Using File History in Windows 8/10/11

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File History in Windows 8, 10, and 11 is a built-in tool designed to provide an easy way to back up files stored on your PC. It automatically saves copies of files in your libraries, desktop, contacts, and favorites to a specified drive. The steps to use File History and some of its features vary slightly between these versions of Windows.

Setting Up File History

  1. Select Backup Drive
    • Connect an external drive to your PC or choose a network location for storing backups.
    • For external drives, ensure it has sufficient space and is formatted properly.
    • Network drives should be reliably accessible from your PC.
  2. Enable File History
    • Open the Control Panel on your Windows PC.
    • Navigate to ‘System and Security’, then choose ‘File History’.
    • Select your external drive or network location from the list of available drives.
    • Click on ‘Turn on’ to enable File History for the selected drive.

Customizing Backup Frequency and Size

  1. Adjust Backup Frequency
    • Within File History settings, go to ‘Advanced settings’.
    • Choose how often File History should save copies of your files.
    • Options range from every 10 minutes to daily backups.
  2. Limit Backup Size
    • Also in ‘Advanced settings’, set a limit on the storage space that File History can use.
    • This helps to prevent the backup drive from filling up too quickly.
  3. Exclude Folders
    • From the main File History window, select ‘Exclude folders’.
    • Choose folders that you do not wish to include in the backup.
    • Common exclusions include temporary files, large media files, or files already backed up elsewhere.

Differences in Windows 11

  1. Limited Settings Integration
    • In Windows 11, File History is primarily accessed through the Control Panel.
    • It does not integrate with Windows Settings, limiting the ability to add custom folders.
  2. Focus on Windows Library Folders
    • File History in Windows 11 is focused on backing up Windows library folders by default.
    • This includes documents, pictures, music, videos, and desktop folders.
  3. Potential Phase-Out
    • Microsoft’s design choice suggests a possible shift towards considering File History as a legacy component.
    • There might be a greater focus on cloud solutions like OneDrive sync for future backups.

Restoring Files from File History

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  1. Accessing File History for Restoration
    • Open the Control Panel and navigate to ‘File History’.
    • Choose the ‘Restore personal files’ option on the left side of the window.
  2. Selecting Files for Restoration
    • Use the interface to browse through the different versions of your files and folders.
    • Select the files or folders you wish to restore.
  3. Restoring Files
    • Click the ‘Restore’ button to recover the selected files to their original location.
    • Alternatively, you can choose to restore the files to a different location by using the ‘Restore to’ option.

Additional Considerations

  • Event Logs: Windows 11 includes an ‘Event logs’ section in File History for checking errors and other events.
  • Restoring to Alternate Locations: Besides the default location, Windows 11 allows restoring files to a different location.
  • Use Case for File History: It is designed for occasional recovery of files, not as a comprehensive system backup solution.


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