Not Exactly a File and Folder Backup But Darn Near As Good

By | May 18, 2015
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A Word About Windows 8x and Windows 10 File History

One of our favorite features in Windows 8 is File History. File History is an automatic update service in Windows 8 that can back up your personal files and folders to an external hard drive, and lets you selectively restore personal files and folders whenever needed. Because it requires a second hard drive (either internal or external) File History is not turned on by default. That means you have to turn it on to use it. AND REMEMBER … to use File History, you MUST have a second internal  hard drive or an external hard drive.

First things first. As we said up there, you need to turn on File History to use it.

Here’s how to turn on File History:

Open the File History control panel applet. Connect an external drive, (or select a second internal drive – i.e. a drive other than the one with Windows on it and click Turn on. If the drive you want to use for File History back up to is not selected, you can change drives by clicking the “Select a drive” link. Now File History will automatically backup and update your personal files automatically — you won’t have to give it a second thought. In the File History dialog, you also can restore files by clicking “Restore personal files”.

Cloudeight InfoAVe

So what exactly is File History and what does it do? File History is a backup application that continuously protects your personal files stored in Libraries, on your Desktop, in your Favorites and Contacts folders. It periodically (by default every hour) scans the file system for changes and then copies changed files to the selected location. Every time any of your personal files has changed, a copy will be stored on your external drive. As time goes by, File History builds a complete history of changes made to any personal file.

Why File History? We all know that we should back up our computers, but less than 10% of us do. We wish we had a dollar for every email we have from someone saying “my computer crashed and I lost everything….” File History makes protecting your data extremely easy — and automatic. You don’t need any special computer skills to use it beyond clicking the “Turn on” button in the File History dialog.

File History may make an adequate replacement for a file and folder backup – but File History isn’t an image backup, What’s good about it is , that once you turn it on, it is automatic and it will protect your personal files and folders from the ravages of Windows, the Internet and all the other icky stuff that can happen to your files and folders as a matter of course as you float down the stream of computer life. We can always reinstall software programs and set-up mail accounts again, but if we lose those precious documents, photos, videos, etc. they can’t be replaced – so you’ll do well to take this piece of advice from your OLD Uncle TC and Auntie EB and back-up baby, back-up.

File History is better than nothing and it will protect your irreplaceable files and folders. And since File History is automatic and all you need is an external hard drive (or second internal hard drive, either a logical or physical one) and the ten seconds it takes to turn it on, there is no excuse not to use it!

And another hint. Don’t be unplugging and plugging in your external hard drive like it was a media card! Leave it plugged in and running. Not only will it extend its life, (unplugging it and plugging it back shortens its life), if you set up File History to back up your personal files and folders to an external drive and it isn’t plugged in, woe is you. Not only won’t the auto backup take place, you’ll get error warnings, some which may be arcane. As you know by now, Windows just can’t give you a regular English warning they have be geeky like:

Windows was unable to complete the user-assigned task because the selected media was not accessible. Please make sure the selected media is accessible. Try again? Cancel?

Why can’t Windows say:

Look, you big dummy, how in the heck can we backup your important files and folders when you keep unplugging the darn external hard drive you told us you wanted to keep you backups on? THIMK! 

Take it from Uncle TC and Auntie EB – turn on File History and forget about it. And do not keep unplugging those external drives, we tells ya!

7 thoughts on “Not Exactly a File and Folder Backup But Darn Near As Good

  1. J.P.

    Howdy. I don’t know if this is a dumb question or not, but I’ll ask it anyway. When you have an external hard drive connected to your P.C. and have it programmed to automatically update your files each day, does it save only the new data, or does it duplicate all files every day?

    1. Mark S. Bajorek

      It saves a copy of new or modified files. As stated in the first paragraph:
      “Every time any of your personal files has changed, a copy will be stored on your external drive. As time goes by, File History builds a complete history of changes made to any personal file.”

  2. Philip Reeves

    So what would you do if cryptolocker or similar program got on your hard drives because you never unplugged it to prevent such a thing from happening. That’s why I always unplug my external drive after making an image backup.

  3. Mark S. Bajorek

    Any folders on your external hard drive that are included in a Library folder of your primary hard drive need to be removed from the Library before Windows will recognize your external hard drive for use with the File History function.

      1. Mark Bajorek

        Sorry, Maybe I’m wrong, but that was my experience. I discovered that because of a suggestion given by a Microsoft error message when I tried to add my external drive. When I removed the external drive files from my Library folders the external drive was listed for backup.

        1. infoave Post author

          Libraries are just shortcuts. They are mirror images of folders (like Pictures, Videos, Documents, Music, and any others that you created). So in other words, they don’t really exist – they are shadows. The idea behind libraries is to keep the most often used folders available and handy — so users would not have to navigate to C:\Users\Your user name\Pictures for example. The contents of libraries exactly mirror the folder it represents. When you add a file to a library it at the file to the actual directly. When you delete a file from a library, it deletes the file from the actual folder. Since File History doesn’t include Libraries by default, my question is why did you decide to try to include them. The path to every folder that file history includes by default has a path such as:

          C:\Users\Your User Name\Pictures

          If you right click on a Library and choose “Copy path” – you’ll see the path to the actual folder. For example if you right-click on the Pictures library and choose “Pictures” the file path will be exactly the same as above: C:\Users\Your User Name\Pictures


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