Windows 8 System and Security – File History Applet

Suppose that you made several changes to a crucial document – let’s say that you deleted a good portion of the document deeming it unnecessary.

But, today you realize that the deleted part was, indeed, an important one. Unfortunately, you don’t have another copy of yesterday’s document. So now you really wish that you hadn’t shot yourself in your foot by deleting that portion.

Don’t worry! That is just a hypothetical situation.

It can turn into a real life crisis, however. You may face a situation in your job life, especially in a programmer’s life, where you would wish that you had the previous version of a file. To make your dream come true, Windows 8 provides a facility called File History.

It keeps saving the previous versions of a file. So you don’t have to bite off your nails if you ever require an older version of your very important document.

This applet manages the File History feature of Windows 8.

How to Launch It

  • Open the traditional Control Panel through the Start Screen or using the Run Windows command “control”.
  • Select “Category” view for Control Panel.
  • Select “System and Security” category. This opens a new page containing the subcategories.
  • Select “File History”. This will launch the applet on the same control panel page.

File History is turned off by default. For failsafe purposes, it requires another external hard drive in which it stores the older versions of the files.

Also, File History backs up the data residing in all the libraries (built-in as well as user created), desktop, favorites and contacts.

So, the basic idea is to add references to the data that you want to back up, in the libraries. That will automatically include that crucial data in the File History backup.

Now, I understand that you might not want to back up Music or Videos library as they would just take up unnecessary extra space.

Well, you can also exclude folders from the libraries while configuring File History.

To turn on the feature, click “Turn on” button located on the main page of the applet. That launches a wizard which would guide you through the configuration process.

Select a Drive

The first thing that the wizard asks is to select a drive to which the older copies of your files will get stored.

The wizard lists all the available drives that could be used as data storage for File History. Besides that, you can specify a network drive in which File History can store data.

Exclude undesired data

As mentioned earlier, you can specify what data you don’t want to include in File History. It makes sense not to include multimedia files as they don’t change frequently and would only consume precious space of the hard drive.

Click on “Add” button to add any file/folder to the exclusion list. The caveat here is that you can neither specify a whole library nor can you specify multiple files/folders simultaneously. So this may be a bit of pain if there are way too many folders to exclude.

Advanced Settings

This step contains the advanced customizations like what time interval the data should be backed up, and how many copies of the data should be kept as a backup.

The main 3 customizations are as follows.

  • Save copies of file – At what time interval should File History keep saving files? You could keep the time interval as short as 10 minutes, but that would create too many backup copies, which would just unnecessarily devour the disk space.
  • Size of offline cache – If the backup drive is a network drive, then Windows doesn’t directly save the files to that drive. It keeps a cache on your local drive for faster and more efficient read/writes. You can specify the size of this cache as a percentage of the local disk space.
  • Keep saved versions – For what time should an old version be kept stored? You can keep it forever, but it will just eat more space unnecessarily. Most of the times, you won’t require ancient copies of files. In that case, you should put an expiry date on the older copies, so that the newer ones take their place.

In order to efficiently use disk space, you should manage a balance of number of copies and the time till which a copy is maintained. Besides that, you can open up the drive for public access to HomeGroup users.

Confirming the advanced settings turns File History on. Now File History will keep generating backup copies of your crucial data.

File History may become one of the most useful, but obscured features of Windows 8. Let us hope that the final release of Windows 8 tries to bring this feature into direct attention of users.

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