Mastering Windows 8’s backup/restore system

Fred Langa

Windows 8 has easily the most comprehensive backup-and-recovery system ever seen on a personal computer.

With little user effort, and when applied correctly, Win8’s built-in backup tools provide automatic, frequent, triple-data redundancy.

Inexplicably, however, Microsoft tends to describe each tool more or less in isolation. It doesn’t provide a simple, comprehensive explanation of how the backup components work together — and do so extremely well.

This article rectifies that deficiency; it describes how to use File History, OneDrive, and other options as a complete system for near-bulletproof backups.

You’ll also find numerous links to articles that provide detailed how-to information — and operational tips on backing up Windows 8 systems.

An overview: Win8’s three-part backup system

Here are the main components:

  • File History — Local backups of user data: Win8’s File History tool makes continuous, near-real-time, incremental backups of selected user files. It then stores these backups on a networked or USB-attached external drive. If the primary copy (the working file) is damaged or accidentally erased, it can be quickly and easily restored from the local File History backups.
  • OneDrive — Remote user-data backup: Local backups are critical, but they have a potentially fatal flaw: any event that damages your PC or the drive containing your working files might also eliminate your local backups. Fires, floods, thefts, electrical surges, and similar catastrophes might result in the loss of all local copies. The answer for that possibility is cloud storage/backup, which maintains copies of your files on fully protected data servers, far removed from your PC.

    Microsoft’s cloud-based storage service started out as the relatively simple SkyDrive. But over the past few years, Microsoft has steadily improved the service’s capabilities, including tightly integrating it with Office 2013 and building it into Windows 8. (In fact, one of the early complaints about Office 2013 was its preference for storing files in SkyDrive.) Because of a trademark dispute, the service was renamed OneDrive in early 2014.

    There are, of course, many other cloud storage and backup services that will let you restore lost files. (A Nov. 20, 2014, Best Practices [paid content] discusses the differences between cloud-based synching and backup.) But — as is hardly discussed at all by Microsoft — OneDrive and File History can work cooperatively to provide automatic, double backups of all your important files.



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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2015-01-15:

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.