How To: Use File History in Windows 10

File History

File History, a feature that was first introduced in Windows 8, has returned with Windows 10 with some important differences. Aside from the fact that the menu is completely different now that Windows 10 has stuffed everything into the Settings app, File History is no longer enabled by default. Microsoft possibly prefers that people use OneDrive for their backup needs yet not everyone has bought into the connected ecosystem of Windows 10 yet.

We also have a guide on backing up your files with File History in Windows 8.x for those of you who have not upgraded yet.

File History in Windows 10

While there are some obvious differences to the feature in Windows 10, File History’s core functions remain the same. The feature was originally designed to back up your libraries and personal files so that you can recover previous versions if needed.  The Windows 10 default settings certainly reflect this functionality but users are also free to configure File History in entirely different ways. The process to restore files is also unchanged. Users can either right-click on a file and select to “restore previous versions” or go to the Properties menu and choose an item from the “Previous Versions” tab.

You will need an additional drive on top of the system one if you are planning to use File History because it cannot technically store files in the same drive. Of course, you can always add a network location or even a virtual hard drive though the latter option is not recommended.

Set up File History through Settings

The original File History menu can still be found in Windows 10 as the Control Panel is simply tucked away. However, you should start by going to the Settings app because you may find all the options you are looking for in there.

1. Press WinKey + I to open the Settings and then head over to Update & security > Backup.

2. Click on the “Add a drive” button. Windows will now search for available drives so choose the one you want to continue.

3. After choosing a drive, the feature will be turned on instantly and the “Add a drive” button will be replaced by the “Automatically back up my files” toggle.

File History Select Drive

At this point, Windows will start backing up the default folders using the default settings. These settings, however, are most likely insufficient so click on the “More options” link to configure everything manually.

1. First, look at the two options in the dropdown menus at the top. The first option will let you choose the interval between the backups. Though you cannot choose whatever you want, Microsoft does offer quite a few options here. The second dropdown menu will let you choose how long the backups will stay in that drive for until they are deleted. The default setting is “forever” but that option can easily fill up a drive quickly so you may want to choose something else.

2. Once you have configured those settings, scroll further down and you will see the default backup folders. There is a pretty good chance that the list will be huge so take your time to go through all of it.
Backup Options Folders

3. Click on the “Add a folder” button to choose additional backup locations.

4. Click on an existing location to expand it and then click on the “Remove” button to delete it from the list. The unfortunate thing is that every time you remove something, the list gets refreshed so the process can take a lot of time.
Backup Options Remove Folder

File History in the Control Panel

File History Control Panel

Another way to access File History is through the System and Security section of the Control Panel. You can also type file history in your Start menu and select the Control Panel item from the list of results. The thing is, the options you will find here are more or less the same. A very important difference is that you cannot actually add folders from this menu. You can only “remove” folders by excluding them from File History but that is pretty much it.