How to Use File History in Windows 8.1

File History is probably one of the best features ever to be included in every Windows 8.1 machine. Back in the days of Windows 7 and even the older Windows editions such as Windows Vista and XP, backing up some files and other stuff usually took more time and eats up a big chunk of space from your hard drive but the result is still a vulnerable storage location that may lose all of its contents anytime an error occurs since Windows only stores backup in a separate hard drive partition which can still be affected once a virus attack happens or one of your hardware like the RAM or the hard disk itself fails.

These negative aspects of the back up feature has led Microsoft to develop a brand feature to be included in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 which allows users to store recent copies of files, contacts, favorites and even OneDrive contents in a separate drive such as a USB memory stick or a portable hard drive for safe-keeping. This feature is called File History and in this tutorial, we will be learning the steps involved in using this brand new feature in your Windows 8.1 machine.

Accessing File History

Windows 8.1’s File History feature is turned off by default in every Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 operating system and before you enable it, you first need to turn it on. We’ve described the steps involved for enabling File History in our previous tutorial but in order to save you time, I will show one method here which is also the easiest. First, you will need to access the Start Screen and once it opens, just start typing the word “File History” on your computer’s keyboard. While typing the words, you’ll be able to see the Search screen that will appear at the right edge and the words will already be in the input box.


After a few seconds, you will be able to see the search results that will appear just at the bottom of the input box. From these results, just click or tap on the one that says “Save backup copies of your files with File History” and you should be able to open the Window where the File History settings are found.


The Window that follows looks exactly as the one shown on the screenshot below. From here, you will need to turn on the File History feature simply by clicking on the button that says “Turn on” located at the bottom-right portion of the screen. If there is currently a HomeGroup that is enabled on your computer, a small prompt will appear asking you if you want to recommend the drive to other users that are joined to the HomeGroup. From here, just select between the “Yes” and “No” buttons and File History will finally be activated after you do so. If there’s no HomeGroup that is set active in your Windows 8.1 machine, File History will just be activated right away after you click on the “Turn on” button.


Now that the File History feature is turned on, you will need to learn the basics in how you can use it so you can keep a record of your crucial files and get a quick access to them from your portable storage device that you used for the File History feature. To learn even more details and methods in activating File History in your Windows 8.1 machine, you can read our previous tutorial that shows the details in doing so.

How to Use the File History Feature

When the File History feature finally gets activated, you will finally see that it will start saving all your important stuff into the storage device that you attached earlier before you activated it. The file saving process doesn’t take that long compared to the backup feature which used to exist in older Windows editions. Your files, favorites and all the other stuff that are saved in the portable storage device that is used by File History automatically updates to their most recent versions every hour but you can change this as you will see later. You can also choose to manually run the feature simply by clicking on the “Run now” link which is found at the bottom portion of the status/description box as shown on the screenshot below.


On the navigation pane that is located at the left edge of the  Window, you will see some other links which will lead you to other functions of the File History feature itself the link at the top-most portion takes you to the Control Panel Home Window while the second one which says “Restore personal files” will allow you to have your files restored to the most recent version that was saved by the feature itself. After clicking on the link, you should be able to see a separate Window that looks like the screenshot below.


Just wait until the restore process is done and you should see a prompt that notifies you bout the status which has already been completed. All you files that File History is currently working on to be restored will temporarily be inaccessible while the process is ongoing so don’t panic just in case you can’t access any of your personal files after you clicked the “Restore personal files” link from the navigation pane.

Selecting a Storage Drive

Just below the “Restore personal files” link is another one that says “Select a drive”. This option is very useful especially if you attached more than one storage device to your computer and the first one that you used is already running out of storage space. Try clicking this link from the navigation pane and you will be able to open a new Window containing a box that lists all available drives which you can use for keeping copies of your files with File History. In the screenshot below, there’s only one storage device that appears since I only attached my USB memory stick/flashdrive to one of my computer’s USB port.


As you can see, this section also displays the total storage space of the device that you attached and as well as the free space which is currently free. This is the section where you can go to check the storage space status of your devices in case you want to check how much space you still have.

How to Exclude Folders from File History

If you have limited storage space, you might just want to select the folders to be included in the File History feature and thankfully, the feature itself allows you to do this. Just click on the link from the navigation pane at the left which says “Exclude folders” and you will be taken to a new Window that has an empty box and an “Add” button at its bottom-left portion. Just click on this button and you should be able to access a small Window that will let you browse through the folders to be excluded as shown on the screenshot below.


Changing Some Advance Settings

Lastly, you can also change some other aspects of the File History feature by clicking on the link that says “Advanced settings” which is found on the navigation pane at the left. After you do so, you will be taken to a new Window where you can find three settings labeled “Save copies of files”, “Size of offline cache” and “Keep saved versions” and at its opposite side at the right portion are drop-down boxes for selecting your desired values for each option. At the bottom portion of this Window, you will also find a checkbox that will allow you to recommend the drive with other members of your HomeGroup. Once you are done making changes with the settings, simply hit the “Save changes” button found at the bottom-most portion to make all changes final.


As you can see, tweaking some aspects with the File History feature is very easy. Now that you learned these things, try to open the portable storage device that you used for storing your stuff from File Explorer and you should be able to see a folder in it that is labeled “File History”. You can always get to this folder whenever you need to access the recent version of any file and the good thing about it is you can bring the device in your pocket anywhere you go and just proceed with the stuff that you are working on in any computer that you connect the it to.