Back Up Now! Back Up And Restore Data With Windows Shadow Copy

The Windows Shadow Copy feature was first introduced in Windows XP SP2. It automatically kept a backup of all the data stored on the hard drive. The idea of Windows Shadow Copy was great, but it was hard to configure. Subsequently, Windows 7 introduced the concept of “Previous Versions,” a feature that would use Windows Shadow Copy to restore earlier versions of files. In Windows 8 the “Previous Versions” feature was removed, leaving users without the ability to browse earlier versions of files using the Versions explorer.

Windows Volume Shadow Copy runs as vssvc.exe. In Windows 8, this service is set to manual and does not run on system startup.

To access the “Previous Versions” feature in Windows 7 or earlier, right click any file or folder, go to Properties and select the “Previous Versions” tab. In Windows 8, you can access the same tab by going to “Run” and type:

\\localhost\C$

If you right click any file or folder, the Previous Versions tab will be visible.

vss-user-properties-remote

Before using the Previous Versions feature, the user needs to enable “System Protection for media” in Windows:

Go to “Run” and type

sysdm.cpl

Go to the “System Protection” tab.

vss-system-properties-protection

Select a drive and press the configure button to enable or disable the system protection feature.

vss-system-protection

Windows 8 makes it harder to back up and restore data using the Windows Shadow Copy feature, but Z-VSScopy can make it easier. Z-VSScopy is a free software that can make use of Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service APIs and lets the user browse through earlier versions of the files. It sports a very simple user interface.

When you run the program, the settings tab will open by default.

vss-z-copy-settings

Here is where you can see the statistics for Volume Shadow Service. The stats can be seen individually for each drive. You can also configure how much space should be reserved by VSS.

The Service tab will give you the status of the services required by Windows Shadow Copy to operate. You can start, stop, install and uninstall the required services. The following services are required:

  • Volume Shadow Copy Service
  • Microsoft Software Shadow Copy Provider
  • Z VSSCopy service

The Shadow Copies tab is where the main action happens. Here you will be able to create backups using Shadow Copy, restore the backed up files, delete the backups to save space, mount the shadow copy backup or even create a system restore point.

vss-shadow-copies-tab

To create a new backup, click on the Create button under the Shadow copies tab, select the drive which you want to back up and then press the Ok button.

vss-create-shadow-copy

It will take some time to create the shadow backup of the completed drive.

vss-create-progress

To restore any file or folder from the backup, select it from the list and press the Show button. This will open the snapshot explorer where you can browse through files and folders. Browse through the folders in the folder tree on the left side and in the right pane, then right click the file or folder to restore and select Export File. This will open Properties for that particular file. Press the Export button to save the file to the location of your choice.

vss-snapshot-restore

The limitation of the Z-VSSCopy software is that it only allows you to restore one file at a time. You can’t select multiple files to be restored simultaneously. If you need to recover just a few files, Z-VSSCopy will do the work for you quite handsomely.

The advantage of using Z-VSSCopy to back up and restore files is that it does not require any additional software or service to be running all the time. It is the Windows default service which runs and backs up data automatically.

Which backup software do you use for your computer?

Image credit: A human shadow by BigStockPhoto