Windows 7 : Protecting Your Data from Loss and Theft - Recovering Previous Versions of a File

10/18/2012 4:03:32 AM

Recovering Previous Versions of a File

Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions enable you to restore a previous version of a file. This is handy if a data file has been edited and the changes are not an improvement, or if a user who intended to save a new version of a file with File, Save As accidentally clicked File, Save instead and overwrote the previous version.

There are two sources for previous versions:

  • Backup copies (created with the Windows Backup Wizard)

  • Shadow copies (created as part of a volume restore point)

If you have overwritten a file and want to retrieve a previous version, right-click the file and select Properties. Click the Previous Versions tab to see what backup or shadow copies may exist (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Viewing the previous version of a file.

If more than one previous version exists, select the one you want to use, and choose from the following options:

  • Open— The previous version is opened by the default application for the file type. The current version is retained.

  • Copy— The previous version is copied to the destination you specify.

  • Restore— The previous version replaces the current version. After selecting this option, you must click Restore to confirm the operation.

Be CAREFUL When Dual Booting

If you use Windows XP and Windows 7 in a dual-boot configuration and Windows XP mounts drives that contain Windows 7 system restore points, Windows 7 will delete those restore points the next time Windows 7 is booted. When the restore points are deleted, any shadow copies contained there are also deleted.

If you use a dual-boot XP/Windows 7 configuration, don’t mount Windows 7 drives with Window XP. To prevent Windows 7 drives from being mounted by Windows XP, use the techniques described in KB926185, available at (Though this KB is based on Vista and Server 2008, the information still applies to Windows 7.) These methods include creating a new Registry subkey in Windows XP, which prevents XP from mounting the specified drive letter, or using BitLocker on the Ultimate or Enterprise editions of Windows 7 to prevent XP from mounting encrypted drives.

Security Policy Configuration Options

USB flash memory drives are becoming ubiquitous. I carry one around most of the time for quick and easy file transfers, and they’ve found their way onto many keychains and even a few ballpoint pens and Swiss army knife models. Although USB flash memory drives are handy for data transfer, for improving Windows performance with ReadyBoost, and as a method for providing BitLocker credentials, they are a two-edged sword: They can also be used to steal confidential data, even from systems that use BitLocker or EFS encryption. After all, these encryption methods block unauthorized users from gaining access to data, but they can’t stop the authorized user from walking off with data.

In the past, institutions have used fairly crude methods for blocking access by USB devices, even to the point of literally gluing USB ports closed. However, in an era in which parallel, serial, and PS2 devices have been relegated to the boneyard by USB devices, more intelligent management of USB device security is needed. In Windows 7, you can use various Group Policy settings, including the following, to prevent removable-media drives, including USB flash memory drives, from being used to snatch data, while still permitting legitimate uses for printing, input devices, and so forth:

  • Removable Disks Deny Write Access

  • All Removable Storage Classes Deny Write Access

You can also block installation of unapproved devices, such as USB flash memory drives, or permit only installation of approved devices. For details, see “Step-By-Step Guide to Controlling Device Installation and Usage with Group Policy,” at the Microsoft TechNet website.

Third-Party Disc-Backup Tools

Although Windows 7 breaks new ground for Microsoft in its support for both image and file/folder backups, you might still prefer to use third-party backup tools, for the following reasons:

  • Support for existing backup file types— If you want to be able to access existing backups with Windows 7, you need to use a version of your existing backup software that works with Windows 7. Consult your backup software vendor for specific recommendations.

  • Capability to extract files from an image backup without scripting— The most recent versions of leading image-backup programs such as Acronis True Image and Symantec Norton Ghost also support individual file/folder restoration from an easy-to-use GUI. Windows 7’s system image can be used for file/folder restoration only through the use of the wbadmin command-line tool.

  • Support for advanced backup options such as compression, splitting of a backup into smaller files, password protection, and others— If you want these or other advanced options, you must use a third-party backup program.

  • Support for tape backups and tape libraries— Windows 7’s backup features do not include support for tape backups and tape libraries, although many third-party backup programs support tape as well as external drives, network shares, and CD or DVD backups.

Because of the extensive changes Windows 7 makes to the structure of user file storage and how the OS works, you will probably need to upgrade existing backup programs to versions made especially for Windows 7. Contact your backup vendor for details.

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