Windows 8's 'File History' a Better Backup Tool

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has revealed that its new operating system, Windows 8, will include a new feature that lets users automatically back up their most important files.

If the feature works as advertised, the only data lost in a crash will be whatever is produced or saved less than one hour before the unfortunate event.

Existing versions of Windows already include a back-up tool, called Windows Backup. However, Microsoft says that fewer than five per cent of home users take advantage of this feature.

The company also estimates that, including people who use third-party backup tools on their computers, more than half of Windows users don't bother with any form of back-up program at all. (Source:

Observers think most users don't bother with current backup capabilities in Microsoft's operating systems because these tools have been too complex and difficult to use in the past.

For example, PC owners have been required to select the files they want to back up, and then set up a schedule or use manual back up software.

'File History' Will Back Up Documents Hourly

The new data backup tool for Windows 8, known as File History, is designed to be a simple set-it-and-forget-it feature. This makes it much easier to use, though it won't be attractive to people who want detailed control over their data back up process.

File History simply backs up all data to a chosen external hard drive from four locations: the Windows Desktop, the Libraries (which contain all audio, video, image and document files on a Windows computer), the Contacts settings, and the Favorites settings within Internet Explorer.

The new system doesn't require users to set up a schedule, either. Instead, File History goes through its data back up routine once per hour, whether you want it to or not.

New Backup System Doesn't Copy Online Storage

As described, it certainly seems like File History will be very simple to use. But it still has some drawbacks; for example, the tool seems to work only with physical media, such as internal and external storage systems.

It apparently won't make back ups to any form of the increasingly popular online "cloud" storage. (Source:

Another drawback is that File History seems to have no provision for backing up Windows settings or applications, so if a user relies entirely on File History and his or her computer suffers a major crash, they may need to reinstall Windows and their individual applications from scratch.

A third drawback is that there may be some performance issues when File History is operating.

Microsoft insists the new back-up process will require few computer resources and will receive a low priority, so that it won't prevent other software from running normally.

However, if a system slowdown actually does result from File History's operations, users may be frustrated by the noticeable lag in performance every hour.

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