Backups are important. Everyone knows this. We all should perform routine backups of our important files. But, that's sometimes easier said than done. You get busy and forget to do it and by the time you really need that file you've already accidentally overwrote.

Luckily, Windows 10 provides a feature called file history that will automatically save revisions of your files to an external drive so you don't have to worry about backing up these files yourself.

In this post, let's dive into the Windows 10 file history feature and see how to get it set up and configured.

Opening File History

To use this feature, you'll need to get to the Windows 10 settings application. I do this by typing in "settings" in the search bar and choosing Settings from the Best match menu.

Windows 10 settings

Once in the Settings app, you'll choose Update & Security.

Update & security option

And then click on Backup on the left side.

Windows 10 Backup

Once in the Backup screen you will need to specify an external drive to backup your file revisions to as they're changed. To do this, click on Add a drive.

Adding a drive to Windows 10 file history

Once you do this, Windows 10 will then search your computer for any usable external drives. If it does not find any, you will see the message "No usable drives found". If this happens, be sure you have a USB external drive plugged in. Once you've done this, try it again and you should see the drive pop up as an option.

Adding a backup drive

This will turn on the file history feature and begin saving copies of your files to the external drive.

However, not all of your files are backed up. By default, only files in your user folder are backed up. In order to add or exclude folders or change any other settings you'll need to click on the More options link. Once you do this, you will go to the Windows 8.1 interface that was used to control file history. From here, you have many more options to tweak.

Configuring file history

Excluding Files

For example, if you want to exclude certain folders from being backed up, you can click the Exclude folders link. This will give you the option to exclude as many folders as necessary.

Excluding files from file history

Restoring Files

Finally, after all of your files are backed up to the external drive you'll then have the option to restore them. To restore your files, you can access this same screen at a later time by typing "file history" in the search bar and choosing Restore your files with File History.

Restoring files

You will then be presented with a dialog box to restore your files.

Repairing Backup Drives

The file history feature also has an error checking feature enabled as well that I ran into. I had a USB drive that had some problems and I was prompted by file history to repair.

Repairing backup drives

Windows 10 will not backup files to a USB drive has any sector errors so you can be sure that you're only backing up your files onto reliable disks. Once you click on Repair drive, it will then go through a chkdsk-like process and attempt to repair any errors that are found on the drive.


Windows 10 file history is a useful feature if you forget to backup your files on a regular basis. However, it is only backed up locally to a local external disk. Although, much better than nothing, you now must remember to take that external disk with you if, for example, a natural disaster happens or your disk is stolen.

If you're truly concerned about your data, I would also recommend looking into a cloud backup service. This will ensure your files are automatically backed up offsite in case of a stolen hard drive or natural disaster.

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