In my humble opinion this is the Holy Grail of backups. Easily restore files without the need of managing backup media or backup schedules. So here is the deal: leveraging existing technology (Shadow Copy – or in this case Volume Shadow Copy Service) Windows 8 (and Windows 7) take snap shot backs up of your data. Once a file gets changed you can go to the folder and look at previous versions of the file.
Of course there are a few hoops to jump through before you get your “cake and eat it too” utopian data resiliency moment – okay: a bit exaggerated but it is good 🙂
1) You have to have System protection turned on
Go to Control Panel-> System -> and click on System Protection on the left.
Here you have to click on the “Configure” button in the “Configure restore settings” section.
Turn on System Protection
2) On the System Properties windows, in the system protection tab: create a restore point. This is what Windows will use as a baseline when it attempts to determine if there is a previous version available.
3) Okay, you’ve done the hard parts. If you have read the other articles on backups I have written you are now so close you should be able to smell it… almost. Here is another hook. Previous versions is seen as a network/file server function. When you go to your C: or D: drive and look at the folders you will not see the options to recover from Previous Versions. All that work for nothing!? Not true.
Open File Explorer and type \\localhost\(Drive letter)$
Localhost tells your computer to look at itself. Drive letter is the letter of the drive in question (C:, D:,E:,…) and the $ lets you access hidden administrator shares (which is what the root shares are.
Once the PC finds localhost\(drive letter) you can then browse the file structure, right click the file/folder in question and there will be the tab for Previous Versions. Click this tab and it will show a list of files copies that are available
And so, there is the list of options to which you can recover!
As promised I have kept looking into backing up Windows 8 and have found some juicy tidbits on Previous versions!! Those will come with my next post!!
For this post I just wanted to delve quickly into system level backups. Windows 8 has done a great job at allowing you to rebuild or repair your PC.
The 2 new recovery options (reset and refresh) allow you to rebuild the PC without needing any external media! Think about that for a second. The files you need to use to rebuild your PC are already on the PC so why not just use them? Windows developers went one further and included a full set of source files that allows the system to be completely rebuilt even when you have lost (misplaced behind the filing cabinet and forgotten) your OS disk (or stack of disks if you remember the bad old days).
To access these new options you just need to follow these easy steps
1) Navigate to the settings charm (right side of screen)
2) Navigate to PC settings
3) Half way down the page you will see the options called “Refresh your PC without affecting files” and “Remove everything and re-install Windows”
4) Click the one you want and voila!
Just a note of caution: The first option (“Refresh your PC without affecting files”) means just that – it will not affect your files. Any applications installed will need to be reinstalled. All your apps from the Windows Store will be available as shortcuts on your Start Screen. This is the equivalent of re-installing the OS with the advantage that apps will be there where you left them
The second option (“Remove everything and re-install Windows”) erase the hard drive and re-installs the OS as it was when you received it from the manufacturer.
As always: be careful. If you want to test these options I do suggest you have a backup first. If you are reading this because you need to repair a PC than backing up may not be option ( but you can always try to attach the drive to another PC to see if is readable).
Here is another post as I delve into Windows 8 backups. There is a great feature called “File History”. As you will know from my previous post I am looking into using “Previous Versions”. I still have not gotten to any conclusions about that but did run across this gem in the process. This is another built in backup system for Windows 8. All you need is an external source to store the historical data. It can be stored on a direct attached device like an external hard drive or a USB key or it can be saved to a network location like a file server or a NAS. Once you give it a location, Windows 8 will do all the dirty work for you: it will copy all your files over to the storage location.
To turn on “File History” you will need to go to:
Control Panel (small icons)->File History or
Control Panel (Category)-> System and security-> File History
To turn “File History” on you will need to give it a location to which you wish to save your file history. Once you pick the location and give it enough time to start storing your file history you will see a list of options
This is one place you can do a restore. The other – and much more convenient location – is on the file explorer ribbon. This does imply, of course, that you have the ribbon showing on your file explorer- if not just click the down arrow in the top right corner to see the ribbon. And there, in the middle of the ribbon, in the “Open” tab you will see that the “History” icon is now available for use once you select a file or a folder.
How do I backup my PC? Seems a bit like the answer should be obvious, right… Well, it is not all that obvious as it turns out. I started to write this post with the intention of talking about the “Previous Versions” feature of Windows 8 but hit a stumbling block: before doing any testing I always try to run a backup. So I went to the Modern interface and using the awesome “type anywhere” feature I just started typing “backup”. I reported back twice for file history but there was nothing for backups per se. Odd… Microsoft would not have overlooked such a core items as backing up would they!?
Thankfully the answer is no- it has not been overlooked. If you open control panel there are 2 ways to find the backup:
1) if you are using the large/small icons then look all the way down at the bottom of the list and you will see “Windows 7 File Recovery” – No, that was not a typo it is actually called “Windows 7 File Recovery”
2) If you are using the category view you have to navigate to “system and security” then “file history” and look down in the bottom left corner there you will see “Windows 7 File Recovery” – hidden but still working just like expected
Stay tuned for the “previous versions blog entry 🙂