How to use File History in Windows 10 and 11

    When Windows 8 made its public debut in October 2012, one of many new options it launched to customers was referred to as File History. Still out there in each Windows 10 and 11, it may enable you to be sure you by no means lose an essential file. Simply put, File History is a snapshot mechanism for all recordsdata that customers retailer within the main folders or directories related to their consumer accounts. Formerly referred to as Libraries, these folders embody Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, and Desktop. Also included are offline recordsdata related to the consumer’s OneDrive account.  How File History worksYou’ll see some references discuss with File History as a backup and restore instrument. To some extent, this description is justified. But it’s essential to know that File History backs up solely sure recordsdata. It can’t, for instance, again up complete drives. Nor can File History restore a complete Windows set up.  Such protection comes from whole-system backup and restore instruments; see “How to make a Windows 10 or 11 image backup” for particulars.What File History does is take a snapshot of all recordsdata within the aforementioned folders and native OneDrive contents at common intervals. It gives an interface to assessment and retrieve earlier variations of recordsdata from such snapshots. In the sections that comply with I clarify easy methods to: 
    Turn File History on, and the place to focus on its snapshots 
    Exclude folders from the snapshot course of 
    Retrieve recordsdata from a snapshot 
    To conclude, I’ll additionally clarify variations in protection and functionality between Windows 10 and Windows 11 variations of File History. The excellent news right here is that File History seems to be and behaves principally the identical throughout each variations. (For consistency, all display screen captures right here come from Windows 11, however their Windows 10 counterparts are almost similar, saving rounded corners on show home windows.) The unhealthy information is that Windows 10 gives extra snapshot protection than Windows 11, as I’ll clarify on the finish of this piece. Read on for the essential particulars concerned in turning File History on, so you possibly can put it to work.  Turning File History on and concentrating on snapshotsBy default, File History is turned off in each Windows 10 and 11. It may be accessed by way of both Control Panel or the Settings app. To arrange and configure File History, use Control Panel; the Settings entry level is greatest reserved for snapshot file retrieval and is roofed in a while.  Microsoft recommends, and I concur, that File History works greatest when it targets an exterior storage machine (equivalent to a USB drive, ideally an SSD or onerous disk of 100GB or larger capability). It’s greatest to connect the goal drive earlier than turning on File History for the primary time.   Note that if BitLocker is enabled for the first Windows drive (often C:), you need to additionally allow BitLocker To Go on exterior drives upon which you want to seize encrypted library folders utilizing File History. It’s greatest to do that earlier than enabling File History as nicely. In Windows 10, right-click the goal drive in File Explorer and click on Turn on BitLocker; in Windows 11, right-click the goal drive in File Explorer and select More choices > Turn on BitLocker. If BitLocker just isn’t turned on for the C: drive, you possibly can skip this step. To configure File History by way of Control Panel, both kind management panel into Windows search and click on the merchandise named File History, or just kind file historical past in Windows search. A Control Panel merchandise named “Keep a history of your files” seems, as proven in Figure 1. IDG

    Figure 1: To flip File History on, click on the Turn on button on the decrease proper.

    In Figure 1, File History reveals a warning for exterior drives that lack BitLocker safety, as a result of my C: drive makes use of BitLocker. Turning on BitLocker for the goal drive removes the warning in File History.  The goal drive is proven within the decrease pane. In this case, it’s drive E:, a nominal 5TB exterior onerous disk.  Once you click on the Turn on button on the decrease proper of the window, File History will probably be turned on for the goal drive. If you need to select a unique goal drive, you possibly can first click on the Select drive possibility proven on the center left in Figure 1, and see an inventory of eligible goal drives, as proven in Figure 2. IDG

    Figure 2: You can choose any possibility that seems within the choose record as a File History goal drive.

    Select the drive you need to use for File History backups. Because the default choice is the biggest out there drive, I’ll persist with that for my File History goal. Note: If you want community drives to look within the itemizing proven in Figure 2, you need to first map them to the native system. You can click on Add community location on the decrease proper so as to add such a drive. If community drive mappings are already outlined, click on Show all community places.  Back on the primary File History display screen, click on Turn on to allow File History for the goal drive.  Taming File History’s storage appetiteUsing File History’s superior settings can have profound impacts on the storage that File History consumes. In the primary File History window (see Figure 1), click on Advanced settings within the left column. Figure 3 reveals File History’s backup defaults, which I routinely change after I use this built-in Windows facility.   IDG

    Figure 3: By default, File History makes a snapshot each hour and retains them without end.

    As it seems, the entire contents of the folders that fall throughout the “snapshot coverage” of File History on my PCs run between 13.5GB and 40GB in dimension (a lot of footage and music are concerned). If a snapshot is made each hour, meaning 24 snapshots a day. In flip, meaning 324GB on the low finish, and 960GB (almost a terabyte) on the excessive finish. Every day! My first strikes when altering File History defaults seem in Figure 4.  IDG

    Figure 4: To stop fast disk consumption, snapshot at 12-hour intervals and restrict area consumption.

    By limiting snapshot frequency and instructing File History to not allow full drive consumption, you possibly can keep away from potential future points. That’s it for File History setup. In the subsequent part, I’ll describe easy methods to exclude folders out of your snapshot contents. Excluding folders from SnapshotsIn addition to ratcheting down the frequency and length of snapshots, you possibly can restrict snapshot dimension by excluding sure folders from snapshot protection. Click Exclude folders within the left column of the primary File History window (see Figure 1) to drive this course of. A File Explorer interface pops up the place you possibly can choose sure folders that you just don’t need included in every day snapshots. Figure 5 reveals the folders I usually exclude. I talk about these selections — and their implications — in a bulleted record after Figure 5.  IDG

    Figure 5: I exclude folders that I again up in different methods or don’t care about snapshotting. You ought to do likewise.

    Here’s a proof of the folders I exclude, listed by title so as of look top-down: 
    Downloads: these can (and sometimes must be) downloaded from the supply once more anyway, to get most present variations. 
    Music: I’ve greater than 200GB of music whole, so I don’t need it snapshotted. I preserve a backup copy of all my music on a indifferent drive, and may restore something broken or misplaced as wanted. 
    Videos: similar as Music (seems twice within the screenshot due to File Explorer buildings). 
    Camera Roll: similar as Music. 
    Temp: I select to not snapshot short-term recordsdata (and I’ve by no means wanted to revive any, both). 
    OneDrive: I’ve distant copies of all the things in OneDrive within the cloud, so there’s no want to save lots of OneDrive recordsdata which are out there to me offline.  
    My trimming technique cuts the dimensions of every snapshot from over 300GB to a way more manageable 1.5GB on my goal disk. That leaves a LOT extra room on the goal drive for saving snapshots, too. Restoring objects from a snapshotIf in some unspecified time in the future a file (in one of many folders that File History backs up) turns into broken or goes lacking, you possibly can restore it by way of the Settings app. Click Start > Settings, then kind file historical past into the Settings search field. From the choices that seem, choose Restore your recordsdata with File History.  IDG

    Figure 6: Clicking “Restore your files with File History” is step one to recovering your recordsdata. (Click picture to enlarge it.)

    Figure 7 reveals a File History snapshot from which folders or recordsdata may be retrieved, which seems when you choose the Restore your recordsdata… merchandise proven within the previous determine. This record of parts represents a trimmed-down snapshot after I excluded the folders talked about above.   IDG

    Figure 7: Select an merchandise and click on the inexperienced “back-circle” arrow to revive it.

    The folder degree retrieval instrument on the backside of Figure 7 (the inexperienced “back-circle” arrow) is the important thing to restoring recordsdata and folders. If you choose any merchandise in the primary pane, then mouse over the arrow, it reads “Restore to original location.” Click the inexperienced arrow, and the chosen merchandise will probably be restored to your PC within the state it was when the snapshot was made, changing the model of the merchandise that’s presently in your PC. (To spotlight a number of objects for restoration, maintain the Ctrl key down whilst you click on the objects you need.)  That’s the fundamental restore approach for File History. There are two extra wrinkles: 
    You can navigate into any of the icons proven above by double-clicking. Then you possibly can choose a sub-item and restore on a file or sub-folder foundation. 
    By default, the restore operation begins with the newest snapshot. You can navigate snapshots to get to a selected date/time by clicking the left or proper arrows: left takes you again in time, proper strikes you ahead. Figure 7 reveals “4 of 4” at high proper as a result of I selected the oldest snapshot out there to make the screenshot.
    It’s actually fairly easy, so long as you’re cautious about what you choose and change. The File History distinction between Windows 10 and 11There is one asterisk to File History’s “covered folders” limitation: In Windows 10, you possibly can copy different folders into the lined folders that File History backs up, they usually’ll be backed up too. ( has a superb tutorial detailing how to take action.) In Windows 11, even in the event you copy different folders into these containers, they gained’t be backed up. This turns a general-purpose backup instrument (for consumer folders, anyway) in Windows 10 into one thing extra centered and particular in Windows 11. File History: To use or to not use?File History is there for many who want to use it in Windows 10 or 11. It can cowl the contents of your consumer recordsdata, and is especially useful for snapshotting the Documents folder. Personally, I are likely to retailer my work recordsdata on a pair of separate drives the place I preserve all “work in progress.” That picture backup additionally contains my D: and F: drives (the place I preserve “work in progress” and key private recordsdata). I additionally preserve music, movies and footage on separate drives (and folders). Thus, I choose making a every day picture backup to utilizing File History on my manufacturing PC (nonetheless working Windows 10, BTW). For those that use Windows’ default library recordsdata (Documents, Pictures, Video, Music, and so forth) to retailer their essential stuff and work in progress, File History is usually a helpful and worthwhile supply of backup snapshots. It’s as much as you to resolve whether or not or not it is sensible, so long as you make use of it together with a whole backup and restore software program instrument that may change your Windows picture in addition to the recordsdata it makes use of. As they are saying on the web, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary), however extra safety is at all times higher than much less! 

    Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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