Windows Vista Business edition has one of those features that you might not need right away – but if you ever do need it, it will be a lifesaver.

Vista Business (and Vista Ultimate) uses Microsoft’s “shadow copy” technology to make a copy of your files while you work – automatically, in the background – and tuck that copy away in case you need it later.

When you accidentally delete a file or make changes you want to undo, right-clicking on a file or folder and clicking on Properties will display a new tab named Previous Versions. You’ll find snapshots of the file or folder as it existed at several earlier points in time – usually twice a day or so, for several days back. (There’s a screen shot of the Previous Versions tab and more details on this page.) It doesn’t need to be set up, you don’t need to do anything to configure it – Vista Business just does this for you, quietly and effectively. You can restore an earlier version of the file or folder (to its original location or an alternate location) with a couple of clicks.

This is very powerful stuff. It’s not the same as a backup – if your hard drive fails, your shadow copies are gone too. But there’s never been an easier way to recover from a slip of the finger on the delete key.

The same technology is used in the Complete PC Backup And Restore feature in Vista Business and Ultimate. Complete PC Backup takes a snapshot of your entire hard drive and allows you to drop it onto a replacement hard drive in the blink of an eye. It’s separate from the day-to-day backup tasks (also enhanced in all versions of Vista), which are better suited to being refreshed every day with updated versions of changed files but which require a longer procedure for disaster recovery.

There’s fewer excuses these days to work without a backup plan. If you’re not doing backups, get an external hard drive and get safe! There’s some information about how to get started on this page.

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