Barney's Blog

Blog archive

Win 8 Backup Sounds Brilliant

Almost nobody uses Windows client backup, and Microsoft thinks it knows why: because it ain't very good. Of course backup vendors (and nowadays, cloud backup vendors) love this as it gives them plenty of room to sell their own solutions. Microsoft says that fewer than one in 20 Win 7 users use the built-in backup.

With Windows 8, Microsoft found a very simple new approach -- one that I am sure to use as soon as I upgrade. File History backup does just what the name implies. It ignores all the junk you don't need, and backs up the files you actually create and work on. Genius! This tidy little backup file is just what the doctor ordered. And since it tracks changes, you can get back earlier versions of a file. So if you cut and deleted a magnificent swath of text, just go back to an earlier version. It may not have every single tweak, but the bulk of your brilliance will be there.

Thank you, Microsoft. A simple, sweet idea.

Am I giving Microsoft too much credit or is this as cool as I think it is? You tell me at

Posted by Doug Barney on 07/23/2012 at 9:03 AM

comments powered by Disqus

Reader Comments:

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 JoeZeppy Pittsburgh, PA

I also miss the XP backup, or Backup Exec type format. I just want to be able to take full backups followed by regular incrementals, choosing which folders to back up from a tree view, and saving to a network location. MS made this excruciatingly hard to do in Windows 7.

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 joho0 United States

I also agree with Tom. This does sound a lot like VSS with an improved GUI. "Previous Versions" always seemed like a klugey hack to me...and it is. What Windows really needs, or NTFS that is, is a versioning filesystem feature. Something that would allow you to specify certain paths where the filesystem automatically keeps a certain number of "saves" of that file. So every time a file is modified, a new copy is created and the old copy is automatically retained. This is usually done by modifying the filename with an index value, but could also be accomplished using NTFS file streams, in the same way the file "Unlock" (security zones) feature is implemented. You take a versioning filesystem and couple it with VSS and you have the perfect "handsfree" backup solution. OpenVMS had this feature back in the 80's and I can't believe something similar hasn't crept it's way into Windows by now.

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 EagleOne Montreal, Canada

I second Tom about this... this looks like a refresher of the Volume Shadow Copy option in 2003... no more no less... now that doesn't solve the issue with getting your files off the computer to a safe place (Shadow Copy is nice for historical version, but that's it). Again, not everyone has the money, nor the time to do regular backups on external hard drives (though Win7 backup does a pretty descent job, since you can even browse the content of the backups). My son's laptop drive crashed just recently and he lost most of his precious files related to his university work... Backup ? nah... too lazy.. My tip : as long as you have only office documents (text, spreadsheets), subscribe to one of the free cloud storage that offers sync options (DropBox and the like). With all the combined cloud storage, you get a descent space to save your precious files and it doesn't take forever to backup. Sync Toys 2.0 from Microsoft used to work, but it's not reliable (found out the hard way). For your music and picture library, there is no doubt only an external big hard drive that will help, but then again, those file shouldn't stay permanently on your computer anyway ... ever heard about archiving concept ? CD and DVD remains an excellent medium for picture archiving, can be read off every good home DVD player... Enjoy the life !

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 Stephen Taylor Auckland, New Zealand

My laptop is my living and back up is critical. I like the sound of this, it does sound like it is something leveraged off VSC, what a great idea. I've use all sorts of different back up programs, including the old NTBackup and having something that will just backup files I have created would be great. Keen to find out more about it.

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 MBK5US

I still miss the old Windows XP backup. It just did the trick!

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 Bob Collins United States

It actually sounds very cool, although a bit like Mac OSX's Time Machine. At least unlike Mac, it ignores the operating system and other cruft that you prefer not to have to cherry-pick to get your backups correct and efficient. I like it even though I see no need for Windows 8 in my primary line of work: Civil Engineering and Architecture. Somehow CADD on touchpad seems useless without a stylus or mouse anyway.....

Mon, Jul 23, 2012

Doug the Win 7 baclup version with the update works very well. When it has a problem, it even generates a persistent (annoying) error message until you rerun or fix it.

Mon, Jul 23, 2012

Microsoft limits backups in their backup app. At home, I use a simple Robocopy script that works great. File History sounds like a Time Machine clone and it still sounds limited.

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 Tom Boston, MA

Sounds like Volume Shadow Copy (later, Previous Versions) which has been around since Win XP when connected to a Server 2003 network. For home users, I think the biggest reason for low backup rates is: where do I store my backups? Not everyone has a spare hard disk or external disk, and CD/DVD backup is slow, flaky and inadequate to store multi-GB file collections, not to mention installed software with all necessary patches and customizations.

Add Your Comment Now:

Your Name:(optional)
Your Email:(optional)
Your Location:(optional)
Please type the letters/numbers you see above

Redmond Tech Watch

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.