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Windows 8 : How to Backup and Restore Files, Folders and Drive using File History

Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft has rolled in a native Backup and Restore feature which allows you to regularly back your data into external drive and restore in case you accidentally delete the file or damage it. This feature also includes version support and detailed logging system which helps you find out issues with failed backups. Apart from this you can also use this in your HomeGroup, allowing family members, centralizing the backup.

If any of you have ever used Windows Home Server, this feature was a core part of it. Lets learn how to set it up :

  • Requirement
  • Basic Setup.
  • Excluding Files and Folders.
  • Testing Backup.
  • Testing Restore.
  • Advance Settings

Requirement :

  • Windows 8 PC
  • An external drive of size enough to backup your data., though there is no restriction on the minimum size of external drive here. Make sure the external hard drive is connected and visible to your computer. It can be over a network or directly connected.

Setting up File History :

Type in File History on your Start screen and you should see it listed under Settings. Once launched you should see your hard disk listed with one of the partitions already selected.

File history in Windows 8

So if, you are not sure, first change the drive by using the select drive option on the left. This will list down the available partition, and you can choose any of them.  Also, here you can choose to select a network drive if that’s what your storage location has to be.

Select Drive or Network Drive for File History on Windows 8

What not to backup ?

Before we go and turn it on, decide what you don’t want to backup which will make sure your backup happens fast and you don’t waste unnecessary space on your storage device. You will be able to add Drives, Folders and Libraries as an exception.

Exclude Files from File history of Windows 8

Though many of you might have preferred an option to set what to backup instead, but backing up everything on your computer might be a better solution in general.

Test Drive File History

Done that, its time you need to test it out. So go back to File History mane page and click on the “Turn on” button and it will start backing up your data instantly.

File history in Action

You can also make sure by checking the Hard Drive your selected to take the backup. See if your computer name and your user name is listed. It will also have data inside it. Here, is how it is organized.

File History Backup Organization


The data is visible in the exact format as on your computer i.e. This means there is no encryption and anybody having access to this will have access to the data.

Restoring Files :

No backup is perfect unless you can restore it. File History has an excellent restore user interface which gives you file level access to choose what to restore.  So its not going to bulk replace all the files, but can also restore individual files.

Use the Restore Personal Files link on the left pane to open the interface. You will be able to view all your folders, by date. Each of these folders can be browsed and previewed before restoring.  When it comes to restoring, you can either restore ot original location or to anywhere else you want to save it. It is also possible to search the backup for a file if you do not remember the name or location of the file.

Restoring Files from File History of Windows 8


File History Advance Settings :

Now lets take a look at various settings for file history, which will help you, to control on size of the data being backed up and also help you troubleshoot in case of problems. Click on Advance Settings link on the left pane of File History.

Versions :

  1. Decide how often the backup should take place. I would recommend you to set daily backup for regular users. However, if your priorities are different, you may choose from every 10 minutes to every 12 hours. This can be useful if you are working on real time data.
  2. Offline Cache : This helps you to get faster data access. Choose between 5 to 20% of disk cache.
  3. How long will you like to keep the saved version ? If you are running out of space, you may choose to auto delete files every few months or set it to automatically delete, when there is some space required.

Manually Cleaning up Saved version of File History :

Right under where you choose for “Keep Saved version”, you have an option for deleting the saved version manually. Hit the clean up versions link and it will give you option to delete files which are a year old or a month old or delete all except the recent one.

Manually Cleaning up Saved versions of File history Backup

Home Group :

Like I said in the starting, you can set this drive for others users to use it as the backup storage. Its a great option when you have a lot of computers in your HomeGroup.  They will be shown this drive as recommended drive for backing up data when they set File History for the first time.

Error Logs :

In case you see errors like Drive Disconnected or File not backed up, Event Log for File history tells you everything.

File History Error Logs


File history is definitely an excellent option to backup your files which is not only easy to setup but also easy to restore for every user. However, this is not an equivalent to System Restore or System reset which can fix your computer from any driver or slow performance issues.  Also since the files are not encrypted make sure to keep the drive off from people you do not trust.

About Ashish Mohta

A Professional Tech blogger, Editor and Writer who talks about solving day to day problems of people who use computer. His expertise are in Windows 7, Microsoft Office, Software, Mobile Apps and Video Posts.