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Microsoft Details Windows 8 File History Feature

By - Source: Microsoft | B 34 comments

This new feature allows users to backup and restore individual files

Microsoft on Tuesday explained a new feature in Windows 8 called File History. It's defined as a backup application that continuously protects personal files located in Libraries, Desktop, Favorites, and Contacts folders. By default, it periodically scans the file system for changes and copies changed files to another location every hour.

"Every time any of your personal files has changed, its copy will be stored on a dedicated, external storage device selected by you. Over time, File History builds a complete history of changes made to any personal file," the company said on the Building Windows 8 blog. "It’s a feature introduced in Windows 8 that offers a new way to protect files for consumers. It supersedes the existing Windows Backup and Restore features of Windows 7."

The idea behind Fire History, according to Microsoft, was to turn backup into an automatic, silent service that does the hard work of protecting user files in the background without any user interaction. The company also set out to offer a simple, engaging restore experience that makes finding, previewing and restoring versions of personal files much easier.

In addition to saving files located in the four main folders, end-users can set up File History to backup files contained in other locations. Setting up the service seems rather simple: merely open the File History control panel applet, choose an external source (network drive, USB drive etc), and then tap/click Turn on. Users can also set up a drive in Autoplay by connecting to the PC and then tapping/clicking the notification that appears on the screen.

As for restoring files, Microsoft set out to make this an incredibly simple task. "We designed the restore application for wide screen displays and to offer a unique, engaging and convenient way of finding a specific version of a file by looking at its preview," the company reports. "The search [for a specific restore file] starts right in Windows Explorer. You can browse to a specific location and click or tap on the History button in the explorer ribbon in order to see all versions of the selected library, folder or an individual file."

Microsoft said File History doesn't use brute force in order to check for changes in directories. Instead, it takes advantage of the NTFS journals which records any changes made to any file stored on an NTFS volume. Thus, instead of taking the brute force approach of scanning the entire volume, File History scans the NTFS journals for changes, and then creates a list of files that have changed and need to be copied.

"File History was designed to be easily interrupted and to quickly resume," Microsoft reports. "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."

To get the full scoop on File History in Windows 8, read the full Microsoft blog here.

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  • 13 Hide
    scythe944 , July 11, 2012 4:01 PM
    molo9000yup, sounds exactly like Apple's Time Machine.... even the backup interval every hour.


    I guess now we're going to claim that Apple invented the backup, right?

    :rolleyes:
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 11, 2012 3:16 PM
    Still seems live VMS managed this better. I don't understand why that mechanism wasn't adopted when NT morphed out of that OS.
  • 2 Hide
    Osmin , July 11, 2012 3:20 PM
    I liked having the Previous Version option starting with windows Vista and always welcome a better undo for those rare occasions that can save you a lot of time and frustration.
  • 0 Hide
    belardo , July 11, 2012 3:23 PM
    Wow... sounds like an original idea.
  • 1 Hide
    lradunovic77 , July 11, 2012 3:51 PM
    Already exist in Windows 7 as Shadow Copy feature so nothing really new except that is maybe more obvious to end user with Windows 8 and renamed. Also this destroys performance of SSD on the long run so it is pretty useless except for files you keep on separate HDD. Again System Restore is useless as well, because it is hit and miss thing. The only cool thing which is also in Windows 7 is Windows Backup you create on external driver for example.
  • 0 Hide
    back_by_demand , July 11, 2012 3:55 PM
    I already keep external copies on NAS drives for content stored on internal drives, this could help automate the process more than the tedious manual methods or some of the badly written automated backup solutions I have previously used.
  • -8 Hide
    molo9000 , July 11, 2012 3:58 PM
    belardoWow... sounds like an original idea.


    yup, sounds exactly like Apple's Time Machine.... even the backup interval every hour.
  • 13 Hide
    scythe944 , July 11, 2012 4:01 PM
    molo9000yup, sounds exactly like Apple's Time Machine.... even the backup interval every hour.


    I guess now we're going to claim that Apple invented the backup, right?

    :rolleyes:
  • 1 Hide
    halcyon , July 11, 2012 4:10 PM
    They're doing some good things in Windows 8. ...but I'm still not sure they've balanced the harm done to the user-experience by metro and the way they've implemented it (i.e., not letting it be a choice for the customer) and removal of the Start button (I was never aware that there was a problem with the Start button that MS felt compelled that they had to correct so drastically).

    I'll have to "listen" to you guys and the press for a few months after Windows 8's release and decide which, if any, of my machines I'm going to infect with it.
  • 3 Hide
    cscott_it , July 11, 2012 4:18 PM
    This, I think, is a good feature for your basic non-power user.

    I'd put it in the same category as the "Windows 8 refresh" functionality built into the WIndows 8 repair. It's like doing a repair install on XP (fresh OS install without without deleting any of your files/folders). I used it not long ago when changing work PC's and migrating from an AMD box to an Intel box and it worked well enough and didn't require an extra medium.
  • 2 Hide
    nukemaster , July 11, 2012 4:28 PM
    lradunovic77Already exist in Windows 7 as Shadow Copy feature so nothing really new except that is maybe more obvious to end user with Windows 8 and renamed. Also this destroys performance of SSD on the long run so it is pretty useless except for files you keep on separate HDD. Again System Restore is useless as well, because it is hit and miss thing. The only cool thing which is also in Windows 7 is Windows Backup you create on external driver for example.

    File history can be set to save to any drive you want. This removes the issues with SSD performance degrading(at least if you have another drive in or attached to the system).
  • -1 Hide
    phatboe , July 11, 2012 4:44 PM
    Nice feature but still not worth the trouble of having to deal with metro.
  • 1 Hide
    molo9000 , July 11, 2012 4:46 PM
    scythe944I guess now we're going to claim that Apple invented the backup, right?


    Hourly incremental backups and a interface that lets you browse through all previous versions of a particular file or folder and restore them with one click.... that's exactly the same thing as Time Machine.

    No idea if somebody else did the same thing before Apple, but it's definitely not Microsoft who came up with it.
  • 0 Hide
    CaedenV , July 11, 2012 5:52 PM
    lradunovic77Already exist in Windows 7 as Shadow Copy feature so nothing really new except that is maybe more obvious to end user with Windows 8 and renamed. Also this destroys performance of SSD on the long run so it is pretty useless except for files you keep on separate HDD. Again System Restore is useless as well, because it is hit and miss thing. The only cool thing which is also in Windows 7 is Windows Backup you create on external driver for example.

    Shadow copy is much more complicated, and NOBODY knows about it, so it is unused. It will not destory SSD performance as it merely scans for changes in the journal, not the whole drive, and it requires you to store information on an external device, or at least a different drive, from the information being backed up

    To others who down voted the apple fan, he is actually right, this is a nearly identical feature to Time Machine.

    As this scans NTFS journals, does this mean no backup for FAT devices like flash drives? Because I would love to have that backed up.

    I think this settles it, looks like I will be jumping on the $40 upgrade to win8pro, and finally building my 6TB server (still not sure if win home server, or FreeNAS though). I have been in need of a good central backup service for my files, and this looks to be it.

    ... If I were to point this to my video editing drive I wonder how fast it would fill up a 6TB server...
  • 1 Hide
    jblack , July 11, 2012 6:24 PM
    molo9000yup, sounds exactly like Apple's Time Machine.... even the backup interval every hour.


    Which sounds like Shadow Copies which Microsoft had LONG before Time Machine ever came out.
  • 0 Hide
    digiex , July 11, 2012 6:36 PM
    I hope it will not eternally slowdown the PC.
  • 0 Hide
    beardguy , July 11, 2012 7:09 PM
    This is a nice feature ...

    I'm not digging the MS Office-style tabbed UI they are using for explorer though. Looks WAY over complicated .
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , July 11, 2012 7:50 PM
    Quote:
    No idea if somebody else did the same thing before Apple, but it's definitely not Microsoft who came up with it.


    Love statements like this, I don't know the answer to this but it couldn't be Microsoft (facepalm). Microsoft has had shadow copies for a very long time, right click, select previous version and click restore. The button is now on the ribbon which makes it easier.
  • -3 Hide
    molo9000 , July 11, 2012 8:56 PM
    jblackWhich sounds like Shadow Copies which Microsoft had LONG before Time Machine ever came out.

    neptune3dLove statements like this, I don't know the answer to this but it couldn't be Microsoft (facepalm). Microsoft has had shadow copies for a very long time, right click, select previous version and click restore. The button is now on the ribbon which makes it easier.


    Shadow copy is NOT a backup utility. It only saves CHANGES, which allows you to restore previous versions of a file, but it does not create a complete copy of the file.
    If your drive goes bad, your data is gone.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 11, 2012 9:23 PM
    Quote:
    Shadow copy is NOT a backup utility


    That is both true and not true, I think the reasons are obvious. The way SC works off knowledge of previous versions is an asset in many ways. Having a copy in another location is a good addition for sure, and something that has always been there in MS backup, another part of the OS.
  • 0 Hide
    eddieroolz , July 11, 2012 9:34 PM
    I really like the idea of being able to backup into another drive. The Shadow Copy feature was great but it was not implemented in a spectacular fashion, often not finding a previous copy. Hope that this improves on it.
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