Microsoft Details Windows 8 File History Feature

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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    Top Comments
  • scythe944
    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?

  • Other Comments
  • Anonymous
    Still seems live VMS managed this better. I don't understand why that mechanism wasn't adopted when NT morphed out of that OS.
  • Osmin
    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.
  • belardo
    Wow... sounds like an original idea.