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SkyDrive Tip: Recover Deleted or Modified Files

I’ve received a lot of interesting feedback since writing 2012: A Cloud Odyssey - From Live Mesh to SkyDrive. And while I’ve gotten some great tips from readers, I’ve also heard a few concerns, the key one involving what happens if you mistakenly delete or modify a file in SkyDrive. So for my next SkyDrive entry, I’ve got a tip of my own: How you can overcome the SkyDrive service’s lack of file history functionality on the server, assuming you’re using Windows 8 (or Windows 7) on the client.

Here’s how it works.

Windows 8 has a great new feature called File History that caches, or backs up, different versions of your documents and other data files, so you can “go back in time” and recover previous or deleted versions of those files. File History is such a great feature that I suggested enabling it less than a week ago in a separate article, Windows 8 Tip: Enable File History. (I had also previously written about File History in Windows 8 Feature Focus: File History.)

You may be wondering how you can configure File History to back up SkyDrive-based folders and files, since this feature backs up content in your libraries and desktop, and your IE Favorites, by default. But if you install the SkyDrive application in Windows 8, that location is also added to the File History backup set. So it’s automatic.


To navigate through your File History, you can navigate to the folder in question in File Explorer and choose History from the Home tab in the ribbon. Or, just select Restore personal files from the File History control panel. Either way, you’ll see an interface like the following.


OK, but how about Windows 7? While I haven’t tested this too exhaustively, I can tell you that Windows 7 includes the predecessor to File History, called Previous Versions. This feature is very well hidden in Windows 7, but it does work with the SkyDrive folder (if you’ve installed the SkyDrive application on Windows 7.)

To see this, right-click on a file or folder in SkyDrive (or on the SkyDrive folder itself) and choose Properties from the menu that appears. From the Properties window, choose Previous Versions to see which versions are available and then view or restore files from within.


On either OS, you should be able to recover files that were deleted in SkyDrive, no matter where they were deleted. The key is to ensure that your SkyDrive folders are replicated to your PCs and that, in the case of Windows 8, you’ve enabled File History.

TAGS: Office 365
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