bit-tech.net

Windows 8 File History backup feature detailed

Windows 8 File History backup feature detailed

Microsoft's File History feature, exclusive to Windows 8, promises set-it-and-forget-it peace of mind for personal data.

Microsoft has announced a new feature for its upcoming Windows 8 operating system which should help to keep users' files safe from harm: File History.

According to an announcement made earlier this week by Bohdan Raciborski, program manager on the Windows Storage team at Microsoft, File History is designed to replace the existing Windows Backup and Restore functionality of Windows 7 with something closer to the Versions functionality of Apple's newer OS X releases.

'File History is a backup application that continuously protects your personal files stored in Libraries, Desktop, Favorites, and Contacts folders,' Raciborski explained in his blog post. 'It periodically (by default every hour) scans the file system for changes and copies changed files to another location. 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.'

This history, Raciborski explained, can be used to not only track changes to files but also to restore a given file to any previous version - meaning if you accidentally overwrote your PhD thesis a week ago, you're covered.

According to telemetry data released by Microsoft, just five per cent of consumer PCs use the Windows Backup functionality at present. Even allowing for third-party software - much of which provides a far better experience than Microsoft's in-built tools - the company estimates that less than half of all consumer PCs have a backup plan in place. That's a serious problem: these days, a large chunk of our lives is lived out in the digital realm. Should a hard drive die or a virus attack wipe out the system, users face the loss of work files, communications history, and potentially even irreplaceable data like home videos and photographs.

To get around this, Microsoft's File History functionality aims to make the entire concept a one-click operation: tick the box, and the file history is generated. For maximum security, Raciborski recommends that an external hard drive or network storage area is used to store the file history library - something which is allegedly easy to achieve. For external drives, it's even possible to set up AutoPlay to trigger a backup each time the drive is connected.

Raciborski claims that the technology is specifically tailored to minimise impact on the host system: when a CPU or IO intensive process is running, File History waits patiently to take its turn, only actively backing up when the system isn't busy with other tasks. When idle, Raciborski also claims that File History consumes just 10MB of RAM. The system also takes into account whether the user is running on battery or mains, how long it has been since the last backup cycle, and even whether or not the user is present and actively using the system to decide when to trigger a backup run.

'We designed File History with two objectives in mind; 1) offer best possible protection of user personal files and 2) offer ease, simplicity and peace of mind,' Raciborski claimed. 'If you want to take advantage of File History, you have to make only few, simple decisions. In most cases it will be limited to only one – which external drive to use. The rest is taken care of by Windows. The operation of File History is transparent and doesn’t affect the user experience, reliability or performance of Windows in any way.'

19 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
fdbh96 12th July 2012, 14:30 Quote
Looks good, as at the moment my backup is always out of date.
SighMoan 12th July 2012, 14:48 Quote
Still not enough for me to even think about upgrading to W8.
liratheal 12th July 2012, 15:31 Quote
So.. Akin to "Previous versions" on their server environment?
Gareth Halfacree 12th July 2012, 15:44 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by liratheal
So.. Akin to "Previous versions" on their server environment?
Basically, yeah. You can also get the same basic functionality on other platforms using Dropbox - although you can only back up as many files as the amount of free space you've got, or pay for a Pro account.
Bauul 12th July 2012, 16:22 Quote
Between this and Storage Spaces (the built-in multi-drive dynamic RAID type set-up thingy) Win 8 is looking very tasty for effective file management and backup.

I'm still wary about Metro, even though I haven't used it. Definitely a try before you buy product.
MrJay 12th July 2012, 17:54 Quote
About bloody time!

I've always been a Windows man, but as for mentioned i did the ACMT course a few months ago (Apple Certified Macintosh Technician). We did a whole module on the function of TIme Machine and the File Volt encryption and i though, **** me this is good Microsoft need to get their **** together..
pbryanw 12th July 2012, 18:23 Quote
The slightly disappointing thing about File History is that it only tracks files in certain locations; Libraries, the Desktop, and a couple of other places. Time Machine, on the other hand, tracks whole disks. Arstechnica has a good article about the new Windows 8 feature:

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/07/a-step-back-in-time-with-windows-8s-file-history/
fdbh96 12th July 2012, 19:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by pbryanw
The slightly disappointing thing about File History is that it only tracks files in certain locations; Libraries, the Desktop, and a couple of other places. Time Machine, on the other hand, tracks whole disks. Arstechnica has a good article about the new Windows 8 feature:

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/07/a-step-back-in-time-with-windows-8s-file-history/

Pretty much everything important on my pc is in those folders. Maybe they'll add functionality for the whole drive at some point (hopefully :))
Gareth Halfacree 12th July 2012, 19:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by pbryanw
The slightly disappointing thing about File History is that it only tracks files in certain locations; Libraries, the Desktop, and a couple of other places. Time Machine, on the other hand, tracks whole disks. Arstechnica has a good article about the new Windows 8 feature:

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/07/a-step-back-in-time-with-windows-8s-file-history/
Actually, you can tell File History to track any drive or folder you want - it clearly says so in the blog post linked to from the article.
MrJay 12th July 2012, 21:20 Quote
Entire disk backup wouldn't be possible with a system like this. A weekly snapshot maybe, but constantly monitoring every single file for change, and then saving a copy if that change whilst keeping originals would take up a hell of allot of space!
Gareth Halfacree 12th July 2012, 21:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrJay
Entire disk backup wouldn't be possible with a system like this. A weekly snapshot maybe, but constantly monitoring every single file for change, and then saving a copy if that change whilst keeping originals would take up a hell of allot of space!
One word: diffs. (One expansion: differential backups.)
pbryanw 13th July 2012, 02:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree

Actually, you can tell File History to track any drive or folder you want - it clearly says so in the blog post linked to from the article.
Thanks, after reading the blog post I can see the reasoning behind Microsoft not letting users backup the whole drive. I was just worried, after reading the Arstechnica piece, that in the case of hard-drive failure it might be harder to get a working system on a new drive (which it is to a slight degree).

They've traded a few steps in the recovery process against a saving in hard-drive space and being able to reinstall the OS from scratch without the problem-causing system settings/apps. I think I'll still stick to my backup program, but I think this will be worth experimenting with when I get Windows 8.
dolphie 13th July 2012, 04:10 Quote
Sounds good, keep it coming MS.
BurningFeetMan 13th July 2012, 04:12 Quote
I use SpiderOak for important changing documents. Not only am I backing up my files via an automated means, but I'm also sharing them across multiple computers.
Guinevere 13th July 2012, 10:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrJay
Entire disk backup wouldn't be possible with a system like this. A weekly snapshot maybe, but constantly monitoring every single file for change, and then saving a copy if that change whilst keeping originals would take up a hell of allot of space!

But most people don't need a system that keeps every single version of every single file - no matter what.

Having twenty different backed up versions of a document you worked on for one day a year ago is probably overkill for most people.
Guinevere 13th July 2012, 10:15 Quote
This all sounds very very familiar. Maybe because it's unlike any backup system Microsoft has given us for the home before, and almost identical to Apple's 5 yo Time Machine.

But why limit the locations backed up? (Hopefully these are the just the automatic settings and can be overridden).

And how much control is there over it's behaviour to keep every single version of every single file? Surely like Apple they will provide some mechanism to assign higher priority to more recent versions?

And can this be used during a system restore? Can you install windows and at the time of install point it at your backup disk and get all your PC back? Settings and all?
ZERO <ibis> 13th July 2012, 17:33 Quote
Useless with no option to easily define what places I want to take backups of. Any good backup program should allow the user to say they want to back up any location to any other location. Any "backup" service that does not do this is a joke.
Star*Dagger 14th July 2012, 19:35 Quote
I think this would explode with my 13 TB of media
cornelius1729 17th July 2012, 11:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by pbryanw
The slightly disappointing thing about File History is that it only tracks files in certain locations; Libraries, the Desktop, and a couple of other places. Time Machine, on the other hand, tracks whole disks.

File History isn't suitable for the whole disk. Files in media collections are unlikely to change, so a straightforward backup makes more sense than something that tracks changes. Similarly, many of the operating system and program files won't change. (Config setting might, but DLLs won't.)

Also, you may want to forget some files. Do you really want that goat pr0n movie you donwloaded on the sly tracked forever?
Log in

You are not logged in, please login with your forum account below. If you don't already have an account please register to start contributing.



Discuss in the forums