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Previous Versions in Windows Vista and 7

By , logo. Last updated: 2018-12-19

How to use Previous Versions for restoring files or folders quickly in Windows Vista and 7

Previous Versions is often a godsend for those who have not performed any regular backups in Windows Vista or 7. Sadly, Windows XP has no such feature. In Windows 8/8.1 and 10, a similar personal files backup is called File History.

Previous Versions is a part of System Protection/System Restore in Windows and you can configure it as specified in the Configure System Restore in Windows article. This also means that files and folders recoverable by Previous Versions are usually updated daily.

Previous Versions works best if you changed and saved a document, but you want its older version back.
This feature can become extremely useful in cases your computer has been hit with ransomware such as CryptoLocker or CBT/CTB Locker (aka Onion or FBI virus) that encrypts all detected documents, photos and e-mails. After cleaning your computer from the malware itself, use the Restore Previous Versions option to get your valuable data back.

But please keep in mind that not all files and folders can be recovered by Previous Versions - you still need to make regular, full backups of your SSD or hard disk.

Opening, copying and restoring files or folders using Previous Versions

To see previous versions available for a file or folder, right-click it in Windows Explorer and then click Restore Previous Versions.
Windows Vista, Previous Versions. To restore a file or folder to an earlier point of time, right-click the item you want to recover. Then click Restore previous versions.

A window with properties of the item opens in Previous Versions tab. A list of available restore points is listed in Folder versions or File versions section. The Date modified column shows the date and time the item was backed up. But if the section says "There are no previous versions available", you are out of luck.

Locate the version you might want to restore and check it first by clicking Open button to ensure it is the correct one.
For folders, Windows Explorer opens and you can use it like any other such window - open or copy the previous versions of files or folders you need. Luckily, deleting and moving items is not possible in Previous Versions. You also cannot create or modify files there.
Windows Vista, Previous Versions. Available restore points for a folder. Select a version from the list and click Open to see its contents at the point of backing up. Windows 7, Previous Versions. Available restore points for a file. Select a version from the list and click Open to see its contents at the point of backing up.

Copying a previous version of a file or a folder to another location for comparison

Because restoring a previous version overwrites the existing file or folder, you might want to copy the older version to another location for comparison. To do that, click the Copy button after selecting the version you want to restore.
Windows 7, Previous Versions. To copy the earlier version of a file or a folder to another location for comparison, click Copy button.

Windows offers your personal folder (this is not your Documents folder!) as a destination by default. If this is acceptable, click Copy button. To open your personal folder in Windows Explorer after this, open Start menu and click your user name in the right column (just above Documents).
Windows 7, Previous Versions, Copy Items. Accept default destination for the copied file or folder (your personal folder) and click Copy button.

Restoring a previous version of a file or a folder to the original location

If you are absolutely sure that you want to overwrite the existing file or folder with the previous version available, click Restore.
Please note that if your current file or folder is not available in another restore point and you have not copied it elsewhere for backup, you cannot recover it after this!
Windows 7, Previous Versions. To restore a previous version of file or a folder to original location and overwrite any existing versions, click Restore.

Windows will warn you that the action cannot be undone. Click Restore. Oh, "märts" is March (the month) in Estonian language. Windows seems to mix up languages a bit if you set your Regional Settings!
Windows 7, Previous Versions, overwrite confirmation. As overwriting operation cannot be undone, Windows 7 warns you about this. Click Restore.

After restoration is complete, a success message will be displayed. Click OK to close it.
Windows 7, Previous Versions, the item has been successfully restored to the previous version. Click OK.

If you still have not set up automatic backups in Windows Vista or 7, I strongly suggest to do so.


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