A USB drive is required for storing File History backups and it can be turned on in the Control Panel. Once enabled, File History initially backs up everything in your personal folder, C:\Users\YourName, such as Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music and a few others. It then backs up any changed files every hour.
If files are lost on the PC’s disk, you can find them on the USB disk in the File History folder. It even stores multiple versions of files as and when they are changed. No special software is required to access the backed up files, although the Restore personal files link in File History in the Control Panel is best.
File History has been covered before and I showed How to recover gigabytes of disk space by cleaning up File History. I also showed how to Use a NAS drive with Windows 8 File History backup.
Windows updates and File History
Microsoft has been updating Windows up to twice a year and is constantly changing old features and adding new ones. Sometimes you discover new features by accident and wonder when they were added, or if they have always been there. It is hard to keep track.
Take File History for example. It was originally just in the Control Panel and had a limited set of features. You could select the drive to use for backups, you could exclude certain folders, and turn it on or off. That was about it.
Windows 10 introduced the Settings app and ever since it was launched, Microsoft has slowly been moving settings from the Control Panel into the Settings app. Now File History can be configured from within Settings and it has features that were not in the original File History.
File History in the Windows 10 Settings app
To see the new features in File History:
- Press Windows+I to open the Settings app
- Click Update & security
- Click Backup
- Click More options
I am assuming that you have already turned on File History and that it is backing up your files. You can see the size of the backup and the total space on the backup disk. (Wouldn't free space be more useful?)
Most of what is in the Control Panel is here and you can manually start a backup, change the frequency of the backups from every 10 minutes to once a day, and how long to keep backups (multiple versions of backed up files that is).
You should check that File History is automatically backing up, because some people have found it stopped on occasions. Perhaps booting up the PC without the USB backup drive plugged in or powered up causes it to stop. Manually start it if necessary.
I am sure you didn’t used to be able to see a list of folders that are being backed up. Well now you can. What’s more, a folder in the backup set can be clicked and excluded.
If you are not bothered about backing up Saved Games for instance, click the folder in the list of folders being backed up and then click the Remove button.
Add folders to File History
Another new feature, or at least one I don’t recall seeing before, is an option to add a folder to be backed up. Look at the list of folders being backed up and if you have files elsewhere that are not being backed up (subfolders of folders are included), click the plus button at the top and add the folder.
The ability to add add folder on the disk to the backup set makes File History much more useful. Previously you had to use a third party backup program like Backupper to create custom backup sets. Now it can be done in File History by adding the folders you want.
Exclude folders from File History backups
Scroll down to the bottom of the list of folders to be backed up and and there is an option to exclude one or more folders. They can be subfolders of other folders.
I exclude the Downloads folder for example, because this is more of a temporary storage. I download software, install it then delete the download and I don’t need File History backing up every download I make.