File Backup

How to use File History to backup files on Windows 10

You can use File History to back up your personal files on Windows 10, and in this guide, you'll learn how to use it.

Windows 10 File History

On Windows 10, “File History” is a feature to quickly create incremental backups of your files on an external or network drive to prevent data loss against storage failure, accidental deletion, or corruption.

By default, File History backs up your files stored in Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music, and Desktop folders, including the OneDrive files locally stored on the device. If you have files on a different location, you have to add those locations in the File History settings to ensure they get backed up.

On Windows 10, this file backup feature remains pretty much unchanged, but now you can also configure it using the Settings app. Using Settings, you can turn on automatic backup and access many options, such as how often file backups are made, how long data should be kept, include and exclude folders, and configure a different drive to create automatic backups with File History.

Once the feature is configured, it will create a copy of your personal files that have changed since the last time the backup was performed. Over time, these incremental backups will pile up for you to recover any of them as needed, and you can even restore different versions of each file.

In this guide, you will learn the steps to set up File History on an external drive, or network folder, using the Settings app on Windows 10. In addition, you’ll see the steps to recover files as needed.

Enable File History on external drive on Windows 10

To start using File History, connect an external drive to the computer, and use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Click on Update & Security.

  3. Click on Backup.

  4. Under the “Back up using File History” section, click the Add a drive button.

    File History select backup destination
    File History select backup destination
  5. Select the drive to use as the backup destination.

  6. Turn on the Automatically back up my files toggle switch (if applicable).

  7. Click the More options link.

    File History more options
    File History more options
  8. Click the Back up now button if you to create an on-demand backup.

  9. Use the “Back up my files” drop-down menu to configure how often to back up your files. You can select as often as every 10 minutes to every 12 hours, or daily. The default frequency is every hour.

    File History configuration
    File History configuration
  10. Use the “Keep my backups” drop-down menus to configure how long to keep the backups. You can select to keep files as little are one month to two years, until space is needed, or forever (default).

  11. (Optional) Under the “Back up these folders” section, click the Add a folder option to include additional locations to the backup.

    Add folder to backup
    Add folder to backup
  12. (Optional) Under the “Exclude these folders” section, click the Add a folder option to include the locations with files you do not want to backup with File History.

    Exclude folder from backup
    Exclude folder from backup
  13. (Optional) Select a folder from the “Back up these folders” or “Exclude these folders” section and click the Remove button to remove it from File History.

    Remove folder from File History
    Remove folder from File History
  14. (Optional) Under the “Back up to a different drive” section, click the Stop using drive button to stop using the drive or use another storage.

Once you complete the steps, Windows 10 File History will start backing up files regularly to the drive you selected. 

If you are using an external drive, make sure to keep it connected to the computer. Otherwise, the file backup will fail, and if something happens, you may not be able to recover your files.

Enable File History in network folder on Windows 10

To configure File History using a network folder, use these steps:

Important: It’s assumed that you’re already sharing a folder on a remote computer or server. If you need help sharing a folder on Windows 10, use these steps first.
  1. Open Settings.

  2. Click on Update & Security.

  3. Click on Backup.

  4. Click the Add a drive button.

  5. Click the Show all network locations options at the bottom of the page.

    File History network locations
    File History network locations
  6. Select the shared network folder from the list.

    File History select network shared folder
    File History select network shared folder
  7. Click the More options link.

    File History more options
    File History more options
  8. Click the Back up now button if you to create an on-demand backup.

  9. Use the “Back up my files” drop-down menu to configure how often to back up your files. You can select as often as every 10 minutes to every 12 hours, or daily. The default frequency is every hour.

    File History configuration
    File History configuration
  10. Use the “Keep my backups” drop-down menus to configure how long to keep the backups. You can select to keep files as little are one month to two years, until space is needed, or forever (default).

  11. (Optional) Under the “Back up these folders” section, click the Add a folder option to include additional locations to the backup.

    Add folder to backup
    Add folder to backup
  12. (Optional) Under the “Exclude these folders” section, click the Add a folder option to include the locations with files you do not want to backup with File History.

    Exclude folder from backup
    Exclude folder from backup
  13. (Optional) Select a folder from the “Back up these folders” or “Exclude these folders” section and click the Remove button to remove it from File History.

    Remove folder from File History
    Remove folder from File History
  14. (Optional) Under the “Back up to a different drive” section, click the Stop using drive button to stop using the drive or use another storage.

After you complete the steps, the files will automatically backup on the shared folder that you specified.

Use File History to restore files on Windows 10

To restore files with File History on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Click on Update & Security.

  3. Click on Backup.

  4. Click the More options link.

  5. Under the “Related settings” section, click the Restore files from a current backup option at the bottom of the page.

    File History restore files from backup
    File History restore files from backup
  6. Use the back and forth buttons to navigate to a point in time to restore your files.

  7. Select the content that you want to recover.

  8. Click the green button to restore your files to their default location.

    File History restore experience
    File History restore experience
    Quick tip: You can also click the gear button in the top-right corner and use the Restore to option to restore files to an alternate location.

After you complete the steps, the files will restore to the location that you specified.

Finally, it is important to note that File History is just that. It is a feature to backup your files. It is not a feature designed to backup programs, settings, or the operating system. If you want to create a full system backup, you should be using the System Image Backup utility or a third-party tool, such as Macrium Reflect.

Update February 9, 2021: This guide was originally published in January 2016, and it’s been revised for the latest version of Windows 10.