by Joakim

Storing file history on a local drive in Windows 8

In Windows 8, the “Backup and Restore”-function that you know from Windows Vista/7 have been replaced by a new “File History”-function (which I guess it will share with Windows Server 2012, thus replacing the “Previous Version”-function in older versions of Windows Server).

File History is not enabled by default in Windows 8, you have to go to “Control Panel –> File History” and set it up. By default is doesn’t allow you to store your file history backup on a local drive (or at least not a drive which contains any of the libraries that will be backed up by default, i.e. Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos, it does not help to partition the drive).

I guess this makes sense, because if the drive breaks down, both you original files and your backup would be gone. However, I already backup up all documents etc. to my SkyDrive, I just want the ability to go back and look at previous versions of a file in case I delete one by accident or something similar. Should my hard drive break down, I’m fine with only being able to recover the latest version of my files, i.e. whatever is stored on my SkyDrive.

So, how do you get File History running against your local drive? Trick it by creating a shared folder.


I created a folder on one of my drives called “FileHistory”, and shared it as “FileHistory$” (note the $ at the end of the share name, making this a hidden share). Give your own user full control to this share (this because the file history service runs as the local user account, which also means that every user need to configure file history individually for machines with multiple user accounts).

When configuring file history add your newly created network share under “Select drive”.


As I already mentioned, file history backs up all your libraries (Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos) by default, in addition to folders like Contacts, Favorites, etc. (i.e. pretty much all folders located under your user folder). Note that you can exclude specific folders from being backed up if you want to. In order to include a folder in file history, you must add it to a library.

Since we’re now storing our file history on a local disk, you may also want to go into “Advanced settings” and set the size of the offline cache to as little as possible (can’t set it to 0% unfortunately). Her you can also specify how often you want files to be backed up and for how long you want to keep old versions of files.

In order to restore an old version of a file, you either open up “File History” from the control panel and select “Restore personal file”, or you just navigate to the folder in “Windows Explorer” and select “History” (doing the latter on a folder not currently being backed up will give you the option to include the folder in a library so that it will be backed up in the future).