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How To Restore Files From A File History Backup.

How to restore a file from your File History backups.

File History makes continuous backups of selected folders on your computer. The files it backs up will be saved to your designated external USB drive.

One of the best reasons to use File History is that each time you edit, or change a file, that change will be saved as a “revision” of the original. That allows you to recover not only the current version of a file, but also any previously saved versions.

This guide does assume that you’ve already enabled File History, if not then check out this post Windows File History.

How To Recover A File From Windows File History.

It’s all too easy for files to be “lost”, become corrupted or plain old deleted by accident.

If you’ve lost an important file (a document, picture, video etc), you can retrieve the back up copy from File History.

The easiest way to recover a file is through the File History page itself. So plug in your external USB drive and I’ll show you how to do it.

Launch File History In Windows 11.

If you’re using Windows 11, then opening File History is very easy to do.

Click the Start button and then type “file history”.

Click File History (Control Panel) at the top of the search results.

File History on Windows 11 start menu.
Opening File History in Windows 11.

Launch File History In Windows 10.

In Windows 10, you’ll need to go through the Control Panel to get to File History. The Control Panel could open in one of two different views. It could open in Category View or Icons View.

  1. Click the Start button and then type “control panel
  2. Click Control Panel (App).
  3. In Category View, click “Save backup copies of your files with File History”
  4. In Icons View, click on File History.
Control Panel app is highlighted in Windows 10 search menu.
Click Start and type “control panel”.
Windows 10 Control panel. "Save backup copies of your files with File History" is indicated.
If Control Panel opens in Category View, click “Save backup copies of your files with File History”
File History is marked.
But if Control Panel opens in Icon View, click File History.

Restore Personal Files.

Regardless of whether you’re using Windows 10 or Windows 11, the File History page will open.

To recover a file, click Restore Personal Files in the left hand pane.

How to restore files from Windows File History backups.
Click Restore Personal Files.

Open the folder where the file you want to restore should be.

For example, if the file was originally in your Documents folder, open the Documents folder in File History.

The Documents folder is being selected.
Select the folder where your file should be.

Restore File To Original Location.

Inside your folder, you’ll see all the backed up files.

Scroll through the list until you find the one you’re looking for.

If you’ve lost the file, it’s been accidentally deleted. Then you can simply select the backed up copy and click the Green button.

That will restore the file to it’s original location.

Green Restore button is being clicked in File History.
To restore a file to its original location, select it and then click the green Restore button.

Search Through Earlier Revisions.

On the other hand you might just want to find an earlier version (revision) of the file.

In that case double left click on the file.

  1. File History will display the most recent revision of the file.
  2. To see an earlier version, click the “back ” arrow near the green button.
  3. You can use the Forward and Back arrows to scroll through all the revisions that File History has back up.
File History revisions is open.
Most recent backup of the file.
Scrolling backwards through earlier version of backed up files.
To see earlier versions, click the Back button.
Back and forward buttons are highlighted.
You can scroll back and forward through all the revisions using the buttons.

Restoring An Earlier Version Of Your File.

Once you’ve found the version of the file that you want, right click on the green Restore button.

On the small menu that opens, left click Restore To.

That’ll open an Explorer type window allowing you to save the file into a different folder.

Restore To option is highlighted.
Right click the Restore button and then click Restore To.
Desktop folder is selected.
Restore earlier versions to a different folder to avoid overwriting the current version.

You Can’t Simply Rename The File.

When restoring earlier versions (revisions) of files from File History, you can’t simply rename the file.

So if you want to keep both the current version and the restored version, you have to save the restored version into a different folder to stop it from overwriting the current version.

Once the file has been restored you can then rename it and move it to wherever you want it to be.

Summary.

File History is one of those lesser known utilities of Windows. That’s a shame because it actually works very well.

Once setup it’s totally automatic and works in the background backing up your important files.

In many ways it does a similar job to OneDrive, but with the important distinction that all your files are saved onto a USB drive rather than in the cloud.

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