Windows

Run vssadmin to inspect a Volume Shadow Copy Service configuration

Get familiar navigating the vssadmin utility, which can show you all aspects of the Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service for the running system.

The Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) is the key to ensuring application consistency on Windows systems. The VSS is essentially a framework between the operating system and an application and a means to quiet the application, which is usually to perform a backup. For most Microsoft applications, such as Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange, a Volume Shadow Copy writer is in place to interact with the VSS.

The vssadmin tool is a command-line utility to interact with the VSS. The vssadmin utility is essentially a window into all aspects of the VSS for the running system -- this includes current shadow copy backups, installed shadow copy writers, and providers. The provider can be either the built-in Microsoft Windows provider or at a lower level such as at a drive array. HP storage products and most other mainstream storage products feature a VSS provider from the array level.

You should inspect the current VSS configuration on a Windows server by running the vssadmin tool. A number of commands can be used to inspect the configuration. As a general rule, stick to the "list" commands to inspect the configuration on a Windows server with a minimal configuration. Figure A shows vssadmin being run in a command prompt. Figure A

Click the image to enlarge.

By looking at the configuration of each server, it may give visibility to areas of the system that don't appear in the programs or system tray. VSS components are a different part of Windows and don't have the persistence in other areas like traditional software components. The main thing to look for is any stale components that are not in use anymore, and seek their removal from the local VSS configuration.

What type of housecleaning have you done in the VSS console? Share your tips.

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

4 comments
josinella
josinella

How can you determine the VSS writers that "should" show up running the "vssadmin list writers" command? I know that this command is used to list the writers, but when troubleshooting a system that I am unfamiliar with, how would I know which ones should show up in the list.

b4real
b4real

Each component that needs to go can be removed if you are not using it any more. So, for example, product x's backup tool that you don't use any more may need to be removed. Then you can remove it if it isn't in use, especially if you put in another tool.

mike
mike

OK, ran the vssadmin....so what can i do with all theses writers? How do you configure a proper backup and choose only what is necessary vs everything listed in the "list writers"

Lost Cause?
Lost Cause?

I looked at the cmd line commands for vssadmin and found that vssadmin create shadow is not available to me. Any ideas how to change my options?