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Windows 7 : Using System Protection (part 3) - Using previous versions

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4/20/2014 9:32:00 PM

5. Using previous versions (shadow copies)

When System Protection makes copies of important system files every 24 hours, it also makes hidden shadow copies of every folder and file that was modified in the last 24 hours. The common term for that shadow copy is a previous version of the folder or file.

Previous versions of files are available only on volumes you checked on the System Protection tab shown back in Figure 1. They're also only available after System Protection creates at least one restore point. Once those criteria are met, you can use the Previous Versions feature to restore corrupted files, previous versions of files you messed up yourself, and even deleted files that aren't in the Recycle Bin.

5.1. Returning to a previous version of a file or folder

If you still have the icon for a corrupted or messed up file or folder, follow these steps to restore it to its previous version:

  1. Right-click the file or folder's icon and choose Properties.

  2. Click the Previous Versions tab. You'll see a list of available previous versions (if any), their source, and date. Figure 3 shows an example.

  3. Click a previous version and then click Open to review it.

  4. Close whatever program opened to show you the previous version.

  5. If the version you just viewed is the one you want to recover, proceed to the next step. Otherwise repeat steps 3 and 4 until you find the version you want to restore.

  6. Next, decide how you want to restore the file:

    • To replace the copy you have with the previous version, click Restore. Read the warning and follow the instructions.

      Figure 3. Previous versions of a file.
    • To keep the copy you have and also recover the previous version, click Copy. Navigate to the folder in which you want to put the previous version and click Copy. When prompted about overwriting the existing file, choose Copy using a Different Name. The previous version of the file will have a (2) at the end of its filename to distinguish it from the copy that was already in the folder.

  7. Click OK to close the Properties dialog box.

If the location in which the previous version was previously stored no longer exists, the Restore button will be disabled (dimmed). Try using the Copy button to save the file to a new location. Or click the Open button to open the file. Then save the open copy to an existing folder using the Save method of whatever program the file opened in. Pressing Ctrl+S or choosing File => Save from the program's menu will usually do the trick.

Why No Previous Versions?

The Previous Versions tab of a file or folder might be empty for several reasons. System Protection might not be turned on for the drive in which the file is located. Or System Protection is turned on, but there is no restore point yet that contains the previous version. Automatic restore points are created every 24 hours. Also, restore points and shadow copies aren't kept around forever. Old ones are deleted to make room for new ones. If you accidentally deleted a file long ago, and also emptied the Recycle Bin, there may be no hope of recovering the file through Previous Versions unless you have a backup of the file on an external disk.


5.2. Restoring deleted files from previous versions

As you know, most files that you delete are held in the Recycle Bin, to give you a chance to change your mind. The file stays in the Recycle Bin until you empty the Recycle Bin. You should never empty the Recycle Bin unless you're sure there's nothing in it of value. But we all make mistakes, like emptying the Recycle Bin without first checking its contents. If you make that mistake and can't recover a deleted file from the Recycle Bin, you may be able to recover a previous version of the file instead. You need to know the original location from which you deleted the file. Then follow these steps:

  1. Open the folder in which the accidentally deleted file was stored.

  2. Get the mouse pointer onto a empty area within the folder. The easiest way is to get the mouse pointer about an inch below the last row of icons in the folder. You'll know the mouse pointer is touching an empty spot when no icon is selected (highlighted).

  3. Right-click that empty space and choose Properties. Then click the Previous Versions tab in the dialog box. If previous versions of the folder are available, they'll be listed on that tab.

    NOTE

    If you see icons for a file rather than for the current folder, you right-clicked an icon rather than empty space within the folder. Click Cancel and try steps 2 and 3 again.

  4. Double-click a previous version of the folder to see its contents. Try to choose a folder that's before, but close to, the date of accidental deletion. If the first folder you try doesn't contain the file you want, click its Close (X) button and try an earlier folder.

  5. If you find the file you're looking for, right-click that file's icon and choose Copy.

  6. Paste a copy of the file to a folder of your choosing or the desktop. For example, click the Start button, click Documents, and press Ctrl+V. A copy of the file is placed in your Documents folder.

  7. Click OK to close the Properties dialog box.

That copy you pasted is a normal file that you can use in normal ways. You can move it from wherever you pasted it to whatever folder you like.

BitLocker drive encryption ensures the confidentiality of data stored in portable computers.

 
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