Backing Up Data Using File History in Windows 10

Keeping data safe in every device has really evolved through the years. We’ve gone from storing files in floppy disks down to burning them into CDs and DVDs, USB flashdrives and portable hard drives but just in the recent years, cloud storage which is dubbed as a safer has been a global trend.

Along with these advancements, operating systems such as Windows also made some features included into every new Windows version that comes out in the market that helps users to backup some stuff keeping them safe from being lost after something bad happens or the files themselves gets accidentally deleted.


Yes! There are actually features that really help you do this effortlessly and one of the most recent addition to your favorite Windows operating system is called “File History”. If it is your first time to hear about this tool then you definitely need to spend some time and join us as we uncover another awesome security and file safety feature in Windows 10 which would help keep your stuff safe and accessible even after an accidental deletion.

What can File History Do?

We have briefly described what File History is capable of doing but that’s not everything yet. Aside from giving you access to files that have been accidentally deleted, this new tool in Windows 10 (which came into the Windows OS starting in Windows 8) can also give you access to some previous versions of a certain file in case the latest revision of it is lost. You can also revert a file to a previous version with File History in case you need to.

In this tutorial, we will be learning the steps in accessing this very useful tool in Windows 10 and as well as find out the steps in using it and changing how it works so be sure to get your Windows 10 machine ready and follow the steps that are going to be shown below.

Accessing the File History Feature in Windows 10

Just like the other features and tools that are found in Windows 10, File History can be accessed using varied methods and we will be showing those methods here so you can choose which one you’d like to use whenever you need to get hold of this tool in your Windows computer.

The Easiest Way

First, we will be learning the shortcut method in launching the File History feature in Windows 10 and it is quickly done from the Control Panel Window. To do this, just launch Control Panel by first pressing the Windows + X keys. After pressing this keyboard shortcut combination, you will see a menu that will pop-up from the bottom-left portion of the screen.


From this menu, simply click on the option that says “Control Panel” and the Control Panel Window should launch instantly. This is where we are going to access File History from but in order to access the link that will open the tool, you will first need to click on the “System and Security” category as highlighted on the screenshot below.


Once the System and Security section of the Control Panel Window opens, you will need to click on the link that says “File History”, “Save backup copies of your files with File History” and “Restore files with File History” depending on which action you would like to take using the File History tool. So that’s how you launch File History using the easiest and most traditional way. Now, let’s explore some other methods which involves some modern features in Windows 10.


Accessing File History Using the Search Feature

Another way in launching the File Explorer tool in Windows 10 is by using a new feature which is called the Search screen. To launch this tool, you will simply need to press the Windows + S keys and after you do so, the Search screen feature will appear on the left portion of your computer monitor. From here, you will simply need to enter the words “file history” into the input box that is found at the bottom as shown below.


After typing in “file history” into the search input box that is located at the bottom of the Search screen, the search results should instantly appear above it and from here, you will simply need to click on the item that says “Restore your files with File History” and voila! The File History section in the Control Panel Window should launch automatically.

How to Enable File History

Now that you already know how to launch the File History tool in your Windows 10 computer, it is time to learn how you can turn it on. It is important to note that the feature itself is not enabled by default so you will need to switch it on first before you can fully take advantage of it.

But before anything else, you will need to secure a USB flash drive/memory stick that has a large free space (depending on the amount of files that you want to save file history for). Typically, a 4GB-16GB storage capacity would be enough but of course, you can go lower or higher than these numbers if you need to save large amounts of data into the drive itself. Once you have a USB flashdrive that will serve as File History storage, just attach it to your computer the fire up File History by clicking on the link from the Control Panel or the shortcut that appears if you search “file history” from the search screen.


On the Window that would follow, you will be able to see that the File History tool will scan for available drives where it can save the data that’s going to be backed up. From here, just select the drive that you want to use as the storage for the recovery system files then hit the “Turn on” button found on the bottom-right portion of the File History tool as highlighted on the screenshot below.


Before copying the files into the USB flashdrive that you have attached to your computer, File History would first show you how much space the storage device has. Since this is only for illustration purposes, the USB drive we’ve used only has around 1 GB since our test computer only has very files saved in it.


After File History is turned on, the copying of files will initiate. It only takes a few minutes for this process to complete. Once it completes, the File History tool Window should look like the one shown below. As you can see, the available space in the USB flashdrive was significantly reduced because File History has already copied some system files into it.


What are the Items Being Backed Up by File History?

As we’ve mentioned earlier, File History is capable of storing backup data for some system files or even save a previous version of certain stuff that are stored in your Windows 10 computer but it is also important to ask what exactly does this tool store into the backup drive? Knowing which items are backed up is important so you can be sure that your important stuff are really safeguarded against data loss.


If you look closely on the File History Window right after the backup system files are saved into it, you will see that there’s a list of the files which it actually saves. They are your “Libraries (both the default and custom ones)”, “Desktop”, “Contacts”, “Favorites on Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge” as well as files in “OneDrive (in case it is left active in your machine)” as shown on the screenshot above.

File History saves a previous version of the files saved in the locations that are pointed out above so it means that even if you keep on working on something then suddenly you need to revert to a previous version of it, you can easily do so by accessing the USB drive which you have used as the storage for your File History.

Excluding Folders and Libraries from the Backup Saved by File History

File History didn’t have this feature back in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 but thankfully, in Windows 10, it is already made possible. Yes! You can actually specify which folders are going to be included in the backup and which ones should be excluded. To do this, just head towards the File History Window and on the navigation pane that is found at the left, simply click on the option that says “Exclude folders” as you can see highlighted below.


On the Window that follows, you will see a box that should contain all the excluded folders and libraries. If you want to exclude something from being backed up by File History, just click on the “Add” button then browse to the location of the folder or library that you want to exclude then hit the “Select Folder” button on the Window that would appear right after you hit “Add” as you can see on the screenshot below.


Just do this same steps until all the folders and libraries that you want to exclude from being backed up by File Explorer are selected and are now in the “Exclusions” box. Once you are done, just hit the “Save changes” button and all the selected items in the exclusions list will no longer be touched by File History whenever it saves back up into the USB flashdrive.


Annoyed of File History’s Backup Schedule? Change It!

File History saves backup copies of your files every hour by default and it keeps those saved versions “Forever” as you can see on the screenshot below. If you are not happy with these default settings, all you need to do is to change it!


To access this section, just head again to the main File Explorer Window and once it opens, simply hit the link that is found at the navigation pane on the left which says “Advanced settings” as shown on the screenshot below.


Right after hitting this link, you will be able to access the section where you can change how File History saves backups into the USB drive. To do this, just click on the box that is located to the right of the “Save copies of files:” and “Keep saved versions:” options as highlighted on the screenshot below.


After clicking on any of the box, a dropdown options list will open and from here, all you need to do is select the duration of time you want File History to save backup copies of your system files periodically and as well as set how long it keeps those backup copies in case you don’t like the current default settings. It’s that simple!


Now, if you want to clear the history of files saved by the tool itself into your USB flashdrive, all you need to do is click on the “Clean up versions” link that is found just under the two dropdown boxes as you can see on the screenshot below.


After hitting the “Clean up versions” link, you will be able to see a small Window which contains a dropdown options box. From here, all you need to do is click on the box and on the dropdown options list that would appear, just choose how old the files that you want to delete then hit the “Clean up” button as you can see on the screenshot above. After doing so, File History will start deleting the specified files and voila! Your USB Drive will now be clean.

What Would Happen if the Backup Drive is Disconnected?

One of the features that we like best about the File History tool is that it just works silently in the background. It may show a few prompts and notifications on the system tray at times but only when you need to pay attention to it like when the drive gets disconnected or when it is time to delete older versions.

If the drive where the back up files are saved gets removed from being attached to your computer, File History will of course stop running since it doesn’t have a place anymore where it can save backup system files. You will also see a notification on the File History tool Window itself which says “We can’t finish copying your files. Connect your File History Drive and refresh this page to continue.” as you can see on the screenshot below.


File History will then temporarily save backup copies of your files into your computer’s hard drive. To get it to work normally once again, all you need to do is reconnect the backup drive and File History will again do its normal job at the background.

An Awesome Tool for Keeping File Safe!

As you an see, Windows 10 really has been improved and by having File History together with its other set of tools that would improve file accessibility and safety, this operating really is hundreds of steps away from its predecessors.

File History alone is a great improvement which ensures your copies of system files are intact even when something seriously bad happens to your computer. Have you started using File History after reading this tutorial? What can you say about it? Let your voice be heard by posting your reactions and opinions on the comments section below. You can also subscribe to our newsletter or spread the word about us by liking us on FB or following us on Twitter!