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How to Restore Previous Versions of a File in Windows 7

A new feature in Windows 7 allows you to restore previous versions of a file that you’ve modified or even deleted. Anyone who has ever changed a file only to realize that it was better before they messed with it can appreciate the value of being able to retrieve a previous version of a file.

This feature was first available on Vista’s Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise versions, but now is available to all Windows 7 users.

  1. Navigate to the file or folder that you want to bring back from the crypt and right-click it.

    If you accidentally deleted the file and can’t bring it back from the Recycle Bin, right-click the folder that used to contain the file.

  2. Choose Restore Previous Versions.

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    Windows shows you the Properties dialog box for the file or folder you selected, opened to the Previous Versions tab.

  3. Click the Open or Copy button and copy the older version of the file onto your desktop.

    Avoid the temptation to click the Restore button. This button overwrites whatever version of the file you may have. You’re probably thinking “I didn’t like that version anyway,” but you might still be able to use some of it.

  4. Work with the restored version for a while and make sure that it’s what you want.

    When you’re happy with the result, copy the file to its original location and delete the other version.

    Windows 7 keeps track of all the previous versions of all files you open and change when it creates the system restore point for the day (usually around midnight). This creates a few issues you need to be aware of:

  • The file must be located on the hard drive that contains Windows unless you specifically tell it to include the drive in its previous version runs.

  • A file has to be closed when Windows runs a restore point in order to get the current version saved. So, don’t leave the files open overnight.

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