Windows Server

Recover information using Windows Server 2003 Volume Shadow Copy

When attempting to recover lost data, you could run back to the tape made yesterday to retrieve this information, it's not very quick -- and certainly not something that users can do from their PCs. Derek Schauland explains how to make use of the feature, using two examples of how to recover data using Windows Server 2003's Volume Shadow Copy (VCS) functionality.

We all have seen end users accidentally save over a document needed for a meeting or delete a folder that contains information for the largest IT project of the quarter. While you could run back to the tape made yesterday to retrieve this information, it's not very quick -- and certainly not something that users can do from their PCs.

I previously covered how to recover lost Windows Server 2003 files with Volume Shadow Copy (VSC). In this tip, I explain how to make use of the feature, using two examples of how to recover data using VSC functionality.

To restore an object from a VSC, follow these steps:

  1. Open My Computer.
  2. Browse to the parent folder of the folder you are looking for. For example, if you are looking for a file in G:\Accounting, you would browse to G:\.
  3. Right-click the folder for which you wish to view the shadow copy.
  4. Select Properties.
  5. In the Properties dialog box, click the Previous Versions tab. You will see a number of shadow copies organized by date and time. The size of the list depends on the number of shadow copies you specified for the VSC service to keep.
  6. Select the list item with the most recent date. For example, if you know that the book1.xls file existed at 11:00 A.M. the previous day, and VSC is configured to capture a snapshot at 8:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M., select the 8:00 A.M. item from the list.
  7. Click the View button. The View button will open an Explorer window displaying the contents of the selected folder as it existed at the specified date and time. You can open the current copy of the folder by browsing to it as you normally would and then drag the folder or file from the window showing the previous version to the location where it should live in the current version.

  • If you wish to roll an entire folder back to this time, click the Restore button to overwrite the current folder or file.
  • If you wish to create a copy of the folder or file from the previous version, click the Copy button. When you receive a prompt asking where you would like to place the copy of the selected item, select the target folder in the Copy Items dialog box and click Copy.

Windows will copy the file from the previous version to the current version. If someone else replaced the file, you will have the option to write over the existing file.

Note: You will need appropriate permissions to place any files into the current folder. Folders normally visible to you will display the Previous Versions tab if the volume enables shadow copies for that volume.

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About

Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.

9 comments
jlantier
jlantier

When using Volume Shadow Copy, be aware that changing the settings, such as schedule will remove previous copies...At least with me, when I altered the schedule, I lost all copies previous to the time I changed the schedule.

rcfoulk
rcfoulk

Shadow copy is in fact a handy utility but it isn't enabled by default for all volumes. It must be configured first.

Lawhead
Lawhead

I haven't implimented VSC but I was wondering what the implications were for the storage capacity overhead and backup requirements. For example, before enabling VSC, if you have a 1TB volume and 500GB is used, what would happen when VSC is enabled? Sounds like Novell's 'Salvage' function where files aren't really deleted - although files will get overwritten as the volume gets consumed with new files. Is there any performance hits?

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

I've never really had to recover anything from shadow copy. This is very resourceful. Thanks for posting.

dgudek
dgudek

figured it out. nevermind

terrus
terrus

VSC takes a snapshot at specific times of the day. If you create a file then overwrite it between snapshots, you can not recover the file using VSC previous versions. You may be able to recover with undelete utilities. Novell's Salvage function will let you undelete files as long as the salvage parameters allow.

Lawhead
Lawhead

I understand (it's not like Novell's Salvage), but how would it affect the available amount of storage if VSC is enabled? Does it consume space on your volume or does it appear to be 'hidden' by the file system?