Ask Paul: Configure File History to Use a Single Drive

Posted on February 3, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 8.1 with 0

Here’s an interesting question about File History, an update to the “previous versions” functionality that Microsoft provides in Windows 8.1. By default, you can only configure File History to use a second disk or a network drive. Is there a way to store previous versions of files on the PC’s only internal disk?

Why yes. There is a workaround. (And it works with Windows 10 as well.)

Steven D. asks:

I’m quite sure I remember reading in one of your blogs about a peeve you had with Windows 8.1 not being able to use File History on an internal drive. I’m having the same problem and I’ve been exchanging emails with Microsoft Helps, etc. for months but nobody gets it. Can you throw me a link or something as to how to resolve this? I would greatly appreciate it as I’ve had no back up for too long.


While I understand why Microsoft prefers that previous versions of documents and other files be stored to a secondary disk (like a microSD card on a portable computer or a second HDD on a desktop PC) or to a network location, I cannot understand why they don’t allow you to store those files on your only disk on single-disk systems. Fortunately, there is a workaround.

First, you need to create a folder on your PC that you will use for File History backups. I recommend placing this inside your user folder (C:\Users\Paul for me) so that it is not accessible to others. (Something like C:\Users\Paul\File History.) Then, right-click on that folder and choose Share With and then Specific People from the pop-up menu that appears. In the File Sharing window that appears, select your user name and then click the Share button.


After closing the File Sharing window, open the File History control panel (not the Modern settings app) and then click the Select Drive link on the left. The Select Drive window appears. Click the “Add Network Location” link and choose the shared folder you just create. This will be found under your current PC in the Network explorer. For me, this is \\Pro3\Users\Paul\File History on my Surface Pro 3.


Then, click OK in the Select Drive window. When you return to File History, it will show that previous versions of your documents and other files can be backed up to the folder you shared. Click Turn on to make that happen.


Obviously, if you do have a microSD card or other secondary drive, that would be a better solution. But this is better than nothing.

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