Tap or click to watch a video about restoring deleted or previous versions of your files.

 

File History automatically backs up files that are in your libraries, contacts, favorites, Microsoft SkyDrive and on your desktop. If the originals are lost, damaged, or deleted, you can restore all of them. You can also  find different versions of your  files from a specific point in time. Over time, you’ll have a complete history of your files.

To begin automatically backing up and creating a history of your files, you’ll first need to set up a File History drive and turn File History on.

You have to activate it first, but Windows 8 File History will periodically save the contents of your Contacts, Desktop, Favorites and Libraries to a secondary or external hard drive or network location.

Windows 8 tries to improve on Previous Versions with a new feature called File History, which automatically backs up your Contacts, Internet Explorer Favorites, Libraries and Desktop. Because File History backs up all Libraries, not just the four defaults (Documents, Pictures, Music, and Video), as long as you keep all of your personal files in a Library you can rest assured that they’re being backed up.

As it happens, File History is disabled by default, so you have to turn it on before it can help you. To find File History, search for it under Settings (Windows +W if you’re using a keyboard), open it (it launches as a Windows 7-style Control Panel item), and click the Turn On button.  If your computer is the member of a HomeGroup, you’ll be given the option to recommend the drive you chose to other members. (If the button isn’t active, it means that no suitable backup location was found.)

At left, you’ll find options to exclude certain folders from File History and save your backups to a different drive. Under Advanced settings, you can adjust how frequently File History makes copies and how long it will keep them — the defaults are once an hour and forever, respectively.

From Advanced settings you can also configure the size of the offline cache, which retains some of your File History on your primary storage device so you can still access it even if you’re not connected to the secondary/external/network drive.

As you might imagine, this comes in handy on mobile devices such as notebooks and tablets. If you plan to spend lots of time disconnected from your File History drive, can spare the space on your mobile device, and you want your File History to go back as far as possible, it’s worth bumping the offline cache up from the default 5 percent to 10 percent or even 20 percent (the maximum). Note, however, new backups aren’t performed unless the File History drive is available.