How-To

How to Delete Old Windows 10 File History to Reclaim Drive Space

If you’re using the built-in File History feature in Windows 10 as part of a backup strategy, you might need to make room for the data from time to time.

File History is a feature in Windows 10 that allows you to restore modified documents to an earlier version or recover files you might have accidentally deleted. It’s similar to Time Machine on MacOS and was originally introduced with Windows 8. Typically, you’ll set up File History in Windows 10 to back up your data to a large capacity external USB drive or network location. But after time, you might find that you need additional room on the drive to continue the File History backups. Here’s a look at how to review and delete older versions so you can reclaim drive space.

Delete Old File History Versions in Windows 10

Hit the Windows key and type: control panel and hit Enter or select the result at the top to open the classic Control Panel.

From Control Panel, scroll down and click on File History.

Next, click the Advanced Settings link from the list on the left.

Under the Versions section in Advanced Settings, click the “Clean up versions” link. Also, note that here you can manage how often copies of files are created and the length of time versions are saved.

Clean Up Versions Windows 10 File History

Now, from the drop-down, choose how far back you want to delete the versions of saved files. You can select from older than two years to older than just one month. There is also the option to delete all versions except for the most recent one.

delete versions file history

You will get a progress message while the older versions are being deleted and a message letting you know the process was successful. The process is generally quick, but it will vary depending on the amount of data you’re clearing and speed of the PC.

deleting versions

If you want to review your files before deleting versions, hit the Windows key and type: file history and hit Enter. Then you can browse through and look at the date and times that the files and folders have been backed up.

Windows 10 File History

For more on making sure your Windows 10 data is backed up and secure, check out our articles on how to create a system image as well as how to create a Restore Point.

Do you use the File History feature in Windows 10 as part of your overall data backup strategy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Or, jump in our Windows 10 Forums for more discussions and troubleshooting advice.


12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Chris Strijbos  

    Very nice.

  2. Ziggy  

    System Images usually work quite nicely and are probably better than System Restore Points – though I must say they have got me out of some sticky situations but sometimes they can fail to initiate. Never had any issues with system images to date!

  3. Will Rudd  

    My FileHistory USB drive is now full. Please advise if it’s feasible to copy the filehistory
    to a larger drive before connecting it and activating FileHistory in the new drive.

    • Ziggy  

      Will, I would leave the system images on your smaller usb drive and simply archive that device – that is, don’t use it for anything else. A larger usb drive is always preferable so I would just continue the system images on the larger usb drive. Over time you could go back to your smaller usb drive and see if you really need those system images that go back to earlier versions/iterations of your Window’s operating system. After making a decision you could easily delete those images which you know you will never go back to, and, in return, regain space and use of your smaller usb drive. Personally I only keep system images for 12 months and then delete all except for the last three “good” ones. Good luck…

  4. Will Rudd  

    Ziggy-
    Thanks for the good advice. Will do so.

    • Ziggy  

      Welcome and hello from Australia! And keep reading the great articles from this site – GroovyPost have provided interesting and useful posts over the many years that I have been visiting…

  5. Cathy  

    This is what happened when I tried this. I set it to delete all versions older than a month and a message said that it found no files. When I set it to delete all but the latest versions, it found over 97,000 files.

    Because File History appears so broken, I did not trust that it would delete the right files. Any suggestions?

    • Ziggy  

      Cathy, the program CCleaner will show a list of all System Restore Points made on your pc. You could delete those that you want to using this program. I would suggest that you download the portable version and then go to the tools section where you will see the appropriate tab that will delete old restore points. Another good program is HiBitUninstaller (again the portable edition), which also has a tools tab that will show a tab for restore points. Lastly, there is another program called Restore Point Creator (portable) which will give you greater control over your restore points. These programs can be safely downloaded from Majorgeeks. Good luck…

      • cathy  

        Hi Ziggy,
        Thank you for the advice but I need to understand better why you suggest this. How does setting the system to a previous restore point help with the problem of File History not working correctly?

        There is only one restore point in CCleaner. I vaguely remember from earlier catastrophes that restore points were supposed to be automatically created but that was not happening. Under restore in settings, I was surprised to see that “disable system protection” was checked. I cannot imagine intentionally checking that.

        Anyway, I would appreciate clarification and any further advice.

        In any event

        • Ziggy  

          Hi Cathy. My error! I thought you were trying to remove old Restore Points which had accumulated over a period of time. In relation to your File History not working properly have you used an external USB drive or are you using your local drive? If using an external usb drive (which I would suggest) make sure that it has enough space to create the system image, which can be largish. Apart from that there are free alternatives which can help you to create a system image. For example, EaseUS Todo Backup Free 10.6

          You might also want to run a system scan that may find errors with your installation of Windows 10.

          • cathy  

            Thank you, Ziggy.

            I am using a 750 GB external drive. I created a 236GB backup (the Windows 7 kind) through the control panel. The File History backups are 433GB. (I have nothing like that much data.) From sad experience, I didn’t trust either Microsoft backup system, so used both.

            I run fsc regularly and recently ran the DISM.

            I have just started using OneDrive, but have not yet found clear information about how the sync is supposed to work.

            I wonder if eventually I should just give up on the File History and create a system image instead. But I also need a backup system that saves versions of files frequently.

            I will check out EaseUS Todo Backup Free.

            Any further thoughts about my plan? Thanks again.

  6. Ziggy  

    Hi again Cathy. I share your pain in regards to NOT trusting Microsoft! So here’s what I do: 1) Take a System Restore point prior to installing any new software/programs. 2) Create a System Image once a fortnight. 3) Delete any old system images that are too old or occupying too much space on my usb hard drive.

    I don’t like keeping system images that are too old because sometimes that particular system image may no longer be supported by Microsoft and, if running Window’s 10 Home, become redundant anyway. So I always keep three of the best, so to put it!

    If you’ve had enough of Window’s File History then definitely give EasusUS Today Free a try and see how you go.

    If your File History has become corrupted and you’ve run all the system checks you might have to consider reinstalling Windows 10 – but that’s pretty drastic unless you do an upgrade over an upgrade where you get to keep all your programs. The only thing that will change here is that (maybe!) File History will be re-installed without corruption – just saying!

    Nonetheless, all the best in your endeavours and hello from Australia!

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