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How to Turn on File History in Windows 8.1

You can enable Windows 8.1 to create backup copies of the files in your Documents, Music, Pictures, Video, and Desktop folders. Then you can review your file history.

  1. Type history on the Start screen. On the search results panel, select File History Settings and then select File History.

    Another way to access File History is to select Configure This Drive for Backup when you attach an external hard drive. In that event, skip to Step 3.

    File History stores information on an external drive or a network location. After you turn on File History, it will automatically create copies of your documents and photos on the drive you identify.

  2. The File History window opens on the desktop.

    File History is off by default. If an external drive is attached, that drive and its free space are listed in the File History window. If no drive is displayed, attach one.

    Use the Select a Different Drive function if you want to select a different drive for File History. Use an external drive with at least 40GB of free space — the more free space, the better.

  3. If the screen indicates that File History is off, select the Turn On button. Windows 8.1 starts copying files to your hard drive.

    By default, Windows 8.1 saves copies of files every hour, but you can change this and other file history settings in the Control Panel.

  4. Go to the desktop, display the Charm bar, and choose Settings. Then choose Control Panel in the Settings panel.

    The Control Panel opens. Under System and Security, select Save Backup Copies of Your Files with File History.

  5. Select the Advanced Settings function.

    The screen that appears next provides the following options:

    • Save Copies of Files: This option controls how frequently File History checks for new or changed files. Select Every 10 Minutes to minimize the chances of losing new or changed documents.

    • Size of Offline Cache: This option applies when you have disconnected the external drive you set up for File History. While that drive is disconnected, an offline cache temporarily stores changes on the internal hard disk. You will probably not need to change this option, especially if you usually leave the external drive attached while you work.

    When you go on vacation, consider disconnecting the external drive and storing it in a fireproof safe or a safe deposit box. The drive is your insurance against theft or destruction.

    • Keep Saved Versions: By default, File History keeps copies of your files forever. This option allows you to limit how long copies are kept. Leave this set as Forever.

    • Clean Up Versions: This function opens a window in which you select the time period to use to delete older versions of backups. Times range from older than one month to older than two years. (The Keep Saved Versions option uses the same time increments and performs automatically; this function runs only when you choose it.) The All but the Latest One option does not save any previous versions.

  6. If you made changes that you want to keep, select the Save Changes button. Otherwise, select Cancel. You return to the main File History window.

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