How to Set Up and Configure File History in Windows 10

File History is a built-in tool first introduced in Windows 8 and lets you to recover files that have been deleted, or restore a modified documents.

Windows 10 includes a lot of helpful features to recover your files or restore your entire system. One feature you might not be aware of is called File History. Here’s a look at what it is, how to turn it on, and use it.

What is File History in Windows 10?

File History is a built-in tool that was first introduced in Windows 8 and it allows you to recover files you might have accidentally deleted, or restore a modified document to an earlier version. It’s essentially like Apple’s Time Machine in OS X but for Windows.

To use it, you’ll need an external hard drive or a large capacity USB flash drive. You can set it up to use a network location, too. File History will automatically back up Favorites, Contacts, Desktop items, and more.

All of this data can add up in a hurry, but you can configure File History to exclude certain folders and how often it saves copies of files.

Turn on and Configure File History

File History is turned off by default, so to get things rolling, connect your external drive. Then type: file history into the Cortana powered search box and hit Enter or select it from the results at the top.


Once it opens it will search for your connected drive and click to turn it on.

Turn on File History

Next you’ll get the message that File History is saving copies of your files for the first time.

saving files

Configure File History

To go in and customize File History, click on Advanced settings in the right column.

advanced options

Now you can set how often File history backs up your files, how long versions are saved, set up HomeGroup settings (if you use it), and check out the history logs.

set file history advanced settings

Using a Network Location with File History

As I mentioned previously, you can use a network location for it as well. Maybe you have a home server or NAS that you want to use. Setting that up is relatively easy, too. Click on Select drive in the right panel and from there you can add a network location, and even have your network shares show up in the selection area.

Add Network Location

Recover Files

If you need to recover a file or directory stored on a local drive (not cloud storage), launch File History and select Restore personal files.


Or the easier way to access it is via the Ribbon in File Explorer by clicking the History button.

History Ribbon

Then you can go back in time and select different versions of files you need and click the green restore button — which allows you to restore complete folders of files.

restore files

Or, you can right-click a file and select Properties. Then from there select the Previous Versions tab and select the one you need. This is a good way to grab an individual document you made changes to, but want a previous draft instead.

previous versions

Clean Up File History

After a while, depending on the drive size, and your configured settings, you might get a notification that you need to free up space on your File History drive.

File History Space

If you get that message, go into File History advanced settings and select Clean up versions and choose how far back you want to delete folders and files.

Clean Up

For other ways to restore files or your system, check out one of the following articles we’ve already written up:



  1. wheelsey_4  

    Hey Brian, feeling a little overwhelmed with Microsoft’s new OS questions, yet? Good Luck! I have one more that is off-topic from above, please? Actually, it’s from my mother! I unticked the Windows 10 update from my Windows 7 Windows Update Application, but, shamefully, neglected to do the same for her.

    Windows 10 is defaulting her WordPerfect documents into Word 2010. How do I help her set the default word processor?

  2. TammyTT  

    I have mine set to back-up “hourly”.
    The “last backup” is listed as “3 months ago”… so I know it was working at 1 time.
    What would cause it to stop backing up… but still show it as “hourly”?
    The event logs for “file history” show 0 records.

  3. Fr Gough  

    File History is not even close to Time Machine. Time Machine shows ALL files at all times for any given date, NOT just the files changed on that date.

    That makes a HUGE difference when you’re trying to restore an entire folder. In Time Machine, you grab the desired date and restore. ALL files, even those that haven’t changed in a month, will get restored. Which is what you want, since you are restoring an entire folder.

    With File History, you only get files that changed ON THAT DATE. Half or more of your restored folder could be missing. And there’s no way to know which files you are missing.

    It is absolutely worthless for anything other than restoring an individual file here and there.

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