By Ron Grattopp ronaldg-001_thumb2_thumb_thumb1_thum….Now that we’ve launched the new Get2Modern campaign to hopefully motivate and incent folks to move up to Windows 8, I thought it would be good to review one of the key business value propositions for moving to Windows 8.  When I call it a “fan favorite feature” I’m referring to the fact that, of those folks who know about it and use it, this feature is always one of their favorites; on the other hand, I also find that there’s still a lot of folks who aren’t familiar with this functionality, so I thought this would be a good time to share about it. 

The only other times I find it even referred to in our blog was a short paragraph I did on it for a post last June that highlighted what I thought were the “Top Ten New Business-oriented Features in Windows 8” and a mention in a BVA post that Windows Server 2012 Essentials includes integrated support for File History.  So here’s a recap of this cool new feature in Windows 8 that might come in handy as you have those customer conversations around the Get2Modern campaign.

I would point out that there are a couple of existing articles that’ll have more technical as well as more how-to info than what I plan to do here and they are: Protecting user files with File History (tech) and A New Way to Backup: File History in Windows 8 (how-to).

So just to hit the highlights of what you’ll want to know for your customer conversation. Consider the following:

  • File History is a new feature in Windows 8 that continuously protects your personal files stored in Libraries, Favorites, and Contacts, and thus can be a replacement for the old backup methods (that frankly, a lot of folks, especially the end users, don’t use)
  • File History also provides the capability to restore multiple backup copies (versions) of your files in much more user-friendly, powerful, and reliable way than old-style backup recovery
  • You can easily configure File History to protect some or all of the files in your libraries and you can add folders to your libraries, giving you the ability to use File History with any group of folders and files that you choose.
  • File History automatically checks your files at a frequency you choose (default is hourly), and automatically makes backup copies when file changes are detected.
  • File history works with inexpensive locally-attached USB drives or network storage and is compatible with Storage Spaces.

Before I go on, let me make some caveats – when I say above that it “can be a replacement” for old backup models, understand a couple of things, 1) this is not a full “system” backup and it won’t be what you need if you need to re-create your system from scratch, and 2) it’s more of a consumer/end-user tool than an IT tool in that it enables what’s known as a “self-service” backup/restore model, similar to the old “Previous Versions”, but that’s a good thing in that, in a business setting, it takes a lot of file restore burden off IT and makes life more efficient for that end user.

One of the ways to get to File History is simply to type it from the Start Screen and select Settings in the Search charm (right-hand pane), the other, of course, is to launch Control Panel and search for it there or go to System and Security.

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See the article “A New Way to Backup” for more drill-down into the setup and advanced setting available in File History.  One of the interesting points that article makes is: “Now that I have File History setup, I don’t have to keep redundant copies of my files on my local drive. I can roll back to previous versions using File History if I need to. Since I use SkyDrive, I now have multiple redundant forms of backup for the files that I depend on, that’s nice to know!” 

Restoring is a simple function of choosing the “Restore personal files” option from the left side of the main screen (shown above), Then you would use the blue arrows (see below) on either side of the green (“Restore to original location”) button to get to the desired date/time group to restore from.  Then select the files/folders from the list (below) and then click on the green Restore button - done. 

The “Protecting User Files…” article also makes this interesting point about how much more efficient File History is for restoring than old-style methods: “With other backup applications you would have to select a backup set that was created on a specific date. Then you would have to browse to find a specific folder, and then find the one file you need. However at this point it is impossible to open the file or preview its content in order to determine if it is the right one. You would have to restore the file. If it is not the right version, you’d have to start over.  With File History, the search starts right in Windows Explorer. You can browse to a specific location and click or tap on the History button in the explorer ribbon in order to see all versions of the selected library, folder or an individual file.

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Of course, USB 3.0 is fully supported in Windows 8 so performance can be significantly higher that what you might expect. Again, the New Way to Backup article has more drill-down on the how-to of Restoring.  And that article even brought out one function that I hadn’t caught and that’s that there’s a History button in the new Windows Explorer ribbon that takes you directly to the “browse File History” for the selected file/folder.

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OK, so there’s a quick review of the File History feature that you can use along with the new Secure Boot and some of the other Top 10 features I highlighted in my prior post to help your customer understand that Windows 8 is really a “better Windows 7 than Windows 7”.  And that there are some compelling business value propositions for “Getting 2 Modern” OS and productivity solutions.

Cheers, as always,
Ron