File History is one of the best backup tools of Windows 10 for many users. It is very easy to set-up, does not require special knowledge and allows to restore single files directly in Windows Explorer.
Harddisks have become cheap in recent years. A typical Windows 10 PCs usually has Terabytes of free space available nowadays. If you have space some space to spare you should definitely activate File History, even if you rely on other backup solutions. It is just so convenient!
How Windows 10 File History works
File History automatically keeps the original and other versions of any file you want. Whenever you change a file on your system, File History automatically saves a copy of it with a timestamp. If you save an edited photo, you still will keep the original version, just in case you might to switch back.
To review or restore older versions, you just select the file and then click the History button in the Ribbon.
For example, if you change the same file five times, you will automatically keep five editions of that file. You can however limit the overall file-space used by Windows 10 File History, as we will show you below.
For improved security Windows 10 File History requires a second physical hard disk. But if you don´t have one, you can cheat Windows 10 by using a virtual hard disk. You should be aware however, that your backups might be lost when your main hard disk dies.
Therefore, when you use File History on Windows 10 with a single drive, you should also do complete system backups from time to time.
How to activate File History in Windows 10
By default File History is inactive in Windows 10. What a pity that Microsoft does not even hint to that feature when you first set up Windows 10.
1. Open File History settings in the Windows 10 search field
Just type File History in the search form next to the Start button and click File History. Like other features, you can also manage File History with the touch improved Settings menu. In that case just choose File History settings.
2. Turning on File History
When your System has just one additional hard disk with enough free space you can just click Turn on and you are done. Windows 10 will automatically pick that disk and there is nothing more to do.
If you have several additional disks, you should click Select drive to choose which one to use for File History.
If you have just one system drive and use a virtual hard disk in VHD or VHDX format for File History, you can also choose it via Select drive. In some cases Windows does not recognize them directly.
Managing File History in Settings offers you the same choices when you open More options.
3. Excluding Folders in Windows 10 File History
Click on Exclude folders to select which folders you do not want to secure via File History. As File History does an initial full backup of every selected folder and its files, there are different scenarios which could make sense for you.
- using Windows 10 File History only for your personal files in your user account-folder
- excluding non-critical folders for Downloads, music from streaming apps like Spotify
- excluding the C:Windows folder to limit file history to all other files
4. Choose how often File History saves copies and how long it keeps saved versions
Click on Advanced settings and choose both settings as you prefer. When you tell File History to Save copies Every hour, it will check for changes using that frequency. That means when you change a file several times during one hour, only the last file when one hour has passed will be saved.
For maximum security we suggest you to set Every 10 minutes as the saving interval. This might result in more space needed by File History. But if you want to limit the disk space File History uses, we recommend you to exclude folders you don´t really need to save instead of using bigger intervals.
The Keep saved versions you should leave at Forever (default). Once you need space in the future, you can just revise your Backups and if needed switch to another setting.