This article is second in a series we’re doing on Windows 10 backup and recovery mechanisms. If you missed it, you can find the first article here: Change Default Save Location to OneDrive in Windows 10 On Surface
In today’s article, I’m going to discuss backing up and recovering files using the File History Feature in Windows 10. I’ll also touch on some caveats with the feature that you’ll need to know.
File History offers “Point in Time” restores which will allow you to restore a file from a particular date and hour (say from 2 days ago). As you can imagine, this is handy if you accidentally deleted a file but can’t remember exactly when it happened.
Let’s get started with how to configure it…
Configure Windows 10 File History
To begin backing up your files, you’ll first need to set up File History and select a save location. You have two choices for the save location: External Drive or Network.
The external drive option has the advantage of coming along with you and providing backups anywhere, whereas the network drive option requires that you to be somewhere where the network share can be opened (i.e. on a network).
Configure Windows 10 File History: External USB Drive
- Log in with an administrator account.
- Plug a USB drive into your Surface (Something like this Kingston DataTraveler 101). If you do not have a drive plugged in, the rest of these steps will not work.
- Search for “File History” and Select the File History (Control Panel) option.
- Select the Advanced Settings option on the left of the window and change the Keep Saved Versions setting to Until Space is Needed. If you don’t do this, the USB drive will fill up and interrupt the backups.
- Tap Save changes to get back to the previous screen.
- Next, tap the Select drive option (if it doesn’t find it automatically).
- Once you have the proper drive selected, tap Turn On – it may automatically do so when it finds your drive.
These changes will automatically start backing up your files to the USB drive, they will automatically make new backups every hour as long as the USB drive is attached. If you disconnect the USB drive, the File History backups will stop but they will resume when the USB drive is reattached.
TIP FROM TIM: If you have a docking station, plug your USB drive into it, that way each time you dock your Surface, your File History backups will run.
If you want to backup your files manually, go to the main File History window and tap Run Now with the backup USB drive plugged in.
If it is already performing a backup you will get a message indicating that File History is saving copies of your files.
Configure Windows 10 File History : Network Drive
In order to successfully setup File History backups on a network drive, you’ll need a second computer (or NAS) and the ability to create a network share. If you don’t have one or the other, you’ll want to use a USB drive (as described above).
Assuming you already have a network share mapped, tap on Select Drive when the File History window appears.
Next, choose Add Network Location and browse to the network share you want to use as your backup target.
Using the network drive as the backup target has some advantages:
- You don’t have to worry about losing the USB drive with your backups.
- It will automatically perform backups when it can see the network drive.
The downside is that you need another computer on your network to serve-out the share.
Restore Using Windows 10 File History:
Knowing how to restore your files is just as important, if not more so, as backing them up. In this section, we’ll go over how to restore your files from a File History backup.
- Log in with an administrator account.
- Plug the USB drive with your backups into your Surface (if you used a network share as your backup location, make sure you can connect to it).
- Search for “File History” and Select the File History (Control Panel) option. File History should be ON. If it’s not, you will not be able to recover files.
- Choose Restore Personal Files from the left side of the window.
- Select the files or folders you wish to restore. You can select the date to restore from by swiping left and right or by using the arrows at the bottom of the screen. You can also use the search box in the upper right of the window to find what you need.
- Select the files you want to restore then tap the Restore button (the big green one at the bottom of the window).
To restore your files or folders to a different location than the original, press and hold (or right-click) the Restore button, then select Restore To, and then choose a different location.
Windows 10 File History: Caveats
File History is powerful and easy to use but it has a couple of downsides you need to keep in mind:
- You will need a USB drive connected to your Surface or an available network share to do the backups.
- You need the backup drive/share available, to restore files.
- If you run out of space on your backup drive or share, the system will automatically start deleting the oldest files to make space for the new backups. This is known as First-in/First-out (FIFO) and may leave some of your older files unprotected.
- File history will not protect your installed applications or operating system.
These caveats aside, File History remains a powerful data protection tool that you should be using on your Surface to protect your files against loss or corruption.
Next up in our Windows 10 Backup & Recovery for Surface Series: Create a Windows 10 Recovery Drive
Tim Rolston is a professional geek with over 23 years of experience working in Information Technology and dealing with everything from large-scale storage to remote systems management and automation for organizations such as Texas Instruments, Mobil Oil, and the University of Michigan (where he was an Academic IT Director).
He co-founded JTRTech along with Joanna to realize his long-time dream of working for himself.