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How to Use the File History Feature in Windows 8 to Restore Files

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Jealous of your Mac OS X friends and their great Time Machine feature? Windows 8 has a new feature called File History that works much the same way, giving you an easy method to restore previous versions of your files.

We are going to use a networked folder in for our article but you could always skip creating the network folder, and just use a USB drive. To use a USB drive you can just go to the setting for File History and turn it on, it should automatically find your USB and immediately start working.

Setting Up File History Using A Shared Folder

The first thing we have to do if we want to use File History with a network share is to actually create the the folder and share it, so head on over to your home server (or any always on PC) and create a new folder named File History.

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Right-click on the folder and select Share with, then click on the Specific people option.

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Type everyone and hit the add button.

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Finally change the permissions so that Everyone has Read/Write permissions.

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Now switch back to your Windows 8 machine and launch explorer, then open the classic Control Panel.

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Click on the System and Security link.

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Now open up the File History settings.image

Click on the Change drive link on the left hand side.

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Now you will need to add your network location.image

Browse to the shared folder we just created on your home server and click the Select Folder button.image

Make sure your network location is selected and click the OK button.

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Now you can Turn on File History.

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When you click on the “turn on” button a message will pop up asking you if you wish to recommend the location that you used for File History to other users in your HomeGroup as a place to save their File History. If you have a HomeGroup and want to have a central location where all users in the HomeGroup can store their File History you will probably want to say yes, otherwise it’s OK to choose no. File History will now be set up and working.

Restoring A Deleted File Or Folder

In this example I have 1 file in the Documents Library called “My Plans To Take Over The World”, and I am going to accidently delete the document and restore it using File History.

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I’ve now deleted the file permanently by doing a Shift-Delete as I don’t think I will be taking over the world anymore. I have also created two new files called “New File 1” and “New File 2”, making the library look like this:

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A few days later, my partner in crime phones me and tells me that he is free this week, and it looks like a good week to conquer the world. The problem is that I deleted my plan. Luckily I had set up File History a while back and can recover the document, we need to recover the Document without effecting “New File 1” or “New File 2”. To do that we to that we select the File History button on the ribbon.

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This will launch the File History browser, and give you all the different versions of the Documents Library.

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If I scroll back to Version 3 of 4 using the arrow that’s pointing back (left), you will see that my document called “My Plans To Take Over The World” is there.

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I can now select my file and click on the Blue Orb  to restore the document. File History will launch the folder that you are busy working with and show you that the file is now there.

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Taylor Gibb is a Microsoft MVP and all round geek, he loves everything from Windows 8 to Windows Server 2012 and even C# and PowerShell. You can also follow him on Google+

  • Published 04/4/12

Comments (9)

  1. Rob

    neat!

    Just tried it, it works well enough I guess.

    looks like it defaults to:
    -save every 1 hour
    -offline cache 5% of disk space
    -keep versions forever

    other options are:
    save – 10 min, 15, 20, 30, 3hrs, 6, 12, daily
    cache – 2%, 10%, 20%
    versions – until space needed, 1month, 3, 6, 9, 1year, 2

  2. DaFoo

    How is this different from “previous versions” or “shadow copy”, both of which are in current and past versions of Windows? Why would anyone be jealous of Time Machine??

  3. Fantasm

    I had Windows 7, installed Windows 8 and within a day or two, I had Windows 7 restored… Amazing…!

  4. r

    …that’s likely Win 8′s best feature…the ability to restore Win 7.

  5. Jeff

    Why so many articles on an OS that is in use by 0.00001% of the population?

    Relevance, please.

  6. andriajohn

    Thanks for giving the more information about the How to Use the File History Feature in Windows 8 to Restore Files

  7. Yoshi

    I can see this feature being used by malware writers to restore malicious files.

  8. alan

    So let me get this staight…Windows made a double recycle bin feature? Um ok.

  9. whiplash55

    Shadow Copy in Windows Vista worked just as well as Time Machine which has never worked that well for me.Super Duper always works as a Mac backup.

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