How to use File History to backup your data in Windows 10

File History makes automated backups of your data, and it works with storage devices like external hard drives, network storage, and so on. If you want to use File History to back your user data from Windows 10, read this tutorial. We show you how to turn on File History, how to change the way it works, how to stop it when you no longer need it, and how to change File History storage devices. Read on to learn more:

How to turn on File History, in Windows 10?

Before turning on File History, make sure that you connect an external hard drive to your Windows 10 computer or device. You may also map a network drive so that you can use it to backup your data with File History. After you are done connecting the storage device that you want to use, open the Settings app in Windows 10. One quick way to do that is to press the Windows + I keys at the same time. In the Settings app, go to Update & Security.

In the column on the left, choose Backup. This is where Windows 10 displays options and controls for working with File History. By default, it should be disabled.

To turn on File History, click or tap "+ Add a drive" and choose the drive that you want to use for storing the backup of your data.

After a few seconds, File History is turned on, and you see a switch appear, named "Automatically back up my files." The switch is set to On, signaling that File History is activated and doing its job in the background.

What data does File History backup and how long does it take to perform a backup?

If you do not change its default configuration, File History automatically backs up all your user libraries (both default libraries and custom libraries you created), the Desktop, your Contacts, Microsoft Edge favorites and, finally, OneDrive. File History is a background process with low priority and, the first time it runs, it takes hours to backup your data. If you need to back up more than 100 GB of data, the first complete run might take up to 24 hours. The backup speed depends on the following factors:

  • How you use your Windows 10 computer or device. If you run resource intensives apps and tasks, File History has a lower priority in the background and takes longer to backup your data.
  • The speed of the storage drive that you are using for File History. If you use a USB 2.0 port instead of USB 3.0 port, the transfer speed is much lower. Also, it matters whether the storage drive is an SSD or an HDD. The slower the drive, the longer the backup process. Network storage tends to be slower than local storage.

After the first complete run, File History is a lot faster because it backs up only the new files that have appeared, and those that have been changed. A typical run, after the first backup, takes no more than a few minutes to finish.

How to configure how File History works: how often it runs, how long it keeps your data, and what folders it backs up

There are many things that you can change about the way File History works. To access the available configuration options, click or tap the "More options" link, beneath the "Automatically back up my files" switch.

First, you see an overview that shows the size of the existing backup (until the first run is finished, the size is likely to be zero), the total space available on the storage device used by File History, and the status of your backup. Beneath the overview, you have options to change how often File History runs, how long it keeps your files and the list of folders that it backs up. Let's take these options one by one, and see how to change them.

To change the amount of time between File History runs, click or tap the "Back up my files" drop-down list. You can choose to run File History every ten minutes, every fifteen minutes, and so on, up to once a day. The default setting is for File History to run once every hour. Choose the value you prefer.

By default, File History keeps your files forever. This is a sure way to run out of space quickly, on the storage device that you are using for File History backups. We prefer to have File History keep our deleted files for a limited time. To change this behavior, click or tap the "Keep my backups" drop-down list. You can choose to keep deleted files or older versions of existing files for at least a month, and increase the duration up to two years or… forever.

You may not want File History to backup all your user libraries and folders. To remove some of the folders that are backed up, scroll down to the list of folders and click or tap the first folder that you want to be skipped from the backup process. Then, click or tap the Remove button near that folder's name. Repeat the process for all the folders that you do not want to be backed up by File History.

You can also add new folders to the list so that File History backs them up. To do that, click or tap "+ Add a folder," browse to the folder that you want to be included, select it then press "Choose this folder."

The selected folder is now included in the list of folders that are backed up by File History. Repeat the process to add all the folders you wish.

How to manually run a File History backup

If you want to manually start a File History backup, outside of its regular schedule, you can do so. Go to the Backup Options window, using the instructions shared in earlier sections of this tutorial: open the Settings app, go to Update & Security, choose Backup, and click or tap "More options."

In the Overview section, press the "Back up now" button. This starts a manual File History run.

How to stop File History in Windows 10

If you want to stop File History from running do the following: open the Settings app, go to Update & Security, choose Backup, and set the "Automatically back up my files" switch to Off.

As long as you do not set this switch back to On, File History is disabled and no longer backs up your data in the background.

How to change the storage drive used for File History backups

At some point, you may need to stop using a storage drive for File History, so that you can change it with another. To do that, go to the Backup Options window, using the instructions shared in earlier sections of this tutorial: open the Settings app, go to Update & Security, choose Backup, and click or tap "More options."

Scroll down the list of options, until you see the "Backup to a different drive" section. Here, press the "Stop using drive" button.

File History is now stopped and no longer working. Click or tap the Back arrow, and plug in the new storage drive that you want to use for File History. Then, click or tap "+ Add a drive" and choose the new drive that you want to use for storing the backup data.

The trouble is that now File History reverts to its default settings. You need to configure it again and run the backup, using the instructions in the previous sections of this tutorial.

 

How do you like File History in Windows 10?

Windows 10 has brought more personalization to File History, and the way it works. We use it for backing up our data, alongside cloud storage services, so that we have redundancy. This way, we never lose the files that are important to use. After reading this tutorial, try File History and let us know how well it works for you. Are you satisfied with File History? Is it easy to use? Does it deliver the results you want? Comment below and let's discuss.