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History Vault for Windows 8: User Friendly Backups

📄 Contents

  1. Configuring the Backup Options for Your Data
  2. Restoring Files
Most users aren't concerned with the personal files and photos stored on their computer until they are lost. Hard drives crash or files get overwritten, and typical users aren't left with much they can do. Microsoft is working to correct this issue by enhancing the option of file system backups. Todd Meister tells you the ways in which Windows 8 File History has made backup and recovery of your data a lot easier.
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With Windows 8, Microsoft is introducing a new approach for backups. The File History Control Panel applet provides all the capability you'll need to configure and run your backups. It also includes a much more intuitive interface compared with previous versions of the Windows operating system. The File History applet backs up the files included in all your libraries, the desktop, your contacts, and your favorites. It also includes all the capability you'll need to restore your files, and even includes the options to restore different versions. You can restore to the original file location and also restore to alternate file locations. To get started, though, you'll first need to configure File History for Windows 8.

Configuring the Backup Options for Your Data

While the Metro interface is new and different, don't let that slow you down. The easiest way to get started with File History is to mouse over the bottom-right corner of your system which should bring up the new Charms Bar. This bar includes five menu items: Search, Share, Start, Device, and Settings. Click Search icon and type Control Panel to navigate to the control panel, which looks the same as the Windows 7 Control Panel. Click the Control Panel icon that shows up in the search results on the left side of the screen. To configure File History, click the "Save backup copies of your files with File History" link under the System and Security group.

By default, you'll need to configure File History[md]telling it whether you want to back up to a locally attached disk or to a network location. In this scenario, I'll be configuring my environment to back up to a network location. Figure 1 shows File History in the default view yet to be configured.

Click the "Use network location" link, which brings up the Change your File History drive window. Next, click the Add network location button. In the Select Folder dialog box, select one of the systems that show up in the list of computers, or enter a path in the Folder text box to a storage device and share what you have on your local network. If you don't know the share name on the server, just enter the system name with the format of \\servername and press <enter>. This should update the dialog box to list all the available shares on the server. I've selected a share called Backups located on one of the systems on my network. After choosing a network location, my system looked like the dialog box shown in Figure 2.

Once you've selected a destination for your backup, click the OK button to return to the File History configuration window. Because your network location has been configured, the Turn on button should be enabled. Clicking the button updates the interface, reflecting that File History is now turned on.

Now that File History is configured, what exactly is it doing? To get a sense of how File History behaves, click the Advanced settings link on the left side of the File History applet. There are three areas on this screen that help configure File History, but the most important is the Versions.

Under the Versions section, Save copies of files determines how often your content will be backed up. The timeframes range from every 10 minutes to Daily with Every hour set as the default.

Additionally, the dialog box lets you configure the size of the offline cache and how many versions you want to save of each file. By default, File History stores every version of the files it backs up, but you can dial this back to something more reasonable. Other options range from one month to two years, or even until space is needed.

Clicking the Clean up versions link allows you to specify how to clean up the versions. The Advanced Settings dialog box also includes a link to pull events associated with File History. If you need to troubleshoot File History, this link is helpful so you don't spend your time filtering through the Event Log.

With an understanding of the Advanced Settings and with File History running, you should have some files backed up shortly. Once you've configured the environment, File History creates a directory structure on the networked storage, as shown in Figure 3.

The directory structure is fairly self-explanatory. You can see where all your personal files will fall in the structure and which ones File History is backing up. As more files show up in the directories, File History starts appending date/time information to the file name to accommodate the versioning features.

One other option included on the left navigation bar is the capability to exclude folders. Clicking the Exclude folders link will bring up the option to add locations you'd like to exclude from your backup. If, for instance, you didn't want to back up the data stored on your desktop, you can choose to exclude that location using this window. Clicking the Add button will bring up the Select Folder common dialog box, allowing you to exclude the folder from backup.

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