Backing up your files and folders is a good habit. If your system crashes or files become corrupt or inaccessible, you can use backups. The traditional way to create backups is to create a system image. This is not feasible every time and requires huge space.
Luckily, all editions of Windows starting with Windows 8 offer File History. This allows you to back up important files to an external storage device. If you are curious about the File History feature and want to use it, this article will explain how to enable it on your system.
What is File History in Windows?
Microsoft released the File History feature for Windows 8 and has since improved it over the years. File History feature allows you to create a backup of essential files and folders on an external storage device. It’s different from a system image or Windows backup because it only backs up specific files and folders, rather than duplicating the entire C: drive.
Usually, the File History feature backs up documents, music, pictures, downloads, videos, offline OneDrive files, and desktop folders. But you can add other folders that you want to back up using File History.
Is Windows File History good?
Yes. File History is undoubtedly a must-have feature for Windows users. Previously, you could only rely on manually backing up folders to an external storage drive. Or you can create a windows backup, but that would be huge in size.
The File History feature allows you to keep the contents of the most important folders, where most applications save their files. You can also add additional folders, a crucial feature that was missing when Microsoft introduced File History for Windows 8.1.
File History will regularly back up your files and folders using the default setting, but you can make changes to it. For example, you can exclude folders you don’t want to back up, change the backup frequency, or even add more folders.
What happens when File History is turned off?
File History is not active by default when you install Windows. You need to enable the feature by going to Control Panel or Settings app. When File History is turned off, Windows does not automatically back up data from documents, music, pictures, downloads, videos, offline OneDrive files, and desktop folders.
You can either create manual backups of these folders on another drive or enable File History to do the same. However, remember that you will need to keep the external storage drive connected at all times to ensure scheduled backups.
How to Enable or Disable File History in Windows
You can enable File History in Windows using the Settings app, Control Panel, Group Policy Editor, or Registry. Here is the explanation of each of these methods.
1. Using Windows Settings
Windows 8.1 and 10 offer the full File History options in the Settings app. You can use it to enable File History, customize storage device and frequency, and add or remove folders.
To enable File History using the Settings app, follow these steps:
- Hurry Win + I to launch the Settings app. Then click on System > Storage.
- Scroll down and find the More storage settings section. Click on the Show backup options label.
- Check if the rocker Automatically back up my files it is active. If so, File History is active on your system.
- If you don’t have File History turned on, you’ll see Add a drive option. Click on it and select an appropriate external storage drive to save your files.
- Then click on More options then click on the Back up now button. It will create a backup of your files on the drive. Scroll down to configure more settings related to File History.
- If you want to disable the feature, retrace the first two steps of this method and click the toggle to disable File History.
2. Using the Control Panel
Windows 11 removed the full File History option present in the Settings app. Microsoft has changed many settings in Windows 11, but you can access File History using Control Panel. From here you can enable/disable the feature as well as manage all the settings.
To turn on File History using Control Panel, follow these steps:
- Hurry Win + R to launch the To run control box. Then type Control Panel in the text box and press the Enter key.
- The Control Panel will launch. Click on the System and security option under Adjust your computer settings section.
- Scroll down and click on the File history option.
- You will see the “File History is disabled“. Click the To light up to enable File History on your system.
- If an external storage drive is present, File History will start backing up your files to it. Backup creation may take longer if you have larger files in the Libraries folder, such as videos or programs.
- To disable the File History feature, revisit the option in the Control Panel by retracing steps 1 through 3. Then click the Switch off button to turn it off.
3. Using the Group Policy Editor
If you have the Windows Pro or Enterprise version, you can use the Group Policy Editor to enable File History on your system. It is not available by default on Windows Home; however, there is a workaround for accessing the Group Policy Editor in Windows Home, so be sure to do this before proceeding.
- Hurry Win + R to launch the To run control box. Then type gpedit.msc in the text box and press the Enter key.
- The Group Policy Editor will launch. Move towards Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components.
- Scroll down and locate the File history policy under the Windows components section.
- Double-click Disable File History setting to launch the edit window.
- This setting disables File History on your system. So if it is set to Enabledclick on the Disabled radio button to enable File History on your system.
4. Using Registry Editor
You can use a simple registry tweak to enable File History on your system. However, you should always create a registry backup before making any adjustments. See our guide to backing up your registry for more information.
To enable File History using the Registry Editor, follow these steps:
- press the To win key and type Regedit. Right click on the first relevant search result for Registry Editor and select the Execute as administrator option.
- Go to the top address bar and paste the following path: ComputerHKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwarePoliciesMicrosoftWindows.
- Now, right click under Windows and select New > key. Name the new key File history (no space in between).
- Now click on File History key and go to the right pane.
- Right click on it and select New > DWORD (32-bit) Value context menu option.
- Name the value Disabled and double click on it to edit it. Put it on Value data at 0. This will keep the feature active on your system.
- If you want to disable File History, set the Value data at 1.
Use File History to back up important files
These are the multiple methods to enable or disable File History in Windows. You can try to enable the feature using the Settings app. If you have Windows 11, you can enable it using Control Panel. You can also try using Group Policy Editor or Registry Editor to enable or disable File History.