How to use Windows 10 backup and recovery features

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Sooner or later, you’re going to experience a hard drive failure, usually when you least expect it. Don’t panic – there’s a good chance Windows 10 will let you restore all those seemingly lost documents and files.

Although it sometimes takes a little digging to find them, Windows 10 still includes useful backup and restore capabilities. So while there are many good third-party backup utilities that work with Windows 10, some free and some fee-based, you don’t necessarily need to investigate or turn to such options. While many buyers of such solutions have voted with their checkbooks (or endorsed with their installs, in the case of free options), they’ve mostly done so because they want the added convenience and additional features that such products bring – mostly notably, cloud-based backup that handles off-site storage automatically by virtue of its Internet-based storage.

A sense of (file) history

For many backup and recovery needs, what users really want is access to a file that’s become damaged, has gone missing, or might have been unintentionally deleted. To some extent, a built-in Windows 10 facility called “File History,” originally introduced as part of Windows 8 has this covered – but with limitations worth understanding. A good place to learn more about File History is in the TechNet Magazine article “Windows 8: File History Explained,” but File History backs up (and thus also, is able to restore) only copies of files in Libraries, Contacts, Favorites and on the Desktop. This might not sound like much, nor very open-ended, but here’s a snapshot of what falls under that umbrella on my production PC:

win10 backup 1

Figure 1: More data stores show up in File History than first meet the eye, and are easy to extend.

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