It has happened to all of us. We made ill-advised changes to a document, spreadsheet, or other file. Then we saved those changes, forever overwriting the original version - or so we thought.
Forever isn't forever in this case. Modern operating systems provide a safety valve that allows us to go back. The process differs between operating systems. Different versions of Windows have a different method to restore a previous version of a file. An indispensible article from the How-to Geek web site describes the prrevious version restoration steps for Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and Mac OSX, Linux, and even Cloud storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive.
In the How-To Geek article, it is emphaszied that the needed File History feature is disabled by default. If you use Windows 8 or 8.1, you must take affirmative steps to enable this feature. Otherwise your previous versions will not be saved and will not be available to restore when crap happens.
Here are the steps to restore to enable and restore a previous file version in Windows 8 and 8.1:
Microsoft changed the way this works in Windows 8 and 8.1. The old “Previous Versions” feature was removed, as was Windows Backup. Check out our overview of various backup features built into Windows to understand how all these different tools compare.
Instead, Windows now uses File History. Connect an external drive or point Windows at a network drive and set up File History on that location. Windows will then back up your files automatically. You’ll be able to restore previous versions of them by right-clicking a file, pointing to Properties, and using the options on the File History tab.
Crucially, System Restore no longer keeps backup copies of previous versions of your files. As File History isn’t enabled by default, this means you can’t restore previous versions of files unless you’ve gone out of your way to set it up. Former Windows 7 users might have a rude awakening if they expect Windows to automatically back up previous versions of files — it won’t, by default.
For instructions on how to restore previous versions using other operating systems, read the How-To Geek article.