What to Do When Your File History Backup Drive is Out of Space?

Until you learn how to configure File History, so that you find a balance between the backup space you have available and your backup needs, it is very likely that you will run out of space quickly. What should you do when there's no space left to continue making backups?
You clean up versions of your saved files and improve the way File History is set, so that it doesn't consume the available backup space as quickly as it did. In this tutorial you will learn how this is done.

Open File History and Clean up File Versions

First, open the File History application, as shown in this tutorial: How to Backup Data with File History.

Make sure that the backup drive is plugged in and File History is turned on. Then, click or tap on the Advanced settings link, on the left side column.

This opens the Advanced Settings window. In the Versions section, look for the "Clean up versions" link and click or tap on it.

The File History Cleanup window opens. You are asked to select the criteria based on which to delete older versions of files and folders. The default value is "Older than 1 year".

Using the default might free up too little or no space at all, depending on how long File History was running.

It is best to select a different criteria for deletion. "Older than 1 month" or "All but the latest one" will surely free up a lot of space.

Once the deletion criteria is selected, click or tap Clean up. The deletion process starts and, depending on how much data is stored on the backup drive, you might wait a while.

When done, you are notified.

Click or tap OK.

Improve Your File History Settings

If you keep your existing settings, it is very likely that you will run out of backup space again, just as fast as you did the first time.

To avoid having the same problem in the future, you should change how long File History keeps saved versions. Lower the time interval you have set and see how that goes.

After a couple of tries, you will find a good balance between your backup needs and the space you have available for backups.

Another thing you could try is exclude some libraries or folders that don't really need a backup. You can learn more about excluding them, in this tutorial: How to Backup Data with File History.


As you can see from this guide, cleaning up file versions is an easy way to make more room on your backup drive. If you are interested to learn more about File History and how it works, don't hesitate to check the articles recommended below.