Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.
You should always back up the data on your computer. If you use Outlook to manage your emails, you need to keep that information backed up too. If you don’t, you risk losing your emails, contacts, tasks, and more.
Windows 10 comes built-in with a backup utility called File History. We’re going to show you how to use this to make copies of your Outlook files, while also highlighting some pitfalls you need to avoid.
How to Use File History
Although there are third-party programs that are more feature-rich, File History comes included with Windows 10 and will let you back up your files to another drive. You can then restore them if the original files are somehow removed.
To get started, press Windows key + I to open Settings. Navigate to Update & Security > Backup.
Choose a Backup Drive
You should see the option to Add a drive. Click this to select the drive that you want to back up your files to.
If applicable, you will see that you have the ability to select other drives within the system itself. However, using an external drive is preferable. This is because if something happens to your computer, like a logical failure, there’s more of a chance of the external drive surviving. It’ll also make transfer between systems easier.
If you don’t see the option to add a drive, it means one is already selected. Click More options to find out which one, on the line beginning Total space on. If it isn’t the drive you want, scroll down and click Stop using drive. Navigate back to the previous page and follow the instructions above.
Once you’ve chosen the drive, File History will be automatically enabled. If it isn’t, simply slide Automatically back up my files to On.
Set Your Backup Frequency
With your drive now selected, you need to decide on the frequency of File History.
The Back up my files dropdown is set to be Every hour by default. However, you can change this to various different minute or hour intervals, or just daily. Depending on how up-to-date you need your backups to be, daily might be fine.
The Keep my backups dropdown determines how long it is until your backups are removed from the drive. They are set to be kept Forever by default, but you can change this to different month or year intervals. Alternatively, Until space is needed will only clear out files when the drive is getting full.
Choose Which Folders to Back Up
Next, it’s time to choose what you want to be backed up. If you’re on the main Backup page, click More options.
There is a section on this page called Back up these folders. By default, a number of folders are included from your user account, like Downloads, Documents, Pictures, and various roaming folders.
Your Outlook files are stored in C:\Users\NAME\Documents\Outlook Files, so these will automatically be included.
To include other folders, click Add a folder. You can then browse to that folder on your system and click Choose this folder. You’ll want to specifically do this for the Outlook folder above if you’re not backing up your Documents folder.
To remove a folder from the list, just select it and click Remove.
You can also exclude folders from the backup. This is useful for when you want to back up a folder that includes many sub-folders, some of which you want to exclude.
Scroll to the Exclude these folders section and click Add a folder. Browse to the folder you wish to exclude, then click Choose this folder.
File History and Outlook
Before using File History to back up your Outlook files, there are some things to note.
File History will only back up files that aren’t in use while it runs. That means if you have Outlook open, your files won’t be backed up.
As such, the best way to be certain that your Outlook files are backed up is to close the program while File History is running, or set the frequency to be often enough that it’s bound to capture one (see Set Your Back Up Frequency above).
It’s also not uncommon for Outlook files to grow to gigabytes in size.
File History doesn’t manage its backups in a particularly clever way. While some backup utilities will incrementally back up, only updating files which have changed since the last scan and removing the old files, File History doesn’t do that.
Instead, File History will notice that the data has changed and back up the entire file again. If your Outlook files are large, you’ll soon run out of space on the drive. To overcome this, set File History to keep your backups until the drive gets full.
Alternatively, periodically you can go to Settings > Update & Security > Backup > More options > See advanced settings > Advanced settings > Clean up versions.
Here you can clean your backups based on their age. Use the Delete files dropdown, set it to All but the lasted one, and click Clean up.
Alternative to File History
If File History isn’t going to cut it for you, and you just want a way to automate Outlook backups, check out our article on backing up Outlook emails made simple.
The article shows you how to use Outlook to automatically create an archive, which you can set to store on your external drive.
This constantly updating archive can run when you have Outlook open, so it’s a great alternative if the considerations outlined above prove problematic.
Outlook Safe and Sound
By following the above advice you’ll ensure that your Outlook files are kept safe and sound. Remember, backing up doesn’t seem important until you suffer data loss. At that point you’ll always want to back up, so save yourself the headache and get on it now.
Do you use File History to back up your Outlook files? If not, what is your preferred method?