Windows 8 has a great new feature called “File History”. Once you’ve enabled File History, Windows 8 will automatically back up files and folders that you specify at a scheduled interval. This way if you ever accidentally delete your files or your computer crashes and you lose these important files, you’ll be able to quickly and easily recover them.
File History backs up your data automatically to an external drive or a network location and you can specify how often it backs up and how many copies of your files it should keep. In the following guide I’m going to show you how to set up File History so you can rest assured that your most important files have been backed up.
Turning On File History
The first thing you’ll have to do is turn on File History. To locate the File History program, type in “File History” into the Windows 8 search bar. Under the settings menu you should see it.
You will now be brought to the “File History” program
As you can see, File History is currently turned off. However I don’t have the option to turn it on. That’s because I haven’t plugged in an external hard drive to back up my files to. File History won’t let you back up your files to the same hard drive they are currently on for obvious reasons. Once you’ve plugged in your external drive you should see the drive displayed and the option to turn on File History.
You may also be asked if you want to recommend this drive to people in your Homegroup. If you have a homegroup set up, it means other PC’s in your network will be able to access this drive and use it as a back up location too. It’s up to you as to whether or not you want to enable this feature.
Setting Up File History
Now that we’ve turned on File History, let’s look at the different options available to us.
If we select Change Drive we will be able to choose a different location to back up our files. If you have multiple external drives, or a network location that you’d rather back up to instead, you can change your back up location in this menu.
If you choose Exclude Folders you’ll be able to select certain folders that you don’t want to be backed up for some reason or another. This might be because you want to free up space on your external drive, otherwise I assume most users will leave this as it is.
The final option available to us is Advanced Settings.
Here you will be able to choose important settings like how often you want File History to back up your files. You can also choose the size of the offline cache (this only applies when backing up to a network location) and also the length of time you want to keep the back ups.
You can customise these settings to your liking, but one I’d be sure to look at is how long you’d like to keep saved versions. Remember, File History backs up multiple copies of your files so you can actually restore your files back to a previous state in case you accidentally changed one.
However, because you are backing up so many copies of the files, you may find that your hard drive becomes full fairly quick. So it’s worth setting how long you’d like to keep the copies. It’s up to your personal choice but I’d recommend keeping copies for a month or so.
The Quickest and easiest way to restore files is to go into the folder where the files you wanted to get back were saved. In my example I went to the folder where I saved all the screenshots that I’ve used in this post.
I’ve accidentally deleted one of the screenshots that I need (and let’s pretend I deleted it from my recycle bin). To get it back I simply click on the File History Icon.
This will then bring me into the File History program where I can see the various states that File History has backed up my folder as. In this example you can see that File History has saved two versions of my screenshots folder.
You can view the version number as well as the date and time it was created. To switch between versions click on the arrows at the bottom.
Here you can see version 1 – as you can see it doesn’t have as many screenshots in it as they had not been present in the folder at the time the back up was made.
But if we go to Version 2 – we see that all my screenshots are there as well as the one I want to restore as this back up was performed more recently.
Now I have two options, I can either restore the individual file by selecting it and then pressing the restore icon down the bottom. Or I can just restore the whole folder by pressing the icon without selecting the individual file.
An alternative way I could have restored files would be to just open up the File History program again and select Restore personal files from the menu.
This will then bring me to the home directory and let me view all the different folders that have been backed up by File History. I can then restore files the same way as I did in the previous steps
Adding Folders To Be Backed Up
The way that File History works is that it will only back up your Contacts, Desktop and Favourites folder along with all your libraries. So if you have a certain folder that you’d like to back up, you will have to make sure that it’s included in one of those libraries or locations. File History does not allow you to choose individual files and folders.
File History is a truly brilliant new feature that has made its way into Windows 8. Once you have it set up you can rest assured in the knowledge that your files have been safely backed up in the event that anything goes wrong. Not only are they backed up, but they are backed up several times and in several different states so you will always be able to get back that file or folder you accidentally deleted or lost.