Slideshow: Activate the Windows 8 File History feature

File History from the Start Screen

File History is a new feature in Windows 8 that works like a combination of Previous Versions and Windows Backup and Restore. File History continuously monitors files stored in Libraries, Desktop, Favorites, and Contacts folders and when it detects changes in any file it then makes a backup copy to another location - such as an external hard disk or a network drive.

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

This Slideshow is also available as a TechRepublic Windows and Office Blog post.

Getting started

Launching File History in Windows 8 is easy. Just press the [Windows] key, type File History while on the Start Screen, select Settings, and click File History, as illustrated.


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.


I've seen so many posts in various forums that start out with "I spent 10 minutes with Windows 8 and that was enough for me to know that there was nothing new that made it worth learning how to use it!" Articles like this one show that there are many new features in every new version of Windows which cannot possibly be fully appreciated in 10 minutes, or even 10 days of using a new version of Windows. Thanks for the informative article! Rick


-As always your articles are detailed and give an insight to information one would likely not be aware of. -There is a more uncomplicated method: Most people when buying a PC, mostly laptops, are unaware their C: drive should be divide/partitioned to at lease a C and D drive. Thereby if a major corruption in the operating system occurs your D: drive will have its files intact leaving you to ONLY either re-image OR format the C: drive followed by a clean Windows install. -Since Win7, and now Win8, I have put my files/favorites/etc. off the C: drive to another drive in the computer; typically D: drive. -The method is simple and very quick: Go to C: Drive > open Users > open your user folder e.g. John > and for each folder within this folder right-click selecting Properties > click the Location tab > note the location for all the folders shows C: and the location address > change the C: to D: (or like I do E: because I have 4 separate hard drives to choose from > click OK and all your files are "moved" (not copies but moved) to that other drive location you chose > do the same for each folder > but at least 4 folders duplicate themselves with some default files in this original folder, not to worry your files are moved in this case > double check all folders whether a Location tab is shown or not > now as you work everything continues to work normally but uses the new location D: to store your files. Whenever you re-image or do a fresh install on the C: drive follow this by repeating this relocation method and all your user files instantly re-appear. If you plan to install Win8, this method guarantees quick integration with your previous file arrangements and eliminating the need to manually retrieve and move/copy your files/shortcuts from a predestinated holding folder. - Finally, I do backup these folders and other folders on my working PC's to a home server for safe keeping should the whole hard drive fail by using "Syncbackpro V6.0" regularly; this app is Win8 compatible. I do a C: drive image using Norton Ghost V15 in Win7. But, Norton Ghost is not, at least for now, compatible with Windows 8, therefore I turned to Acronis V15 which is compatible, So... do you feel this is a smoother method?


Dave, this is kind of like an advanced version of Presvious versions You forgot about that?


DEC's VAX/VMS, on which Windows NT was based, had a similar feature back in the 1980s. Built into the OS was an option to save every version of a file as it was modified. You could set a limit on the number of versions on a per-directory basis if you wanted to. Or you could leave the number of versions unlimited (well, limited by disk space, of course). There was a command to purge all but a specified number of versions, all versions but the latest, etc. And the Mac has had Time Machine for years. In this era of gigantic hard drives I can't, for the life of me, figure out why Windows hasn't incorporated something like this sooner. Now, if we could just get the equivalent of the PDP-11's Ctrl-C to instantly interrupt any process.