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How-To: Use File History Backup in Windows 10

After working as a support technician for a security software company and helping customers recover from bad viruses, malware and ransomware I learned very quickly that most everyday computer users do not have any type of backup process in place to protect their data.

Even some computer enthusiasts who have robust backup plans on the job do not have anything set up at home to protect their families data such as documents, pictures, etc.

If you use cloud based storage services like OneDrive, iCloud, Box or DropBox then you can have copies of your files off your computer in the cloud but since those services sync changes that are made locally if you remove a file then it is gone in the cloud as well. There are no backup copies kept in those situations.

I have learned over time that the process of creating a backup of important data needs to be easy to implement. The tools also need to have the capability to take care of itself for the most part and leave you to just test your backups every once in a while.

As the price of hard drives have dropped steadily over the last few years the cost barrier to grabbing a large external hard drive to store these backups on has basically disappeared. Today you can head over to Amazon and grab a Western Digital 4TB My Book external drive with USB 3.0 for just $129. There are literally thousands of options that should provide more than enough room for most average home based users.

There are even new home routers that include USB ports that give you the ability to add an external hard drive to your home network that can be used as a backup target for all of your devices. Some cable companies and other ISPs have routers with those USB ports as well. Check out some of TP-Links routers for example to see how affordable it would be to upgrade your router and get that external USB port for your backup hard drive.

Now that you know the hardware is available it is time to find the backup tool to use and Windows 10 has one built in that can take care of your backup process - it is called File History.

It is very configurable and does not require much attention, beyond testing your backups of course, once it is set up and running. 

You can target local or networked drives easily in the setup process and restoral is quick and easy to grab that lost file.

One thing File History is not made for is backing up your entire hard drive image for restoral - it is purely made to backup your designated files and recover them as necessary.

Now there is a tool for that in Windows 10 but we will save that for another How-To session.

This gallery will give you an overview of the File History settings that you will use to get the backup process in place. It does a pretty good job of identifying your local and networked storage locations to assist in setting it all up. In fact, I had created a share on my own Western Digital My Cloud storage unit called FileHistory and the setup process selected that as the default when I began the setup process. Of course, I could have changed it to another location but that is a pretty good job of guessing the purpose of that newly created folder.

You will notice that I have two sets of images for File History on Windows 10 in this gallery. That is because not all Control Panel functions in Windows 10 have been moved into the Settings app and some are even available in both and File History is one of those. They are connected though so setup in one will flip the settings on in the other.

I recommend you pick your favorite way to manage File History and use it exclusively - at least until the Control Panel feature is deprecated - then you have to use the Settings version anyway. In fact, maybe it is best to just start using File History in Settings since that will be its permanent home anyway. Food for thought.

Personally, I prefer the File History in Settings because it is also easier to select the folders I want to backup instead of only being able to choose excluded folders in the Control Panel side. I much prefer the explicit ability to select the folders I want to backup instead of risking inadvertently excluding a folder that I want to backup.

Let us know how you plan to protect your data.


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