File History is an awesome tool included in all versions of Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. It allows for easy automated backups of your data and it works with a number of devices on which data can be stored. As you will see from this guide, it is very easy to set up and use, because it needs very few resources and it knows how to store multiple versions of your files so that you can easily revert to the version you need, when you need it. In this guide to File History, you will learn how to find it, enable it and change the way it works.
How To Access File History In Windows 8.1 & Windows 10
The easiest way to find File History is to open the Control Panel. Open it and go to System and Security. There, you will find File History. To open the tool, just click or tap on it.
Alternatively, in Windows 8.1, you can search for the words "file history" directly on the Start screen. Then, click or tap on the appropriate search result, meaning File History.
In Windows 10, you can use the Cortana Search Bar on the taskbar to find this tool. To do this, simply type the words "file history" in the search bar and then click or tap on File History.
In Windows 8.1, you will also be able to access File History from PC Settings. This touch-based interface makes it easier for you to use this tool on a tablet or a computer with a touchscreen. For more details about how to access and use the touch interface of File History, read this guide: How to work with File History in Windows 8.1, from PC Settings.
Windows 10 also offers a touch-based interface for File History, that is available in the Settings app. We've already talked about it in this tutorial: How To Work With File History In Windows 10, From The Settings App.
How To Turn On File History
Turning on File History is quite easy. First, you have to plug in an external hard drive or a large USB memory stick with a lot of free space on it. Then, all you have to do is click or tap on the Turn on button in the main window of File History.
You will be asked whether you would like to recommend the drive to other members of your Homegroup.
Make a choice and File History will start its job immediately.
What Exactly Does File History Back Up
File History has a predefined set of items that will be backed up automatically: all your libraries (both default libraries and custom libraries you created), the Desktop, your Contacts, Internet Explorer and Edge favorites and, finally, OneDrive. The idea behind File History is that it allows you to retrieve earlier versions of a particular file. This means that even if you make changes to a document or any other type of file, you can always revert in time and rollback to any of its earlier versions.
Unfortunately, in Windows 8.1, you cannot set it to backup specific folders or libraries. You can only set it to exclude items from your backup, using the procedure detailed in the next section of this tutorial. So, if you want File History to backup a special folder in Windows 8.1, you have to create a new library for it or include it in an existing library.
In the Desktop version, Windows 10 offers the same options as Windows 8.1 and it would seem that not much has changed. Still, Microsoft surprises us with the possibility to back up more locations automatically and so you are no longer limited to the files from the libraries of your user account. This function is only available in the new Windows 10 Settings app and it completely bypasses the legacy Control Panel interface. We will show you in a future article how to use the Backup area of the new Settings app.
How To Exclude Libraries And Folders From The Backup
To exclude specific libraries and folders, simply click or tap on Exclude folders in the left-side column, found in the main File History window.
Then, press the Add button and select the item(s) you want to exclude.
When you are done setting exclusions, click or tap Save changes.
How To Configure The Way File History Works
If you are not happy with the default settings used by File History, you should consider improving them. On the left-side column of the main File History window, click or tap on Advanced Settings.
Then, in the Advanced Settings window, you can choose how often it will create copies. The default setting is Every hour, but you can change this for a shorter period like Every 15 minutes or Every 30 minutes.
It is also possible for you to change how much of your disk space is used by the offline cache created by this tool. Also, one of the most important settings that can be modified, is choosing how long you want to keep saved versions of each file. The default option is Forever, but we prefer a shorter period of time, and as such we have selected 3 months.
If you are not familiar with "saved versions", the simple way to explain it is that they are different versions of a file. For example, when you work on a document for a long period of time, File History will save multiple copies of it, in different stages of development. After which, each of these copies will be kept, well, forever. Hence the need to set a limit on how long they are stored.
If you have a problem with the storage device, it is possible for you to change the backup drive used by File History. To do this, you have to click or tap on Select drive in the left-side column of the main window and then select the appropriate drive from the list.
You can also add a network location, such as a drive recommended for use through the Homegroup.
What Happens When You Disconnect The Backup Drive
The greatest thing about File History is that it works silently in the background, without taking up too much CPU time and without stressing your hard disk. It will take a while for this tool to backup data, especially the first time you do it, but it works flawlessly without user input.
If you unplug the backup drive in Windows 8.1, File History will, obviously, stop working and it will show this warning: "We can't finish copying your files. Connect your File History drive and refresh this page to continue.".
After you plug the drive back in, File History resumes backing up your data, silently.
We enjoyed using File History, especially in the new format from Windows 10. It's a discreet and silent backup tool, that is easy to use and set up even if you are a beginner. After you set it up, Windows will be able to automatically create backup copies of your designated files. It is a good tool that is very useful in restoring lost files or folders. If you have any questions or problems with it, don't hesitate to ask using the comments form below.