Understanding Windows 8’s File History

Fred Langa

File History is a radical departure from all previous Windows backup systems.

Here’s what you need to know about File History: why it’s so different, its requirements, its advanced settings — and some useful tweaks!

The trouble with traditional backups

Until relatively recently, the best backup tools for Windows came from third parties — not Microsoft. But that’s changing. Although Windows XP included a basic backup applet and Vista had a better one, it was not until Windows 7 that Microsoft shipped a complete, built-in backup and recovery system with its desktop operating system. (For more on Win7’s backup system, see the May 12, 2011, Top Story, “Build a complete Windows 7 safety net.”)

And there’s also still a myriad of top-quality, free and commercial, third-party backup tools available.

Unfortunately, a wealth of backup options hasn’t convinced most Windows users to make regular backups. For many, the process is still too much hassle.

Windows 8’s goal: No-effort system backups

For Windows 8, Microsoft rethought the concepts of PC backups and created File History, a highly automated, set-and-forget archiving system. The goal was to make backing up a PC so easy and unobtrusive that most Windows users would actually do it.

Former president of Microsoft’s Windows division Steven Sinofsky described the File History design goals in a July 10, 2012, “Building Windows 8” blog.

“In Windows 8, Microsoft is actively trying to accomplish the following:

  1. Make data protection so easy that any Windows user can turn it on and feel confident that their personal files are protected.
  2. Eliminate the complexity of setting up and using backup.
  3. Turn backup into an automatic, silent service that does the hard work of protecting user files in the background without any user interaction.
  4. Offer a very simple, engaging restore experience that makes finding, previewing and restoring versions of personal files much easier.”

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2013-07-11:

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.