Windows 8 File History feature detailed

One of the biggest recommendations given to any PC user is to make regular backups of important files. However, this kind of activity is frequently ignored. In fact, Microsoft claims that less than five percent of all consumer PC owners even use Windows Backup included in Windows 7. Now Microsoft has come up with a new file backup system for Windows 8 that aims to make saving files easier.

In the newest, and very lengthy, post on the official Windows 8 blog site, Microsoft talks about the new Windows 8 backup feature, which it calls File History.

Microsoft states that File History is different because it will protect just the personal files that are important to each PC user, instead of trying to protect the entire operating system. It says that once it is set up "... every hour, File History will check your libraries, desktop, favorites and contacts for any changes. If it finds changed files, it will automatically copy them to the File History drive." It will require an external storage device in order to work.

File History was also created to offer better performance and take less time. The blog states:

File History was designed to be easily interrupted and to quickly resume. This way, File History can resume its operation, without the need to start over when a system goes into sleep mode, a user logs off, the system gets too busy and needs more CPU cycles to complete foreground operations, or the network connection is lost or saturated.

File History was also created to offer easier access for anyone using a PC. However, it still offers lots of deeper control for PC users who want it, including how long they want to keep any saved files (from as little as a month to forever), how big or small the local save cache file can be and more.

File History is also made to work well with another new Windows 8 feature, Storage Spaces. The blog states, "Users who have lots of data to back up can use Storage Spaces to create a resilient storage pool using off-the-shelf USB drives. When the pool fills up, they can easily add more drives and extra storage capacity to the pool."

File History does not create a full system backup. Microsoft goes over step-by-step on how File History can be used to help restore a PC's full operating system. However, Microsoft adds, "Those who need a full system backup can still use Windows Backup to create a system image."

Source: Windows 8 developer blog | Image via Microsoft

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"It will require an external storage device in order to work."

Wrong... you can use any drive. I am currently using a secondary internal drive as my file history location.

Do you people seriously want Microsoft making backup copies of your files ?

I can understand this behavior with Visual Studio or something.

But i try and think outside my own selfish world, so yeah i guess this needs to exist in some form and I'm guessing trying to come up with an unobtrusive system for backing up a clients files etc would be very difficult.. sometimes i'm glad I'm not microsoft.
I'm first in line to complain about them, but a lot of decisions they have to make
are a screwed if you do and a screwed if you don't situation lol

Not sure this will be any more useful than the Windows backup we have currently.

What happens if I delete a music track I no longer want? Will Windows delete it from the back up too, or just add to existing files?
Will the backup check to see if any changes have been made to a file, or blank copy the whole lot anyway?
Will Windows 8 be able to "wake up" external hard drives?

I manually copy files to an external hard drive once a year. I make a separate copy on DVD, been doing it this way for years.

Mr Spoon said,
Not sure this will be any more useful than the Windows backup we have currently.

What happens if I delete a music track I no longer want? Will Windows delete it from the back up too, or just add to existing files?
Will the backup check to see if any changes have been made to a file, or blank copy the whole lot anyway?
Will Windows 8 be able to "wake up" external hard drives?

I manually copy files to an external hard drive once a year. I make a separate copy on DVD, been doing it this way for years.

This is more like file versioning and semi backup, it occurs hourly and makes copies, kind of like multiple snapshots in time of certain folders and locations on your PC. So the amount of time you can go back would depend on the amount of data you have combined with the amount of changes you make to the files and the size of the storage you are using.

An example would be you have a data set of approx. 20GB and you have a 1TB usb disk devoted to this feature. Lets say for simplicity sake the files in this folder are all 1GB (20 files).

The initial 'snapshot takes up 20GB, then it checks for changes to the files every hour (this uses the USN and not a disk scan so its very lightweight).

2 days later you make a change to a file, on the hourly snapshot its spotted and added to the file history set, which now takes up 21GB of space and this file that was changed has 2 versions of itself.

over a 2 week period you make changes to each file at different times, the file history set now takes up 41GB of space and each file has 2 versions with one of them having 3 versions.

Over a 1 year period each file is changed 48 times, he file history set now takes up 1001GB and its over the space you have, so it starts to delete the earliest copies of the files it needs to add a new copy to, meaning that in this instance all files have 49 versions, apart from one that has 50 and one that has 48.

Clear?

Acronis are going to have to come up with a radical change to their flagship True Image to compete with Windows 8 Backup utility. I was impressed with the speed of the backup. At the moment, Windows 8 allows you to create a full image of your OS as with Windows 7. I hope this feature will be available in the final release and Microsoft change their mind.

You mean similar to Windows 7?

Starter = Grandma's edition
Basic = Too much of a noob to need anything more edition
Pro / Enterprise = Most efficient for business / pro edition
Ultimate = Fanboi edition

I did really like their licensing style for Win7

i prefer to handle my own work
if i install windows any crap like this is disabled as fast as possible.

i'm actualy finishing touches on re-installing windows now
it had been a year and i wanted it fresh and new, which of course involves
killing all kinds of retarded features and services

my machine hums like a finely tuned machine once i strip the noob crap out
and the useless bloat etc

this sorta feature would appeal to the kind of person that would use system restore..

i guess i can't complain much because it helps noobs and if it can be disabled
then great (unlike some other well known and well hated "features" in Win 8)

as usual i don't see much focus on directing the product at enthusiasts
looking for performance.. its the usual tack on noob bloat and increase system
requirements routine.

They do things like fix the bloody defragger, sorry but the improvements made for win 7 is a joke.. the tool sucks

they should make a couple more SKU's
"Grandma's Edition" for all the people that use a machine for Facebook'ing only etc.
"Fanboi Edition" this will be for all the people that want any half thought out crap (like wonky start menu bs and things people call charms lol)

and then make one called
"Pro" for people who want no bloat and optimum performance

I am Not PCyr said,

i guess i can't complain much because it helps noobs and if it can be disabled
then great (unlike some other well known and well hated "features" in Win 8)

as usual i don't see much focus on directing the product at enthusiasts
looking for performance.. its the usual tack on noob bloat and increase system
requirements routine.

Seriously?

Why are you even using an Operating System then if you call everything "noob bloat" and want to do everything yourself.
Your way of working with a PC looks pointless and time-wasting just for the sake of 'managing it yourself' while there are all these helpful tools out there to automatically do the work for you.

I am Not PCyr said,
i prefer to handle my own work
if i install windows any crap like this is disabled as fast as possible.

i'm actualy finishing touches on re-installing windows now
it had been a year and i wanted it fresh and new, which of course involves
killing all kinds of retarded features and services

my machine hums like a finely tuned machine once i strip the noob crap out
and the useless bloat etc

this sorta feature would appeal to the kind of person that would use system restore..

i guess i can't complain much because it helps noobs and if it can be disabled
then great (unlike some other well known and well hated "features" in Win 8)

as usual i don't see much focus on directing the product at enthusiasts
looking for performance.. its the usual tack on noob bloat and increase system
requirements routine.

They do things like fix the bloody defragger, sorry but the improvements made for win 7 is a joke.. the tool sucks

they should make a couple more SKU's
"Grandma's Edition" for all the people that use a machine for Facebook'ing only etc.
"Fanboi Edition" this will be for all the people that want any half thought out crap (like wonky start menu bs and things people call charms lol)

and then make one called
"Pro" for people who want no bloat and optimum performance

Sorry but having a silent file versioning system in place is anything but noob, professional people would benefit hugely from this. And what you doing using windows, surely a pro like you could write his own OS?

I am Not PCyr said,
i prefer to handle my own work
if i install windows any crap like this is disabled as fast as possible.

i'm actualy finishing touches on re-installing windows now
it had been a year and i wanted it fresh and new, which of course involves
killing all kinds of retarded features and services

my machine hums like a finely tuned machine once i strip the noob crap out
and the useless bloat etc

this sorta feature would appeal to the kind of person that would use system restore..

i guess i can't complain much because it helps noobs and if it can be disabled
then great (unlike some other well known and well hated "features" in Win 8)

as usual i don't see much focus on directing the product at enthusiasts
looking for performance.. its the usual tack on noob bloat and increase system
requirements routine.

They do things like fix the bloody defragger, sorry but the improvements made for win 7 is a joke.. the tool sucks

they should make a couple more SKU's
"Grandma's Edition" for all the people that use a machine for Facebook'ing only etc.
"Fanboi Edition" this will be for all the people that want any half thought out crap (like wonky start menu bs and things people call charms lol)

and then make one called
"Pro" for people who want no bloat and optimum performance

Holy crap. YOU ARE SO COOL!!!


Cøi said,

Seriously?

Why are you even using an Operating System then if you call everything "noob bloat" and want to do everything yourself.
Your way of working with a PC looks pointless and time-wasting just for the sake of 'managing it yourself' while there are all these helpful tools out there to automatically do the work for you.

yeah ?

Before i re-installed i dragged and dropped some folders etc
on to another hard drive.. low level format and install.
Nothing offers more power and precision that i want than me.
Automated noob garbage is gettingto be the defacto epidemic standard
Everything is already geared towards idiots.. it's time some energy is focused
on advance power users that want simplicty, performance and configurability.

Xenomorph said,

Holy crap. YOU ARE SO COOL!!!


obviously i touched a nerve lol
hmm i wonder why ?
And yeah I am cool and smarter than the vast majority morons that
can barely breath let alone use a computer, and i usualy sit silently when
morons brag about being all good with pc's and later i find out they have nothing
more than opening their browser and surfing the web for you tube videos or facebook etc
And any of these people will probably hate EVERY thing i say lol
(because they don't understand any of it)

This feature fails miserably if a program saves data in a non-standard location such as in it own program folder (which many calendar, or financial programs do).

From an admin perspective, I still prefer the "previous versions" tab in Windows 7 plus the windows backup. It's a dual headed solution that really can take care of everything. My only complaints about it, there should be a wizard that helps people backup their files better in Windows 7, and allow people to make multiple "images" similar to what NT Backup allowed, even if it created a VHD and mirrored everything into it.

Kelxin said,
This feature fails miserably if a program saves data in a non-standard location such as in it own program folder (which many calendar, or financial programs do).

From an admin perspective, I still prefer the "previous versions" tab in Windows 7 plus the windows backup. It's a dual headed solution that really can take care of everything. My only complaints about it, there should be a wizard that helps people backup their files better in Windows 7, and allow people to make multiple "images" similar to what NT Backup allowed, even if it created a VHD and mirrored everything into it.


libraries my friend, customs library solves all this.

They specifically mention the standard save locations, but I would assume it would allow for monitoring custom locations.. Might even be smart enough to know many of the popular programs that save in non-standard locations and back them up too..

That said, MS has little sympathy for programs that don't operate within it's defined mechanic.. They provide defined locations for saving data, programs really should be taking advantage of them. It makes things simple for the end user, knowing all important information is in one location, and simple for Windows to be able to mange that location..

Ryoken said,
They specifically mention the standard save locations, but I would assume it would allow for monitoring custom locations.. Might even be smart enough to know many of the popular programs that save in non-standard locations and back them up too..

That said, MS has little sympathy for programs that don't operate within it's defined mechanic.. They provide defined locations for saving data, programs really should be taking advantage of them. It makes things simple for the end user, knowing all important information is in one location, and simple for Windows to be able to mange that location..

As stated above, its all down to libraries. People need to be using libraries as there are just so many benefits and no down side.

Kelxin said,
This feature fails miserably if a program saves data in a non-standard location such as in it own program folder (which many calendar, or financial programs do).

From an admin perspective, I still prefer the "previous versions" tab in Windows 7 plus the windows backup. It's a dual headed solution that really can take care of everything. My only complaints about it, there should be a wizard that helps people backup their files better in Windows 7, and allow people to make multiple "images" similar to what NT Backup allowed, even if it created a VHD and mirrored everything into it.

as of windows vista , IIRC, programs can't write on their own program folder (in programs and files) unless run with admin privileges. hence why they rely on %appdata% or whatever it's called, which IS in the user folder and therefore included in the default backup options

It's Time Machine for Windows..
Not that I have a problem with that, it's a great idea on MacOS, and it's about time to have it built in, in Windows.. at least in a more user friendly way than the current Windows Backup methods..

Ryoken said,
It's Time Machine for Windows..
Not that I have a problem with that, it's a great idea on MacOS, and it's about time to have it built in, in Windows.. at least in a more user friendly way than the current Windows Backup methods..

Windows has had backup features for a very long time now. Its just Apple makes everything interactive and all pretty like.

Iridium said,

Windows has had backup features for a very long time now. Its just Apple makes everything interactive and all pretty like.
I've used Windows Backup since my Win9x days.. It's there, but it's hardly ideal for an end user.. and recovering from those backups is even less ideal..

Ryoken said,
It's Time Machine for Windows..
Not that I have a problem with that, it's a great idea on MacOS, and it's about time to have it built in, in Windows.. at least in a more user friendly way than the current Windows Backup methods..

its a modified shadow copies (a feature in windows since server 2003 and XP) which works by default with external or network drives and doesn't work on a block level, it relies on the USN for changes and copies full files as versions to the designates location. Time machine came after shadow copies and improved it with consumer UI and external siak support (shadow copies could use different disk but only on server versions).

It's disabled by default and only applies to a limited selection of file locations. That means most users will never ever find out it exists, while those that do will be all to aware of its limitations.

theyarecomingforyou said,
It's disabled by default and only applies to a limited selection of file locations. That means most users will never ever find out it exists, while those that do will be all to aware of its limitations.

you can include any library, you can create custom libraries, you can include any folder to any library. Libraries are very powerfull and very easy to use, they are also used in media player to add media and share it to other players.

Also if you use SkyDrive, libraries are the best way of integrating the cloud folders with local folders (e.g. Local folder for documents and cloud bases folder for documents both added to documents library with the SkyDrive one set as default save location, any file you drop into 'documents' library will sync to cloud.

theyarecomingforyou said,
It's disabled by default and only applies to a limited selection of file locations. That means most users will never ever find out it exists, while those that do will be all to aware of its limitations.

It's offered as an option as soon as you plug a USB drive into a computer. That seems like a pretty obvious way to tell users that the feature is available to use. It's also the most likely way that an uninformed user will backup their files as they're unlikely to have network storage. I think that's pretty reasonable.

man, they've really been looking towards what people use on Win7 and acted accordingly. nice feature, seems allot easier then the old windows backup system.
however, if your system is under load, during the check will it just increase the load? or run on the available resources? not waiting for it to run a few gig update when playing a game or something, that would be horrid

Shadowzz said,
man, they've really been looking towards what people use on Win7 and acted accordingly. nice feature, seems allot easier then the old windows backup system.
however, if your system is under load, during the check will it just increase the load? or run on the available resources? not waiting for it to run a few gig update when playing a game or something, that would be horrid

It doesn't run on load, there's a graph at the original article that shows the work load that happens. File History drops to very very low, <1% of CPU if you're doing something that needs the CPU like a game.