Yikes, Microsoft’s Time Machine clone leaves out tons of important stuff

(Updated to include a way to unhide files and add them to a “library” for backup)

Basically, this post is a warning to anyone using the new File History backup program in Windows 8. The program is severely limited because it will only back up files in a few preset locations that can’t be expanded. If you have almost any third-party program that saves its own data, File History is leaving you exposed. There is a fix, but it takes a little mucking around.

In my case, for example, I have gazillions of email messages stored by the program Postbox. The mail is kept in a huge folder in my personal Windows user folder under PostBox’s own folder in the application data area. None of the stuff that your applications have saved here is backed up by File History — none. And you can’t add it, either.

Update: As several commenters have noted, there is a way to get this data added to the backup set. In the Windows File Explorer, navigate to your personal directory and under the View section of the ribbon bar, click for a check in the box called “hidden files.” Then a folder in your directory called AppData should be exposed. Right click on the folder and choose “Include in library…” and add the folder to one of the libraries which is backed up by File History. Phew!

All that File History will save by default are “files that are in your libraries, contacts, favorites,¬†Microsoft SkyDrive¬†and on your desktop,” according to Microsoft. That is a huge hole, especially if you don’t rely on the My Documents, My Pictures and other “library” folders set up in Windows. Even if you do, third-party programs that store their data exactly where they are supposed to will not benefit from File History unless you use the trick above to add them.

That’s a shame because File History is supposed to be Microsoft’s version of the drop-dead easy to use Apple backup program Time Machine. Both work behind the scenes to back stuff up on an automatic schedule without the user having to remember. And both give quick access to old versions of files within the File Explorer/Finder program. But you can set Time Machine to backup anything from just a few files to your entire disk.

Stay away from Circuit City’s bogus “sale”

Well, I’ve experienced some scammy liquidation “sales” in my time (back when the local CompUSA went under, for example) but the buzzards running the current Circuit City “sale” really take the cake. So take my advice and STAY FAR AWAY FROM CIRCUIT CITY, at least until the posted “discounts” get to more than 50% off.

img00025I stopped in at the Circuit City in Natick this week, where posters on the store window advertised “10% to 40% off.” Yeah right. The list price of every single item I checked had been jacked up, so the “discount” was no bargain. The most egregious example appeared to be this 1GB 1TB external hard drive made by SimpleTech (see picture). You can find it online for about $150 without even trying. At the Natick Circuit City branch, under a sign offering 20% all hard drives, the Simpletech drive was listed for $279!! After the “discount,” that’s still $223. Insane.

I’m trying to be less outraged by this outrage since it’s the long-running game plan of the folks who take over closing retailers to run the liquidation events. Jack up the prices, start with minimal discounts, see how many customers you can rip-off and then slowly increase the discounts. A few years ago at the CompUSA sale, I managed to pick up multiple copies of Windows Vista at 70% to 90% in the final few days of the liquidation. But it took weeks before the discounts got that steep.

So please, don’t even bother wasting your time at Circuit City until the discounts on that big poster in the window hit about 50% minimum!