How to restore files using Windows 8 File History [step by step]

Restore File History Windows 8

Windows 8 File History is a sleek way to backup and restore those important files in case you accidentally delete them or if you want to recover a previous version of a particular document. Plus how to protect unauthorized access to the files that has been backed up.

In a previous article, you learned how to set up File History in Windows 8 either using an external or networked drive. Now you’ll learn how restore a deleted file or folder with this new feature in Windows 8.

For this example, in the desktop I have a file named “history-file.txt”, that has really important information, and now for some reason the file got deleted. What a better time to test File History, right?

Desktop Folder - History file

Now the example file has been deleted from the desktop and from the Recycle Bin, and I have also created a new file named “no-important.txt”, so now the desktop has the following files and folders in the Desktop.

Desktop folder - other files

Hours later, a customer calls and he wants the “history-file.txt” document, because it contains important information that is required to complete a task. The issue now is that the file is gone! Well, with File History configured in your system, it is just the matter of restoring the file without destroying any newly created files in the process (e.g., “no-important.txt”) and sending it over to the person who needs it. To do this, follow these steps:

1. Open the Windows Explorer, from the Ribbon, click the File History button. Make sure that you are not selecting anything on the folder!

File History Windows 8 button

2. The File History browser will open with different versions of the Desktop folder. In this case we have 3 versions. You can use the back and forward button at the bottom to navigate through the different versions.

File History Browser Windows 8

3. Navigate to a previous version until you find the file you are looking for.

Quick Tip: If you have many files to sort through to find the one you are looking for, you can also use the search box on the top-left corner of the window for a quick look up. You can use the name of document or any term that is in the file to do a search.

Restore File History Windows 8

4. Depending on how often you have configured File History to make copies, the file in question may have multiple versions. What you would do here is to navigate through previous versions, and you can double-click the file preview its content before restoring.

Restore File preview File History Windows 8

5. Then just click the center blue button between the back and forward navigation buttons and that is it. The file now will be restored and none of the other files will be affected.

In the case you want to restore a previous version of a file that it was NOT deleted, you’ll be asked to replace, skip or choose the file to keep.

Restore Skip File History

You are all done and File History saved your day!

Warning: The only drawback that I’ve found using File History in Windows 8 is that anyone can have access to the history files if, for example, the drive you are using gets stolen or lost. If you are the only one that is going to use this feature, take some extra time and encrypt the drive using BitLocker. Here is how is done: How to configure BitLocker in Windows 7 to protect with encryption your files and folders [Bonus] (this also works in Windows 8).
About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows expert and the Editor-in-Chief who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He is also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 12 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows, software, and related technologies, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and About.me.