Restore Files
Posted by , Last modified by Melinda Barnsley on 15 September 2017 10:47 AM

Have you ever had to call ITS to request a tape-backup restore from your Departmental Space (or dspace) drive? It can be a painful process – waiting to hear that your file has been restored; hoping ITS can restore the right version. Now, you don’t have to call and wait – you can do it yourself! Additionally, this process is built into Windows Vista and Windows 7, so should work on any files on your computer itself, and also works with any files on your M drive. 

ITS has enabled our shared drives to automatically create backup copies of all files that have changed, every two hours. ITS is committed to storing at least two weeks of changes, but we hope to hold four to six weeks of data. (ITS is still doing tape backups, as always.)

The rest of this document explains how you can retrieve these files yourself. Here is what you need:

  • You must be running Windows 7 or Vista
  • You must be able to write to the shared drive (If you can map the drive and add new files, you can do this)
  • You must be careful – while it is simple to restore a file, it is equally easy to accidentally make a mess of things by hurrying or restoring the wrong version

Note that if the file was accidentally deleted, proceed to the Deleted File section below. In addition, if you move a file into a different folder, the file will loose its Previous Version history, however it can be restored if you treat the file as if it were a deleted file. (Go to the original folder and proceed as if it were accidentally removed.)

Previous versions are either backup copies—copies of files and folders that you back up by using the Back Up Files wizard, or shadow copies—copies of files and folders that Windows automatically saves as part of a restore point. (Shadow copies can be copies of files on your computer or shared files on a computer on a network.) You can use previous versions of files to restore files that you accidentally modified or deleted, or that were damaged. Depending on the type of file or folder, you can open, save to a different location, or restore a previous version.

Shadow copies are automatically saved as part of a restore point in System Properties. If System Protection is turned on, Windows automatically creates shadow copies of files that have been modified since the last restore point was made. Typically restore points are made once a day. If your hard disk is partitioned or if you have more than one hard disk on your computer, you need to turn on System Protection on the other partitions or hard disks. If the Previous Versions tab does not appear in the Properties dialog box, Shadow Copies of Shared Folders might not be enabled on the shared resource. Restoring a large directory puts a heavy load on the file server and can result in previous versions being deleted. Try to restore individual files instead of entire directories whenever possible.

Damaged Files

Verify that the file is corrupt, broken, damaged or out of date. The easiest method is to use another computer or have another person look at it. Do NOT delete the bad file until you are certain you have successfully recovered the backup copy.

To check if a backup copy of a damaged file is available, right-click on the file name. Look on the mini-menu for “Restore previous versions” and click it.

This will bring up a new window. If there are no backups, you will see “There are no previous versions available”. If there are versions, they will be dated, so you can select the right one based on date and/or time.

Near the bottom of the “Previous Versions” window (see Figure 1), there are three buttons:

Figure 1


This reads the previous version into the default application. (If it is a document, it is read into Word. If it is a picture, it is opened in your Viewer. Spreadsheets are opened by Excel, and so on.) Look at this previous version carefully to determine if it is the version you want to keep. If it is not the correct file, exit the application WITHOUT SAVING, and open a different version.

Once you are certain that you are looking at the correct one, you can use “Save as…” to write it to your shared folder using a different file name. Then, when you are very certain, you can safely delete the damaged original.


This opens yet another window where you select the destination folder to place the retrieved file. The file name is not changed, so be cautious on where you restore it.

Do not attempt to use Copy on a folder or directory.


Be cautious using this button! (Never use this button.) It replaces the bad file with the previous version. The original will be gone - you will not be able to fall back to it.

Do not attempt to use Restore on a folder or directory.

Deleted File

If you need to restore an accidentally deleted file, first check the Recycle Bin on your Desktop to see if it is in there. Deleted documents go there first, so if you find it there and want to put it back where it was, right-click it and select Restore. If you don't see your file in the Recycle Bin, you must right-click on the folder that contained that file, and choose “Restore previous versions” . This will bring up a new window (similar to Figure 1) with folders listed instead of files. DO NOT attempt to Copy or Restore a folder! Instead, double-click on the folder with the correct date (before the file was deleted); this will open yet another window with all available files listed.

  • If your file is not listed, close the window and double-click on an earlier date
  • Right-click on your missing file name and choose Copy (don’t use the Copy button)
  • Close the top window, also close the Previous Version window (Figure 1)
  • Right-click and choose Paste to place the retrieved file where it belongs
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