How to make Office document backups and file versions

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Eventually we all need to find a deleted document or a past version of an existing document.  You never know when it’ll be needed or for which document.  There’s many options available for keeping older versions of a document or file, most of them you have to setup in advance.   You can choose or more of them.  Here’s just a few options:

Track Changes

The ‘Track Changes’ feature in Word and Excel let you see changes in the document and recover them.  It’s promoted by Microsoft for collaboration among many people but is effective for solo efforts too.  It’s a ‘step-by-step’ of how the document reached its current form.  Start at Review | Tracking | Track Changes.

We use Track Changes on many documents.  Most of the time it’s unnecessary but occasionally it’s a real ‘life saver’ because it lets you quickly recover some earlier wording or formatting.

Word Backups

Microsoft Word has an option to make a backup copy of the document each time you save.   The backup is the past version of the document, before the most recent save.   The backup is saved in the same folder as the original document but with a .wbk extension.

Turn this option on an Options | Advanced | Always create a backup copy.

Word Backup setting - How to make Office document backups and file versions

File History

Windows 8 has the new File History feature that takes a copy of new and changed files on a regular basis.  It’s similar to Apple’s Time Machine feature.

There are some problems and annoyances in File History but overall it’s pretty good.  There’s a chapter devoted to File History and Backups in Windows 8.1 for Microsoft Office users.

Cloud Options

Dropbox automatically keeps past versions of all files stored online for 30 days after change or deletion.

OneDrive has a limited version tracking feature. It’s limited to Office documents and only when edited directly on OneDrive (i.e. using Office Online or directly from Office 2013).

BT Sync shared folders have an option to keep past versions based on each time the folder is scanned for changes.  The default is keeping versions 30 days but that can be changed in Advanced Settings.  At present, BT Sync is in beta and the versioning might not be reliable.

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