Recover previous versions of files in Windows 10

When working on Word files, documents, Excel tables, PowerPoint presentations or any other file that can be modified, it is possible that Windows keeps the previous versions of the file we worked on in memory, so that it can be recovered even after saving it many times. The function of recovering previous versions of files has always existed in Windows and even if before, in XP and then in Windows 7, it was based on Shadow Copy and system restore.
With the Windows 10 operating system, the recovery of previous versions of the files is based in part on system restore and in part on " File History ", which is the basis of the internal function of automatic file backup in Windows.
Below we will show you how to recover previous versions of files in Windows 10, so as to always have a backup ready in case of problems with the disk, blackout or in case of virus infection.
READ ALSO: Restore a modified or deleted file in Windows 7

Restore files in Windows 10

As seen in another guide, you can activate File History in Windows 10 to recover each file, both deleted and modified.
To use File History you need an external drive, such as a USB stick or an external USB hard drive to save automatic backups, otherwise it won't work. One disk that we can use for the purpose is the TOSHIBA Canvio Basics, Portable External Hard Drive, USB 3.0, 1 TB (€ 44).

We place this disk on a USB 3.0 port and place it near the computer, so that it is always available.

How to create continuous backup copies

Given this, to have the possibility to recover previous versions of files in Windows 10, just follow the following steps carefully:
Activate File History
To activate File History we open the Start menu, go to Windows 10 Settings, then we open the path Update and Security> Backup . In the Backup section with File History, we activate the button and add the backup drive, inserting the external drive to the computer to be always connected via USB.
From now on all our personal files will be saved regularly on the external disk, with the possibility to choose also the update frequency and for how long the files must be kept.
Activate the Shadow Copy service
Let's go back to the Start menu, search for " Services " from the search bar and click on the Services application. From the long list we look for the service called Volume Shadow Copy, press twice on it to open the configuration tab and change the startup type from Manual to Automatic and start the service by pressing Start .
Activate the recovery points
To activate the restore points in Windows 10, we open the Control Panel from the Start menu, go to System and Security> System and click on System Protection in the left side of the window. In the new window that will open, select the disk where there are the files we want to recover (it can be C: or even another) then press on Configure . Now all that remains is to activate System Protection and allocate a space of at least 10 GB; possibly repeat the operation also for the other discs.
By activating all these functions, file recovery should be functional on every drive and ready to be used in case of need.

File recovery and recovery point planning

For each file modified and saved several times, we can restore a version to an old version by right clicking on it and pressing the Restore previous versions option.
Alternatively we can press the right button on the file to be recovered then on Properties and opening the tab Previous versions . The list of previous versions should now have files saved by System Restore and File History.

The only problem is that if you don't use File History, recovery points in Windows 10 are created only after you install a Windows program, driver or update, which happens at least once every week or even once a month, especially if we use the PC very little.
If you want to create a new recovery point every day, you need to create a scheduled task that does this. We look for Start Scheduler and create a new activity by clicking on Create activity .
The new activity must be configured as follows:
  • General tab : Name as you like, we activate the option " Run regardless of user connection " and also Run with elevated privileges .
  • Activation tab: press on New and choose how often a restore point must be created, for example, every day.
  • Actions Tab : Click on New, write the word wmic in the Program and in Add Topics write " shadowcopy call create Volume = C: \".
At the end of the configuration, press OK and save by entering the password of the administrator account.


Windows already offers all the tools to protect your work on important files, just lose a few minutes by connecting a USB hard disk and enabling all the items and functions seen above. Thanks to a program it is possible to explore the recovery copies created and look at the files that have been saved each time. With Shadow Explorer we can therefore see all previous versions of the recoverable files and browse the shadow copies used by Windows for recovery.
Still on the subject of file recovery, we invite you to read our guides on how to recover deleted files on your PC from hard disk or SSD .
If instead you need to create a backup of the programs installed on your computer, we recommend you read our article Backing up installed programs and settings on Windows .

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