My data drive died Sunday morning. Before going silent, the drive made a sad broken-mechanical click of death over and over as long as it remained plugged in. I’m the kind of guy who has multiple backups, but I still get nervous when my data is in limbo.
As a replacement, I bought the Seagate Backup Plus 1 TB. I also bought the Seagate Backup Plus 4 TB for network backups. Amazon and Costco have them for similar prices. I like the 1TB drive because it is portable and doesn’t require a separate power source — that’s ideal, to me. I can take it with me anywhere. I can hide it if I don’t take it with me. A backup is for recovery from theft as well as disaster.
Windows 8 introduced File History, a desktop utility that continuously backs up your data files, including versions of files over time. Be aware that File History is OFF by default in Windows 8. (When you connect a new external drive, you may see a notification for selecting what to do with that drive. That’s one way to turn on this feature.) Also, because File History copies data files, it will not help you with problems with Windows, programs, or with data in unidentified locations, such as an external drive (unless you add that drive). Always practice restoring files from any backup before you are desperate.
The most likely use for File History is to restore one or a few files that you can’t recover from Recycle Bin or that have become corrupted or, perhaps, which you have edited in some way you regret (say, cropping a photo). In Chapter 15 of Windows 8 for Seniors, I provide steps for turning on this feature, configuring it, and using it to restore a few files at a time.
This was my real-world opportunity to see if File History can restore an entire data drive. In other words, is File History a reasonable substitute for a separate backup program? In short: yes.
I plugged in my new drive. On the Start screen, I typed File History and selected the Settings category, then File History, which opens on the desktop. Next, I simply selected the Restore button at the bottom of the window (curving arrow). Normally, you don’t want to do that without first selecting the file(s) you intend to restore. (You can step down through folders in File History, back through previous dates, and also search by filename.) With nothing selected, everything is — it doesn’t matter if that makes sense or not. Naturally, restoring 400 GB of data takes a long time — roughly 16 hours with USB 2, but this drive supports faster USB 3. A different backup utility might be faster, but it could hardly be easier.
I’ve been burned before and lost data forever. I won’t rely solely on File History, but I do appreciate its convenience. I also use a file backup utility called Allway Sync, which can back up files as they change, much like File History. I also do an image backup (duplicating the content of a disk) using Macrium Reflect. These backups go to two or three different drives on my network. Some data is irreplaceable. peace, mjh
Follow the link below to see PC Advisor’s overview of File History.
File History allows you to make automatic back-up copies of your files onto an external hard disk or network drive. It works with folders and files stored in your Windows libraries – which include your Documents, Music, Photos and Videos folders – as well your Favourites and Contacts and files on your Windows Desktop. [plus your SkyDrive folders -- mjh]