Create Regular Backups Using Windows 8 Native File History Tool

We all know that backing up our data is an important task that we need to do regularly, but sometimes, installing a third party software just to get the job done can be an hassle and it puts you off completely. Luckily, in Windows 8, there is a native built-in File History tool that allows you to schedule and create regular backups of your system.

The file history backup tool in Windows 8 is different from the backup tool that came with Windows 7 and earlier versions of Windows. This File History tool keeps multiple versions of each backup file. This is very similar to Dropbox versioning or ‘previous versions’ feature in Windows 7 and Windows Vista.

1. To open File history configuration, search for “file history” in Windows 8 settings (Windows Key + W).


2. If you have connected a USB flash drive in your computer, it will be auotmatically selected as the backup destination. If you have multiple drives connected to your computer, you can click on the “Select drive” link from the menu on the left and select the drive of your choice.

file history select drive

3. If you want to use your local drive for storing regular backups in Windows 8, you can do so by sharing a folder over the network and then selecting it from the “Select drive” link. To do this, click on the Select drive link and then press the “Add network location” button (Alt + A).

select drive

4. Now browse through the network location and select the network folder of your choice. Make sure that you have set the correct permissions so that no one else will be able to access the backup files in the network.


5. Now that we have selected our target backup folder, we need to make sure all our important data gets backed up. By default, the Windows 8 file history tool only backs up the libraries data. To get it to backup your personal data, you will need to add those folders to the existing libraries. Right click any library, go to “Properties” and add the folder to the library.


6. At this point, we have configured our source and destination folders for the backup process. The file history tool will automatically back up the copies of changed files every hour and use five percent of disk space. The version files are kept forever until you remove them manually. All these settings can be changed by opening the File History window and clicking “Advanced Settings” in the menu on the left side.


Now that we have fully configured the file history, let’s see how we can restore our files in case of any disaster. If you want to see the backup versions of a single file, just go to the Library folder where the file is located and select “History” from the ribbon menu.

File history for individual files

If you want to restore everything from a specific version stored by File History, you can go to the File History window and click on “Restore personal files” from the menu on the left. The new window will show you all the folders and libraries being backed up. You can always browse through the files and folders using the file history explorer. Pressing the big green button will restore all the files to their previous positions.

file history restore

The biggest limitation of the file history tool is that it does not allow you to save backup to the same local disk from which backup is being taken. It might be a good security feature, but in my opinion, it is still an annoying limitation. Another glitch is that the file history is not turned on by default. You will need to turn it on and configure the backup completely in order for it to start taking backups automatically.

Although the File History tool is built into Windows 8, it is quite limited as it does not have advanced features that other backup utilities have. If you are not taking any kind of automated backups and have no wish to install third party software to do the job, you should at least activate the file history tool and use it to create regular backups.

Which backup tool are you using right now? What are your thoughts about the Windows 8 backup tool? Is it better than the tool available in Windows 7? Your comments are highly appreciated!