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How To Set Up And Use File History In Windows 10

How To Set Up And Use File History In Windows 10
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The File History feature in Windows 10 allows you to back up your files to an external drive, helping you protect your files from unexpected crashes and other issues. Here's how to set up File History in Windows 10 and restore your files when needed.

Backups are important. Everyone knows this. We all should perform routine backups of our important files. But that's sometimes easier said than done. We get busy and forget to do it and by the time you really need that file you accidentally overwrote it's too late. Luckily, Windows 10 provides a feature called File History that will automatically save revisions of your files to an external drive so you don't have to worry about backing up these files yourself.

MORE: Windows 10 Tutorials

Setting Up File History

To use the File History feature, you'll need to get to the Windows 10 settings application. You can do this by typing in "settings" in the search bar and choosing "Settings" from the Best match.

Once in the Settings app, you'll choose Update & Security.

And then click on Backup on the left side.

Once in the Backup screen you will need to specify an external drive to back up your file revisions to as they're changed. To do this, click on Add a drive.

Once you do this, Windows 10 will search your computer for any usable external drives. If it does not find any, you will see the message "No usable drives found." If this happens, be sure you have a USB external drive plugged in. Once you've done this, try it again and you should see the drive pop up as an option.

This will turn on File History and begin saving copies of your files to the external drive. 

Adding And Excluding Default Folders

However, not all of your files are backed up. By default, only files in your user folder are backed up. In order to add or exclude folders or change any other settings, you'll need to click on the More options link. Once you do this, you will go to the interface that is used to control File History. From here, you have many more options to tweak.

For example, if you want to exclude certain folders from being backed up, you can click the Exclude folders link. This will give you the option to exclude as many folders as necessary.

Restoring Files With File History

Finally, after all of your files are backed up to the external drive you'll then have the option to restore them. To restore your files, you can access this same screen at a later time by typing "file history" in the search bar and choosing Restore your files with File History.

You will then be presented with a dialog box to restore your files.

File History also has an error checking feature enabled as well that we ran into. We had a USB drive that had some problems that we were prompted by File History to repair.

Windows 10 will not back up files to a USB drive that has any sector errors, so you can be sure that you're only backing up your files onto reliable disks. Once you click on Repair drive, it will then go through a chkdsk-like process and attempt to repair any errors that are found on the drive.

Windows 10 File History is a useful feature if you forget to back up your files on a regular basis. Just remember, that the files are only backed up locally to a local external disk. Although this is better than nothing, you now must remember to take that external disk with you if, for example, a natural disaster happens or your disk is stolen.

If you're truly concerned about your data, we recommend looking into a cloud backup service like Dropbox. Although it's not possible to choose folders at will like in File History, you get your files uploaded to the cloud and are able to keep revisions. This allows you to retrieve your files regardless of a natural disaster or theft in your home.

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