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  1. #1
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    RPV: Win7's least-known data-protection system




    TOP STORY

    RPV: Win7's least-known data-protection system


    By Fred Langa

    You deleted a file yesterday; now you really need it back. Your Windows recycle bin is empty — what now?

    Your next-best option is the Restore Previous Versions tool — a truly great, automatic data-protection feature buried in Win7.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/top-story/RPV:-Win7s-least-known-data-protection-system/ (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.
    Last edited by Tracey Capen; 2011-06-15 at 20:23.

  2. #2
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    I'm reminded of the features that were available in the days of time sharing computers, (PDP-10, VAX ), and the PDP-11 and probably many others where a backup version of a changed file was automatically created . These were sitting in the same directory (folder) as the original, were readily available, and - when one was in a tidying mood could be removed with a purge command.
    "Nothing new under the sun .."
    Speaking of time sharing: it's amusing to see all the hype about the "cloud" - which is essentially the time sharing industry of the 1970's with better communications.

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    Well, thanks to a good man for digging into more of Micosoft's hidden "features". I use quotes because often one man's feature is another man's bug. And, some of these bugs, ahem..."features", often come with a new set of issues (perhaps that is why they are not documented very well by Microsoft).

    In my case, I looked at the my documents folder and checked for recent versions. There were 6 recent versions, including today (16 JUN 2011), OF THE ENTIRE FOLDER - 795 files & folders, 511 megabytes in each copy! Each copy of the my documents folder contained copies of ALL files, changed AND not changed, of the earlier folder copies. So, I have my original folder plus 6 extra copies (an addition disk space "savings" of more than 3 gig; "savings" as in NOT).

    If this is how the "feature" works, they can keep it. I will turn it off. This means I have folders all over the place that are being kept essentially the same way, which could mean that is where ALL my disk space is going.

    And, where is all this data being kept? Again, probably HIDDEN from my view. Yup, it's "magic". The magic of Microsoft anyway. It is probably kept somewhere that the space shows up as 0 files and folders, 0 megabytes on disk. This means many of my files, that I put out are kept available somewhere that someone else can access but with the illusion (to me) that they are safe and secure. With friends like Microsoft using up my computer resources, who need enemies that do the same thing.

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    Great Hidden Feature

    Thanks for digging into this gem and sharing with all of us. This one is going into the utility box to pull out when I want to impress my fellow geeks.

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    Thumbs up RPV: Windows Least Known Data-Protection System - Comments

    An Excellent Article Fred!

    I'd seen the 'Restore Previous Versions' command but had no idea exactly what it did. This was especially so, as when ever I tried to go into the Retore Previous Versions 'System', all I would see is that there are no previous versions available. Your article helped to clear up why that was happening on my system. I've partitioned my HDD into separate OS (System) Drive and Data Drive, and then thinking that System Retore was only needed on the OS Drive I had disabled it on the Data Drive! Hence no Previous Versions were being created on the Data Drive, and so nothing would show up in the Restore Previous Versions dialog box.

    After reading your article, in which you explained the link between System Restore Points and the Previous Versions of documents, I've re-enabled System Restore on the Data Drive. Then created a manual Restore Point and low and behold there is now a Previous Version of the My Documents Folder on the Data Drive.

    Thanks for explaining about this very useful, but hidden system!

    Jonathan.
    Jonathan R. Portwood.
    Technical Director,
    PQSA Services,
    Assisting NGO's with IT Support Services!
    www.pqsa-network.org

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    Might be useful to explain one reason there might be no "previous versions" listed is Administrative Shares have been disabled.

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    Thanks for the insight Fred... great catch...but... is this protection given ONLY to what's in the Documents (My Documents) folder?
    Many clients have data files outside the Microsoft pre-defined Documents path, and looks like this feature will not cover, neither can be configured to cover, any other folders like lets say: C:/Intuit/ .
    thanks.

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    I think this does present possible security concerns for people unaware of it. Why? Say you've "shredded" (securely wiped) what you think is the only instance of a document, only to find out that there may be several backups of these documents still "living" elsewhere? Perhaps a utility that will seek out these backups when someone goes to securely delete a given document might be handy, or at least some kind of notification that such backups might exist.

    This in no way, however, diminishes my appreciation for learning of this feature. I still see far more upside potential than negative. Nice job, Fred.

    Edit: Yes, I do know that apps like Word might be creating their own backups of documents that one might need to be aware of, too.

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    Fred, thanks as always for your great info. A questions regarding System Image. When you use the Backup & Restore and accept the Let Windows Chose function it creates a System Image. Does it only create a System Image at that time or does it recreate a new System Image at each Backup Time? My concern would be that if it creates a new System Image and that System Image was somehow corrupted, say by a virus, and is saved then the System Image is also corrupted.

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    I think that the "previous versions" feature may be related to a problem I have been experiencing. Versions of Windows up through Vista would recognize any device at any drive letter. I could remove one drive and later use another at the same drive letter. But if I remove an external drive, and then plug in another, Windows 7 informs me that there is a problem, offers to scan the drive -- then tells me that I must format the drive before I can use it. I declined this very disheartening, misleading and potentially destructive request, thank you, and found that the drive worked perfectly on another computer or on the same dual-boot computer in Ubuntu Linux.

    The computer also now no longer recognizes memory chips plugged into its card slots.

    I may have helped bring on the problem by reassigning drive letters for the card slots.

    This is only happening on one of the two computers on which I have Windows 7 installed. This one has Windows 7 Home Premium and has a multiplicity of USB ports. The other is a netbook with Windows 7 Starter and 3 USB ports.

    Any comments or ways to resolve this issue would be most appreciated.
    Last edited by jsallen; 2011-06-16 at 15:51.

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    In The Missing Manual: Windows 7, this is called Shadow Copy. Shadow Copy has existed in previous versions.

    In the options for a restore point, one can select all system settings and files, files only, or none. I cannot select system settings only. I think the feature of backing up some user files during setting a restore point, may be of questionable value, only taking up more disk space than what was understood to be happening. If one could selectively designate some subset of files and where to put them, there may be some merit but the essential all or none selection limits the usefulness of the "feature".

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    Is it safe to asume that if one has system restore disabled, previous versions will also be?

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    Good story and gives me some ideas and at least one topic for next week's class.

    A note on trying to duplicate the previous file demonstration.

    I used open office calc and a test spreadsheet. I saved the file, created a restore point, deleted the file and cleaned the recycle bin, found the file in "previous files", but the file would not open the OO Calc nor display the test spreadsheet. I tried again. No luck. I tried with OO Write with no luck in opening the file with OO Write. The file would open using WordPad. I tried a text message using NotePad. It worked.

    Have you tested this with non microsoft products? Maybe I have a rogue machine?

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    Quote Originally Posted by kashken View Post
    In my case, I looked at the my documents folder and checked for recent versions. There were 6 recent versions, including today (16 JUN 2011), OF THE ENTIRE FOLDER...
    The Seagate FreeAgent backup drives handle this issue in a very civilized way -- they push down the older versions of changed files into as many as 10 levels of "history" folders. The files are stored uncompressed and so, immediately accessible and the backup runs as fast as any disk transfer and is light on resources except on the first run-through. Well worth the price, which is under $150 for a 2 TB drive.

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    To Fred Langa

    Hello Fred, The latest newsletter states 'Introduced in Vista and now present in all editions of Windows 7, previous versions are local backups of every data file and folder that changes on your system.' How do I access this feature in Vista? Thank you, George <gdmmail@yahoo.com>

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