File Backup

How to use File History to backup files on Windows 10

File History in Windows 10 is the one feature you want to use to backup your personal files, and in this guide you get all the instructions on how to use it.

File History in Windows 10

Windows 10 includes the “File History” feature, which is meant to help you to quickly create incremental backups of your personal files on an external or network drive to prevent data loss against storage failure, accidental deletion, or data damage.

By default, File History backs up your personal files stored in Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music, and Desktop folders, including the OneDrive offline files in your computer. If you have files on another location, you will need to add those locations in the File History settings to make sure they get backed up.

On Windows 10, the file backup feature remains pretty much unchanged, but now you can also configure the feature using Settings. Using the app, users can turn on automatic backup and access a number of options, such as control how often file backups are made, how long should files be kept, include and exclude folders, and the ability to configure a different drive to make automatic backups.

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’ll 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.

How to set up ‘File History’ on Windows 10

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

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Click on Update & Security.

  3. Click on Backup.

  4. Click the Add a drive button.

  5. Select the drive you want to use as the backup drive.

    File History drive selection on Windows 10
    File History drive selection on Windows 10
  6. Click the More options link.

    If you prefer to create an on demand backup, you can click the Back up now button.

    Under the Overview section, you can also use the “Back up my files” and “Keep my backups” drop-down menus to configure frequency and how long to keep the backups.

    File History options on Windows 10
    File History options on Windows 10

    Then you can add or remove folders to include in your File History setup. You can click the Add a folder to include additional locations to the backup. If you don’t need to keep files from a particular location, select the folder and click the Remove button to remove the folder and its content from being backed up.

    If you want to select a folder, but inside there are other folder you don’t want to backup, you can specify those folders under “Exclude these folders”.  Click the Add a folder button, browse and select the location to exclude.

    Stop using drive with File History
    Stop using drive with File History

    Also, in the case that you want to stop using the drive to make backups, or you’re planning to use a different drive, click the Stop using drive button.

How to set up ‘File History’ using a network folder

Use these steps to configure File History using a network folder as the backup destination:

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 location selection
    File History network location selection
  6. Select the shared network folder from the list.

    Select network folder to store File History
    Select network folder to store File History

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

How to restore files using ‘File History’

Use these steps to restore files using File History on Windows 10:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Click on Update & Security.

  3. Click on Backup.

  4. Click the More options link.

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

    Restore files from backup using File History on Windows 10
    Restore files from backup using File History on Windows 10
  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’s important to note that File History is just that, it’s a feature to backup your personal files. File History won’t make a backup of your programs, settings, or operating system files. If you want to a do full backup of your system, you want to use the System Image Backup utility.

Update September 17, 2019: This guide was originally published in January 2016, and it’s been revised for the latest version of Windows 10.