Use File History to Backup and Restore Previous Versions of Files in Windows 8

With Windows 8 Microsoft introduced a new back up and restore tool called File History. Just like System Restore is able to restore the state of your computer to an earlier date, File History is capable of restoring your files to a specific date and time, thus allowing users to turn the clock back in time and retrieve data and files that have been previously edited or deleted. File History is a vast improvement over the Previous Versions (or Shadow Copy) feature introduced in Windows Vista, in a way that it offers the user better control over what to the back up and keep and how often to back up.

File History can back only your Library files, not any folders, but that’s easy to fix – just add the folder or drive you want to back up to your library. In doing so, however, you run the risk of making your libraries a mess. Aside from libraries, File History will back files on your desktop, your favorite web URLs and locations and contacts in your Windows’ contact book.

Currently, File History can backup only to external drives, either external hard drives or flash drives. You cannot use it to backup files on a second internal hard drive or another partition on the same drive. It can also backup to networked storage drives.(How to backup to local disk)

The File History tool can be found in the Control Panel.


File History is disabled by default and the ‘Turn on’ button is grayed out. To enable it you have to first connect an external hard drive, after which the ‘Turn on’ button becomes available. To choose a disk drive on a networked computer, click on Change Drive link in the left pane, and enter the name of the network share.

Under the advanced setting page you can choose for how long to keep the files – ranging from 1 month to forever, or until space is needed. The last option means that Windows will automatically purge old files to make room for new ones, if and only if space on the drive runs out.


Under the same setting page, you can select how often to backup – from every 10 minutes to 24 hour. There is also an exclude folder options that you can use to tell File History to ignore certain folders in your libraries.

To restore files, use the Restore Personal Files link at the bottom of the left pane. From the window that opens, click on Forward/Next button at the bottom to browse the timeline, select the folder and files you want to restore and click the blue Restore button at the bottom. You can also click on the gear icon in the toolbar and from the fly-out menu choose a different location to restore the files to.


If you are looking for a third-party backup tool that supports file versioning, you have a number of options such as Yadis Backup, AutoVer, and FileHamster.

This Article Has 1 Comment
  1. Sean Maverick Reply

    What i don't get with a lot of people these days is the lazy feeling every time they hear he words 'back-up' or 'back-up software.' It's like I'm Chinese that they look at me as though i spoke a different language.

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