The title pretty much says it all. I've been going through the various backup options for windows, but I do not understand the difference between these two. They seem to have the same purpose in mind(backing up files, I've even read that file history was intended to replace backup and restore), except the former is automated and limited to what it can backup while the latter is manual but more comprehensive. Is this correct?

@downvote(s) I don't have any flash drives to try these methods myself, but I have been looking up/reading about these backup options myself. Here is what I know:

File history

  • Was meant to replace backup and recovery
  • Only backups personal files/libraries
  • more user friendly/ streamlined

Backup and recover

  • predecessor of file history, same basic idea
  • freedom to backup whatever files you want
  • option to create a system image

From what I've read I think both options can schedule automated backups, the only thing that really sticks out here to me is backup and recovery's option to create a system image. From this info I want to say that backup and recovery and file history do the same thing(backup files periodically), but backup and recovery can do more of the same. My question is, am I missing something here, Is there good reason to use file history over backup and restore besides ease-of-use?

3 Answers 3


This Microsoft article Protecting user files with File History pretty much sums it up. Users simply were not backing up their data. File History was an attempt to safeguard data in a way that was easy for non-technical users. Listed below are some of the features File History offers.

  • Make data protection so easy that any Windows user can turn it on and feel confident that their personal files are protected.
  • Eliminate the complexity of setting up and using backup.
  • Turn backup into an automatic, silent service that does the hard work of protecting user files in the background without any user interaction.
  • Offer a very simple, engaging restore experience that makes finding, previewing and restoring versions of personal files much easier.

A true backup solution is far more powerful and configurable than File History, but File History is geared towards those who would not set up a real backup solution.


I know this is an old question but it doesn't seem to have been fully answered and is still applicable.

In my experience, File History backups are non-destructive and are neither incremental, nor differential. They are simply full copies of the original file that are copied from the source to the destination with a time-stamp added to the filename. They can be browsed and copied the same the original files can be. In time, you may find that you have multiple copies of the same file at different stages of it's progression, any one of with can be restored manually via copy/paste, or via the File History GUI.

On the other hand, Windows Backup and Restore data backups are handled similarly to system image backups. They are destructive and are stored in a container that can be accessed via the Backup and Restore GUI. This means you will only ever have a single copy of the file backed up which will be the most recently backed up version. Though technically the container is a folder, it cannot be browsed in Windows Explorer the way a standard file can be. This may be possible with third party applications like 7-Zip, or by mounting it like VHD, as you can with system image backups, but I have not tried it. It can be browsed through in File Explorer via the context menu option.

In other words, they each serve a different purpose. File History is for keeping multiple copies of files that are subject to frequent revision, like databases, term papers and game save files. Windows Backup and Restore data backups are for long term backup of files that don't frequently change, like music and movie libraries.

  • 2
    Windows Backup and Restore does have versioning support. In other words, it can store (and recover) multiple file versions.
    – shodanshok
    Feb 2, 2017 at 22:19
  • 4
    What is destructive and non-destructive in your mind?
    – Suncatcher
    Jul 6, 2017 at 8:12

Almost two years have passed since this question has been asked, but I am interested in this subject and I would like to jot down my own experience here.

I am myself using a triplet of solutions for backing up data. I think that the appearance of its components has a historical background that might explain why they have appeared. The bottom line is that they have to be as user-friendly as possible.

  1. The Microsoft Windows Backup and Restore App that is left over since the Microsoft Windows 7 Operating System is better suited, in my view, for backing up the data on Removable Disks, such as CD+RW's, DVD+RW's and Blu-Ray Recordable Disks. They appear to be the best media for backing up data. I have seen lots of drives that have been failing, either Winchester Hard Disk Drives or Removable Disk Drives. Copying over a number of disks offers the maximum protection for the data.

  2. The File History App seems to be better suited for a Winchester Hard Disk Drive, either Internal or External. The Microsoft Windows 10 Operating System provides a Graphical User Interface that is indeed very easy to use for a non-technical user. Basically, the user just adds a drive and then it turns the File History App on.

  3. The Cloud Provider Synchronizer Apps are the most recent and the easiest to use Backup Solutions. Moreover, the Hardware Producers sometimes offer some Free Online Storage Space for their customers. For instance, the ASUS Web Storage Cloud Provider Synchronizer App offers a Free TeraByte of Online Storage Space for the ASUS customers. The App is extremely easy to setup and to use and it does not necessitate any kind of supplemental media.

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