimes the most mundane functions on your computer actually have the greatest utility, and that’s definitely the case for Copy & Paste. Imagine if your computer didn’t offer that feature, how difficult it would be to share content from a Web page to an email, from a text message to a memo. We’d all be typing and re-typing endlessly. The problem, however, is that as soon as you copy something into the clipboard, it overwrites whatever you had in there previously. Restart your computer and it all resets to being empty too.
Fortunately, modern computer operating system developers know how important this clipboard feature is and Windows now has a quite slick built-in clipboard history feature. But you have to enable it; without that critical step, you’ll still be living in the stone age of Windows user interactivity, as if it were still 1985. Then again, the average cost of a gallon of gas in the USA in 1985 was $1.20, so maybe that wouldn’t be too bad if we had to roll the clocks back.
HOW TO ENABLE CLIPBOARD HISTORY IN WINDOWS 11
Instead of dreaming about lower gas prices, however, let’s get this clipboard history enabled. To do so, search for “clipboard” in the Win11 search tool:
You want “Clipboard settings” so click on that once it appears. This opens up a System Settings window with a number of interesting options and preferences:
It’s the option at the very top, “Clipboard history”. Click on the slider to enable it.
Notice that once you enable it then you have the option of syncing your clipboard across devices too. Yes, you can have a single shared clipboard history across your work and home computers, your laptop and desktop, whatever you want. This can be a great boon if you bounce around locations but want to retain access to your clipboard.
Below it you can see “Clear clipboard data”. The “Clear” button there is greyed out because there’s not yet anything in the clipboard history (since you haven’t yet copied anything since enabling the feature). Once you’ve added a few things, it’s good to remember this shortcut so you can quickly wipe any content that might be not suitable for work (NSFW) or confidential information that shouldn’t be shared with your home PC, etc.
HOW TO WORK WITH CLIPBOARD HISTORY ON YOUR PC
Now that it’s enabled, go ahead and copy a few different things from other apps. Images, text, it all works. To access your history, simply press Windows + V on your keyboard. A small window pops up on the lower right:
Whoops! I haven’t added anything to my own clipboard history yet. No worries, it’s a quick task to add a few things:
Two things in the clipboard! Amazing.
From this view you can grab whatever you want to paste – just click on it – or you can delete it (click on the “•••’ to access the trash icon). But where it’s really interesting is if you click on the pushpin icon. “Pinning” a clipboard item means it’s going to stick around, even across restarts. In fact, if I restart my PC and immediately press Windows + V, here’s what I see after I’ve pinned the text clipboard contents:
Retaining your clipboard history across restarts (for pinned items) is itself a huge win!
FUN WITH THE CLIPBOARD HISTORY WINDOW
Turns out that the Clipboard History window has a lot of other cool tricks up its digital sleeve too. See all those icons along the top? The leftmost one — and its immediate neighbor — offers a palette of emoji that’s searchable:
Not only that but the “GIF” offers a library of animated GIFs (I use these a lot in text messaging!), a typewritten-character-only old-school emoji library and a symbol library that includes currency symbols:
All quite helpful for so many reasons. The last icon along the top of the mini-window, of course, gets you back to the clipboard history screen.
WHILE WE’RE HERE… SUGGESTED ACTIONS
Did you notice the “Suggested Actions” option on the main Clipboard Settings window back in System Settings? Enable it and when you copy certain types of information, handy shortcuts also show up. Like this:
Copy a phone number and you’re one click away from calling that number. Dates offer the ability to easily create an event scheduled for that time on your calendar:
and if you happen to copy a time…
You can also create an event for that time today. All very helpful.
Indeed, all in all, Microsoft’s done a great job of expanding the simple idea of copy and paste into a powerhouse utility that can save you quite a bit of time. You just need to enable it.
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about Windows since the beginning. While you’re here, please check out my extensive Windows help area for hundreds of other useful tutorials and how-to articles. Thanks!