Windows 8

Screenshots: Windows 8 File History (updated)

Accessing Windows 8's File History from the Start screen is easy

This gallery is also available as a post in the Windows and Office Blog.

Editor's note:Greg covered this topic while Windows 8 was in beta. There have been some feature changes implemented for the current retail version.

 

Do you have an external hard disk connected to your Windows 8 computer? If you do, you'll want to enable Windows 8's File History tool to protect your data. File History is essentially an update to the Previous Versions feature that was included in Windows 7, which was based on a Windows Server 2003 feature called Volume Shadow Copy. Like Previous Versions, File History continuously monitors files stored in Libraries, Desktop, Contacts, and Favorites folders and when it detects changes in any file, it then makes a backup of that file. Unlike, Previous Versions, File History isn't enabled by default. Fortunately, doing so is a pretty straightforward operation and once enabled, File History's improved user interface makes it much easier to configure and use than its predecessor.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll show you how enable File History and then show you how it works.

Editor's note: Greg covered this topic while Windows 8 was in beta. There have been some feature changes implemented for the current retail version.

Getting Started

Launching File History in Windows 8 is easy. Just press the [Windows] + W to access the Search Settings page, type File History in the text box, and click File History, as illustrated in Figure A.

Credit: Images by Greg Shultz for TechRepublic

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

6 comments
andrewjfeller
andrewjfeller

Hey guys, I was hoping you can help me with a problem I am having. I like the file history option, I have it saved to an external hard drive and it works great. The only problem I have is, If I want to copy files back over, without restoring all files, the file names now have a date added to the end of it. Is there anyway to keep this from happening? I have thousands of files, and I can't imagine having to rename all of them.

dogknees
dogknees

When I initially read about this feature, I thought it sounded brilliant. I assumed it would keep a log/backup of all changes. So if I save a file regularly as I'm working on it, I would then be able to go back to any version I saved. What is described is nothing like that. I already have an external drive that does a timed backup, so this seems a complete waste of time in my scenario.

wilfredvudikaria
wilfredvudikaria

Bula! How can I restore an excel file that got deleted if I do not have the file history turned on? Help!

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...single file using File History, you can do that--you don't have to restore all of them. While you can just launch File Explorer and access the files that File History stores in its backup folder on your external drive, that is not the way that it is meant to be used. When you use File Explorer, you will see the data and time stamp appended to the file by File History to keep track of the different versions of the backup. When you restore a file through File History, the data and time stamp is removed from the file. So, as long as you use File History to restore files, you won't have to be concerned with renaming all of the files.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...keep a log/backup of all your saved changes. As I said in the article: "File History continuously monitors files stored in Libraries, Desktop, Contacts, and Favorites folders and when it detects changes in any file, it then makes a backup of that file. " See Figure L and you can see that what is showing is 7 of 7. You can scroll through all of the available versions by using the Previous version and Next version buttons

dogknees
dogknees

Thanks for the response. I had a look and I still can't see where it's saving every change. It uses transactions to determine when to save a version, but doesn't say whether it saves all changes made in that period as separate snapshots/copies/... If it's set to 10 minutes and I save 10 different versions in the 10 minutes, does it provide rollback to each one of those versions? It also appears that it saves the whole file. I had thought it would be smart and save only the deltas so it can reconstruct the file at any point. Am I reading it right?