If you want to backup your data on your PC, I recommend File History. It’s included in Windows 10, it’s free, and you can use it with any external hard drive or flash drive. And once you set it up, it runs automatically whenever your backup drive is connected. You can even leave the drive connected all the time for continuous data backup!

Finding File History

You can get to File History via two routes under Windows 10:

  1. Click Start -> Settings -> Update & Security -> Backup -> Backup using File History.
  2. Press Windows + R on your keyboard, type control and press Enter, change the View to Icons if necessary, and then double-click File History.
Making Shortcuts to File History

On your desktop, right-click on a blank area, go to New -> Shortcut. Where it asks for the location of the item, type/paste in:


On the next screen, type Microsoft Backup or File History or anything else that makes sense to you. After you click Finish, you’ll have a shortcut that takes you directly to the Microsoft Backup settings, as per 1) above.

If you enter the Control Panel, per 2) above, you can right-click the File History icon and choose Create Shortcut. The shortcut is automatically placed on your desktop. The right-click menu also allows you to Pin File History to the taskbar or Start Menu.

Setting up File History

Connect your storage device to your computer. Open File History and then click Add a Drive. Select your storage drive and then just make sure that the switch for File History is set to On.

If you’re going through the Control panel to File History, just select your drive and click Turn On and then Run Now.

Once File History is turned on properly, you can count on it to run whenever you connect the drive. It will back up your Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos folders, as well as some other miscellaneous app folders. By default, it will run and update your backup every hour. And it is perfectly fine to leave your drive connected all the time, for continuous backups.

Recovering Data using File History

You can start recovering files via two routes under Windows 10:

  1. Click Start and search for “Restore your files with File History”.
  2. Open File History in the Control Panel, and then click Restore Personal Files on the left.

The window that appears will show you your files and you can drill down into the folders to find what you want. Also, use the controls at the bottom to pick the time and date to restore from. Because File History backs up multiple copies of your files, you can resurrect your data from a variety of different dates.

When you’ve selected what you want to recover, click the big green button at the bottom middle. File History will bring those files back from the past and place them where they were originally on your computer. If you want to restore your files to somewhere other than their original location, use the cogwheel button in the upper-right corner. Click that cogwheel and then use the Restore To option, to choose where the restored data goes.

Using File History to Bring All of your Files Back

If you bought a new computer, or if you had to wipe your old computer and start over, File History can restore an entire backup of files for you. But the process is a little clunky, so I’ll write out the exact steps:

  1. Connect your backup drive to the computer you want to put your backed up files on.
  2. Press Windows + R on your keyboard, type control and press Enter, change the View to Icons if necessary, and then double-click File History.
  3. Check the box next to “I want to use a previous backup on this File History drive.”
  4. In the box below, click to highlight the appropriate, named backup.
  5. Click the Turn On button.
  6. File History will begin backing up your files. Don’t Panic, this is OK, just wait for it to complete.
  7. Click the Restore Personal Files link on the left.
  8. Click the Previous Version button at the bottom, and you should be looking at the latest backup from the previous computer. Select any or all files/folders, and use the big green Restore button to bring them onto the computer.
Making Sure File History Doesn’t Run Out of Room

File History will back up your files until the end of time, or until you run out of room on your drive. If this is a concern, you can have File History guard against that.

  1. Click Start -> Settings -> Update & Security -> Backup
  2. Under Backup using File History, click More Options.
  3. Find the drop-down menu called Keep My Backups, and change it to “Until space is needed.”

Now File History will automagically delete your oldest backup files, when necessary, to make room for the newest backup data.