How to Back Up Your Data Using Windows File History

This feature originally introduced in Windows 8 has become Windows 10’s main backup tool. The name may be misleading, making one think it is a tool for restoring previous versions of files, but it is actually a fully functional backup tool. Automatically backing up your files to an external drive is easy after File History has been set up.

File History is a tool introduced in Windows 8.1 and available also in Windows 10. Its purpose is for simple and automated data backups. This tool works with a number of devices in backing up your data. Other than its ease in setting up, it has an ability to store multiple versions of your files and allows for recovery in any desired backup.

First, connect an external drive to your computer, and then under your Startup menu open Settings and navigate to “Update & Security -> Backup.”

Under “Back up using File History,” click on the “Add a drive” option. Doing this lists all the possible external drives and allows you to choose to back up to them.

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From the list select a drive you want to use for File History. Once this is selected, the “Automatically back up my files” option appears and is automatically turned on. This setting implies that Windows will automatically back up your files to the drive whenever it is connected to your PC.

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The next step will be to configure your file history settings.

By default, File History will perform backups every hour. This, however, can be customized. To do this, select “more options” and “See Advanced Settings.” Additionally, you can customize how long it keeps backup copies and which files are backed up.

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After more options have been selected, you can select the frequency of backups from the “Back up my files” dropdown list. Also, from the “keep my backups” option, you can determine how long every backup should be kept in the drive.

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By default, File History is configured to back up important folders in your user account’s home folder. This includes Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures and Videos folders. Under the “Back up these folders” option as seen in the image above, you can select additional folders by selecting the “Add a folder” option.

Finally, after backups are done the next step will be to restore files from the backup.

To perform this operation, make sure your backup drive is connected to your computer. Under settings select “Update & security,” select “Backup,” select “More options,” and at the bottom of the window select “Restore files from a current backup.”

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This opens your file history, and you can choose what you want to back up. Here, browse and select one or more files or folders. Right-clicking on files or folders allows you to preview them. Select the files to be restored and click the green button to restore them to your computer.

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A first point to note is that this backup option comes with your operating system. This implies it has a seamless compatibility with your OS and makes it a very worthwhile option for backups on Windows 10.

Its working principle involves taking snapshots of your files and storing them on an external hard drive, either connected over USB or your home network. These stored files build a library of past versions of your documents and over time increase your options for recovery versions. A simple example will be trying to recover a part of an essay you deleted a long while back. With file history you can easily dive in and get the version of that essay that still had this part.

One limitation is that where other backup software may support integration with a number of cloud backup services, File history supports only One Drive. Also, the backed up data will occupy the same size on the storage medium as it did in the original copies, whereas other backup software often compresses and is more efficient with storage space.

It is a good practice to make regular backups for your computer. It often takes a while when you are saving a new backup to your drive, but it will be a vital asset when you have to reformat your hard disk and do a full restoration.

2 comments

  1. Isn’t file history being deprecated in future versions of windows 10 after 1809 ?

    I remember reading MS has asked us to use third party backup solutions like Macrium free.

  2. I’ve stopped using File history as it doesn’t backup accurately photos that have been tagged in File explorer. If for example I have 5 photos in the same folder and tag them all with ‘snow’ and then run ‘backup now’ in the advanced settings I am finding that in my backup only the first photo has the tag ‘snow’. This poses the question ‘how many more errors are there that I haven’t yet found’

    I now use FreeFile Sync as an alternative.

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