I know that the “Previous Versions” feature is not something exclusive to Windows 7. In fact Windows Vista users have this same functionality built in. Most people probably don’t even know it is there and if they do they have no idea what it is for.
The previous versions feature is a very hand dandy thing for when you royally screw something up like I did this evening. While messing around with one of my favorite free services, Live Mesh, I managed to accidentally delete several hundred files and folders under the My Documents directory. It was totally my own fault. Not only did I send them into my recycle bin, my nasty habit of keeping things clean caused me to also flush out the recycle bin before I realized what I had done. A couple hours later I realized what I had done and freaked out like any normal person would when they figured out what kind of damage they just caused.
What to do… indeed. Well my first thought was “undelete”. Back in the old days before recycle bins you could run a handy little utility to find and recover deleted files as long as their sectors on the hard drive had not been overwritten. So a quick search I found a few of these tools; one being free (my favorite price). For some reason this just didn’t feel right. I knew I was missing something. I kept thinking that these new great operating systems must have one last trick to save us when we do something dumb.
Then it hit me. I remember seeing the previous versions tab on the properties dialog box for a folder. I right clicked on the root folder where I had committed the file massacre and then selected properties. Within a moment there it was; the previous versions tab. I click on it hoping to see something good and after a few seconds there it was in all of its glory. This folder had eight previous versions listed, with the last one having a time stamp just about 30 minutes prior to when I engaged in my stupidity.
It now only took me a simple selection and then the click of the restore button to watch almost 1,000 files magically restore back to their original location. The good news is that I had not made any changes to files in that folder after the restore point had been automatically made by the operating system.
I am all back in business!
I would recommended that besides having regular backups of your important files you also check out and understand this great buried gem in Windows Vista and Windows 7! Who knows, it might save you some headache too.
More information: WinHelp Online Article