Realistically, how many people perform regular backups of their system? Offhand, I would expect very few average home users are even aware of exactly how to go about it. Apparently Microsoft’s information backs that up. They indicate in a recent Building Windows 8 blog that fewer than 5% of all Windows users ever take advantage of the feature.
To address this, Windows 8 will feature something called File History. File History is an application that periodically performs background backups of specific folders to an external drive. By default it will check once per hour for any changes you might have made. Over time users will be able to look at a step by step timeline of their activities in the hourly snapshots of Libraries, Desktop, Favorites, and Contacts folders. Naturally you can add any additional folders to the list without much trouble.
Setting up the backup routine is simple. You open the File History option in your Control Panel, connect your external drive, and select “Turn On”. You can’t ask for simpler options for something like this. Unfortunately this is not a cloud backup service and cannot be easily configured as such even using Microsoft’s own SkyDrive, but given the data volume likely to be involved that should come as no surprise.
In terms of more advanced controls, it seems quite simple to customize. You are able to select your preferred backup increment, if hourly checks don’t suit you. You can also decide how long to maintain a particular File History instance. Perhaps the most interesting option is the ability to define the size of a local cache, which will store any File History backups until the next time your designated drive is connected again.
This last feature is obviously essential for mobile users who cannot stay constantly connected to alternate storage devices. Other mobile optimization include the program’s ability to recognize device states in order to suspend operations when the lid of a laptop is closed and its accounting for the power state of a mobile device when choosing how to optimize backup activities.
If a full backup option is preferred, users will still have the ability to choose the more traditional option. This is merely a more efficient choice that will protect only the most important of personal files from loss in the event of the unforeseen.
When coupled with Windows 8’s System Restore feature, the highly publicized ability of the new OS to restore itself to its original working state without the need for pulling out installation media, File History will make a big difference in raising computer security awareness. It is no substitute for a good antivirus, but users who are aware that their data is safe and easily restored will be far more likely to take extreme measures to eliminate severe malware infections.
Be aware that File History will likely not work well with most existing enterprise security configurations. Administrators will have the ability to disable the File History service for their entire organization as necessary.