Here are answers to some common questions about previous versions of files and folders.

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What are previous versions?

Previous versions are either copies of files and folders created by Windows Backup or copies of files and folders that Windows automatically saves as part of a restore point. You can use previous versions to restore files and folders that you accidentally modified or deleted, or that were damaged. Depending on the type of file or folder, you can open, save to a different location, or restore a previous version.

How are previous versions created?

Previous versions are automatically saved as part of a restore point. If system protection is turned on, Windows automatically creates previous versions of files and folders that have been modified since the last restore point was made. Typically, restore points are made once a day. If your disk is partitioned or if you have more than one hard disk on your computer, you need to turn on system protection for the other partitions or disks. Previous versions are also created by Windows Backup when you back up your files.

Note

  • If you modify a file several times in one day, only the version that was current when the restore point or backup was made is saved as a previous version.

To turn on system protection

System protection is automatically turned on for the drive that Windows is installed on. You can turn it on for other drives by following the steps below.

  1. Open System by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, right-clicking Computer, and then clicking Properties.

  2. In the left pane, click System protection. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  3. Click the drive, and then click Configure.

  4. Do one of the following:

    • To turn on the ability to restore system settings and previous version of files, click Restore system settings and previous versions of files.

    • To turn on the ability to restore previous version of files, click Only restore previous versions of files.

  5. Click OK.

To turn off system protection

If you don't want Windows to keep previous versions of your files, you can turn off system protection. When you turn off system protection, you are also turning off the ability to restore your computer's system files using System Restore.

  1. Open System by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, right-clicking Computer, and then clicking Properties.

  2. In the left pane, click System protection. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  3. Click the drive, and then click Configure.

  4. Click Turn off system protection, and then click OK.

How do I view or restore previous versions of a file and folder?

  1. Right-click the file or folder, and then click Restore previous versions.

    You'll see a list of available previous versions of the file or folder. The list will include files saved on a backup (if you're using Windows Backup to back up your files) as well as restore points.

    Note

    • To restore a previous version of a file or folder that's included in a library, right-click the file or folder in the location where it's saved, rather than in the library. For example, to restore a previous version of a picture that's included in the Pictures library but is stored in the My Pictures folder, right-click the My Pictures folder, and then click Restore previous versions. For more information about libraries, see Include folders in a library.

    Picture of the Previous Versions tab
    The Previous Versions tab, showing some previous versions of files
  2. Before restoring a previous version of a file or folder, select the previous version, and then click Open to view it to make sure it's the version you want.

    Note

    • You can't open or copy previous versions of files that were created by Windows Backup, but you can restore them.

  3. To restore a previous version, select the previous version, and then click Restore.

    Warning

    • The file or folder will replace the current version on your computer, and the replacement cannot be undone.

    Note

    • If the Restore button isn't available, you can't restore a previous version of the file or folder to its original location. However, you might be able to open it or save it to a different location.

How is restoring previous versions from restore points different from restoring previous versions from a backup?

When you restore a previous version from a restore point, the file is already saved on your computer, so you don't have to do anything additional. If you want to restore a previous version of a file or folder from a backup, after you select the previous version and click Restore, Windows opens the Restore Files wizard, and then you follow the steps in the wizard. The drive or media that your backup is stored on needs to be available for you to restore items from a backup.

Why can't I find previous versions of some files?

There are several possible reasons:

  • The file has not been changed. Previous versions are only available for files that have been modified.

  • A restore point or backup has not been made since the file was changed.

  • System protection might not be turned on for the drive those files are stored on. If system protection is not turned on, Windows can't create previous versions.

    To turn on system protection

    1. Open System by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, right-clicking Computer, and then clicking Properties.

    2. In the left pane, click System protection. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

    3. Click the drive, and then click Configure.

    4. Click Restore system settings and previous versions of files, and then click OK.

  • If your computer is on a workplace network, your system administrator might have turned off the ability to use previous versions.

  • The file or folder is required for Windows to work properly. Examples include the system folder (the folder that Windows is installed in) and files in the system folder, which is usually C:\Windows. Windows provides a way to restore system files using System Restore. For more information about restoring system files, see System Restore: frequently asked questions.

Can I restore a file or folder that was deleted or renamed?

If you accidentally delete or rename a file or folder, you can restore a previous version of that file or folder, but you need to know the location where the file or folder was saved. To restore a file or folder that was deleted or renamed, follow these steps:

  1. Open Computer by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Computer.

  2. Navigate to the folder that used to contain the file or folder, right-click it, and then click Restore previous versions.

    If the folder was at the top level of a drive, for example C:\, right-click the drive and then click Restore previous versions.

  3. Double-click a previous version of the folder that contains the file or folder you want to restore. (For example, if a file was deleted today, choose a version of the folder from yesterday that contains the file.)

  4. Drag the file or folder that you want to restore to another location, such as your desktop or another folder.

    The version of the file or folder is saved to the location that you selected.

Tip

  • If you don't remember the exact file or folder name or its location, you can search for it by typing part of the name in the search box in the Computer folder.