How to Use File History in Windows 10

Backup and restore important files with Windows File History

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Microsoft

Since Windows 7, Microsoft has offered a convenient way to back up your data to an external drive connected to your PC. If you know how to use File History, you can quickly recover deleted documents, photos, music, and more. It's even possible to restore a file to how it looked at a specific point in time.

Instructions in this article apply to computers running Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7.

What Does Windows File History Do?

File History doesn’t do a complete backup of your PC including system files. Instead, it watches the data in your user accounts, such as your documents, photos, and video folders. When you save changes to a document, for example, File History updates the file on your external drive. You can choose how often File History checks for modifications as well as how long it holds on to data.

How to Use Windows File History

To start backing up your Windows files with the File History tool:

  1. Make sure you have an external hard drive connected to your PC.

    A drive with at least 500GB is recommended so that you can keep several backups of your files and access multiple past versions of items that change frequently.

    External hard drive connected to a laptop
    Numbeos / Getty Images
  2. Open your Windows Settings and select Update & Security.

    Open your Windows Settings and select Update & Security.
  3. Select Backup on the left navigation panel, then select Add a drive under Backup using File History.

    Select Backup on the left navigation panel, then select Add a drive under Backup using File History.
  4. Choose the drive you want to use for backup.

    Choose the drive you want to use for backup.

If all you want to do is create a backup solution and never think about it again, then you’re done. Just keep your external drive connected to your PC, or plug it in every so often, and you’ll get a backup of all your personal files. You will now see an active slider button labeled Automatically back up my files under Backup using File History.

You should now see an active slider button labeled Automatically back up my files under Backup using File History.

How to Customize File History for Windows 10

To further customize what File History does:

  1. Select More options under Backup using File History.

    Select More options under Backup using File History.
  2. Choose how frequently you want File History to save a new copy of your files. The default is every hour, but you can set it to happen every 10 minutes or once a day.

    Choose how frequently you want File History to save a new copy of your files.
  3. Choose how long you want to keep your File History backups. The default setting is to keep them forever, but if you want to save space in your external hard drive, you can have your backups deleted every month, every two years, or when space is needed to make room for new backups.

    Choose how long you want to keep your File History backups.
  4. Scroll down further to see a list of all the folders File History backs up. If you want to remove any of these folders, click on them once.

    To add a folder, select Add a folder below Backup these folders.

    Scroll down further to see a list of all the folders File History backs up. If you want to remove any of these folders, click on them once, then select Remove.
  5. If you ever want to stop using File History, scroll down to the very bottom of the backup options screen and select Stop using drive under Backup to a different drive.

    To stop using File History, select Stop using drive under Backup to a different drive.

How to Restore Files With File History

To restore files, enter Restore your files in the Windows search box and select Restore your files with File History. When you select the file you want, you can scroll through a timeline to choose which version of the file to restore.

Enter Restore your files in the Windows search box and select Restore your files with File History.