Apple OS X has long offered dedicated backup. Introduced in 2007 with OS X 10.5 ("Leopard") Time Machine allowed users to restore older copies of files, preventing headaches and lost work. Then last year Apple introduced "Versions", software that allowed certain applications (such as office document editors) to dig even deeper into backup, offering finer grained restores.
I. Powerful Offline Backup Comes Built Into Windows 8
Now Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), which long relied on only the bare-bones System Restore, Windows Backup, and a handful of other tools, is serving up a more dedicated backup solution. Similar to Time Machine/Versions, the new tool is dubbed "File History".
In Windows 8, File History will initially only be rolled out to protect files in Libraries, Desktop, Favorites, and Contacts. Of course any folder can be linked to the Libraries folder, allowing any folder of choice to be backed up.
These folders will be scanned by default on an hourly basis (the user can change the timed frequency of the scan). Any changes observed by the OS will be backed up, allowing users to roll back through their history of edits.
By default the backups are turned off, because Microsoft assumes its users want to delegate a proper storage location. To turn on the feature and set the storage location, you simply go to Control Panel > System and Security > File History.
Alternatively, when you plug in an external hard drive, you can click on the notification and then click on the "Configure this drive for backup" menu icon/option. (The icon is a clock with a backwards arrow.)
II. Emphasis Placed on Performance, Flexibility
Microsoft discusses in a blog post on the feature how it vigorously optimized the feature, which can be both CPU intensive and I/O intensive. It says it is very pleased with the resulting performance gains. Microsoft was also conscious of battery life concerns on mobile computers. It only backs up files when the laptop lid is open, and ceases running once you close your laptop lid.
As previously discussed, Windows Explorer is now endowed with a Ribbon menu, similar to the menu in Office 2010. To access the History in backed up folders, simply click the "History" button in the Ribbon.
The resulting interface has familiar forward/backward/refresh buttons for navigation, similar to those found in Microsoft's image preview software. Entire folders can be viewed, or alternatively individual pictures can be transitioned through a version history.
Microsoft views File History as the perfect offline complement to its cloud-based SkyDrive backups. One thing that will please power users is that Microsoft is offering very fine grain control of File History, with the option to exclude certain folders, control cache, set an expiration date for saved content, and more.
It was recently (officially) announced that Windows 8 will be completed in August and will launch in the U.S. in October. It follows on the heels of the best-selling operating system in history, Windows 7, which launched in Oct. 2009.