Windows optimize

Prevent Windows Vista System Restore from filling up your hard drive

Bill Detwiler shows you how Vista's System Restore works and how the hidden VSSAdmin command-line tool can prevent it from filling up your hard drive.

Windows Vista's System Restore is a handy feature that allows you to undo actions, like system updates and driver installations, when they go astray or cause problems. Yet if not configured properly, System Restore can gobble up a large chunk of your computer's free disk space. In this TR Dojo video, I'll show you how Vista's System Restore works and how to use the hidden VSSAdmin command-line tool to prevent it from filling up your hard drive.

For those of you who prefer text to video, you can click the Transcript link that appears below the video player window or you can also read Greg Shultz's article, "Rein in the unbound storage appetite of Vista System Restore," on which the first command line tip is based.

You can also sign up to receive the latest TR Dojo lessons through one or more of the following methods:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

41 comments
mustafacan
mustafacan

Great video Bill. However I am wondering how many users are at that level to use command prompt? my 2 cents, this is just crazy. I have tried Returnil, DeepFreeze, ShadowDefender in the past, which are much better alternatives to windows system restore and ended up with Rollback Rx to replace WSS. While the feature is good, thanks God there's competition on this market too :) to have better products.

fswiatek
fswiatek

I assume (therefore I am wrong?) that if system restore has already used 40Gb, and one resizes the allocation to 15Gb, that the oldest restore points get deleted....or do they have to be deleted prior to the resize? You try it! (Hey, Mikey...)

kellyswanson
kellyswanson

The System Restore feature missing from Vista is now back in Windows 7. When you right mouse click on "Computer" or "My Computer" and choose properties the new system control panel has a link on the left side called "System Protection". It shows a button to click that starts a "System Restore" and then below that it has "Protection Settings" There in this area is a list of your available drives and once you select the drive then press the "Configure" button you can turn on and off the drives ability to enable system restore. In the configure area you can also set the amount of drive space and delete the files currently in your restore space. This allows your to remove but not move your restore points to a different harddrive. You can also select multiple drives that the system restore can use for that multiple layer of protection. You can enable as many drives as you have in your system for storage of system restore points.

medeng
medeng

Help Anything on the command line disappears before it can be read. Thanks -rgb-

fullerwe
fullerwe

Another excellent segment ... keep up the good work.

charliebach
charliebach

Yet Another Brilliant tip Bill, mine was using 42 GBs now its maximised to 15 and presently using 11, many thanks, and keep em coming Billy Boy!!

jetkins
jetkins

Hey Bill, what the hell is that beige box over your shoulder in the backdrop image? It looks scarily like the IBM Portable PC ("portable" in name only) that I used to have to lug home every second week when I was on call in the mid '80's

jetkins
jetkins

Useful article, thanks. I'm curious how Windows 7 determines the default maximums VSS storage, and whether it changes them when migrating from Vista. My primary workstation has two 500GB drives, and when I checked the VSS storage after watching this, I found that the maximum on my C: system drive was a mere 2GB, while on my secondary data drive it was 110GB! I don't recall ever futzing with vssadmin before, so I'm curious how these limits got so far removed from the stated defaults.

renosmaster
renosmaster

very pleased to recieve this info , I do have a use for it .

info
info

thanks very much - very helpful tip, and clearly explained.

dslam24
dslam24

If we were limited on space or if it were very expensive this would be a good article, but who really cares about saving HD space nowadays. Better luck next time Mr. Detwiler

Rembrandt1
Rembrandt1

This is one of those gems ITDojo comes up with. Thank you. However can you advise how to clean up the WinSxS folder on Vista which also gobbles disk space. All the advice I've seen so far is to leave it alone (apart from reinstalling) but I have a failing laptop that's taken 40GB of a 60GB partition on that one folder. All help appreciated.

dinesh
dinesh

Can't we use the "Disk Cleanup" facility and delete all unwanted system restore points, keeping only the most recent? Right Click on the drive >> Properties >> Disk Cleanup >> More Options Tab >> System Restore >> Clean Up Kind Regards, Dinesh http://halpage.wordpress.com

ogils
ogils

Whilst this tip is good for setting boundaries what's wrong with Vista's Disk Cleanup?

gmiles1
gmiles1

Great tip - didn't know this, I'm still using XP (going to Win7 soon - might be the same). I also have to help with/fix friends' computers which run Vista. So, once again, thanks for this help.

alec.wood
alec.wood

Thanks, looking at half a dozen new laptops I haven't issued yet - all were set to UNBOUNDED. Yikes!

enquiries
enquiries

the problem you mention is definitely prevalent out there. Microsoft should have emphasized this tip when Vista was first launched.

bjmyers17
bjmyers17

Thanks for this tip! I've been running a little low on disk space, and using this guide, found out that Vista was using up over 60 GB for system restore. Thanks again!

bboyd
bboyd

Just yesterday WU install drivers, since I'm a fan of updating such. Restart to BSOD. System restore... Working system... Go to Nvidia, get proper installer, no problems of course I made a restore point before installing. I use Cleaner to remove restore point that I've deemed unneeded.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

In the above TR Dojo post, I explain how Vista's System Restore works and how the hidden VSSAdmin command-line tool can prevent it from filling up your hard drive. Original post: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=1026 Windows Vista's System Restore is a handy feature that allows you to undo actions, like system updates and driver installations, when they go astray or cause problems. Although IT organizations often disable System Restore through Group Policy and manage backups through a separate process, System Restore has saved many home and small office users. What about you? Take our quick poll and let us know. Poll: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=1029

jetkins
jetkins

Open a Command Prompt windows; don't type the commands on the Start-Run line.

jetkins
jetkins

As Bill explained at the start of the video, XP had a GUI tool, but it went away in Vista. It's back again in 7, but that doesn't make this tip any less useful for Vista.

Media-Ted@Juno.com
Media-Ted@Juno.com

Perhaps for you and a handful of others who don't use their computer very much, or don't have anything significant to save, ... other than a few monopoly scores - or pinball - or whatever. I, too, work with video and photos; I have just around 4tb of external and I need more. Gawrsch, kin eye have wunuf yur nifty unlimited space systems? Space Cadet.

SgtPappy
SgtPappy

This isn't about saving hard disk space because storage is inexpensive. This is about running out of disk space which can prevent a computer from booting up or cause poor performance or being unable to install a new application because of limited space available and not knowing what is causing the problem. I can just see going to my CEO and telling him I need 500 new Terabyte hard drives to install on all the company computers. I can see him him asking me why we need to replace all the drives. I can't see myself saying to him "well gee boss Windows Vista snapshots are filling up all of our drives and I don't want to change a simple setting because hard drives are cheap these days". If I did say something like that to him, I can see him handing me my last pay check and showing me the door. Better luck next time dslam24.

promotions1
promotions1

I use a notebook and the hard drive is not unlimited. I have loads of drive space outside my computer, but System Restore Points can make your machine unusable. I lost over 50% of the drive and had no room for the work I was doing. I did not know what mysterious creature was using up my drive. Now I do and I am going to tame it. Thanks.

security101
security101

... you've never done any video editing, dslam. I can assure you those of us who do are concerned with saving every gig we can.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

HDD may have gotten larger, but space is still a concern. For example, I work on a two-year-old machine with a 160GB HDD. As I use the machine for editing large video files, I am acutely aware of the drive's free space. Losing 40-50GB of free space is a significant issue. Until someone invents a true "unlimited" storage device, effective managing HDD space will always be relevant.

Craig_B
Craig_B

I believe the WinSxS folder contains various versions of .dlls for application compatability and will grow as applications are added to the system. Do not delete this or you may have app trouble. Best bet is to do a clean install and only install the apps you need.

TrueDinosaur
TrueDinosaur

Google WinSxS. Many hits and it appears the folder should be left alone. And one item appears to be from a MS person and he states "So yes, the WinSXS folder is very large, and it will continue to grow as the OS ages." One more thing that helps to justify my position that one should wipe the boot drive and install the OS, etc every 12 - 18 months.

brussell
brussell

Disk cleanup works to remove unwanted restore points that have been taken but using vssadmin could help reduce the storage space utilized thereby a more proactive method of drive management.

Bindas
Bindas

can someone help me with the code to stop windows system from restoring and filling up the hard disk, i cn't play the video

ra4wmsn
ra4wmsn

2 times I really needed it - It worked great. One time I was tinkering & It blew up. Mostly my fault :

Ron_007
Ron_007

I liked the survey question, I'd like to see a similar question expanded to break things down a little more. Along lines of: Has System Restore Ever Let you Down: Worked every time I tried it: Worked most times I tried it: Failed most times I tried it: Failed Once: Never Tried it; My experience is that is has not helped most times I tried it. Usually due to too few recovery point (not going far enough back in time).

SgtPappy
SgtPappy

Another great tip. Thanks. Hey Bill just for fun can you wear a green shirt in the next video so you blend in with the green screen. I think it would be cool. Ok, maybe you all aren't in the same frame of mind as me.

charliebach
charliebach

Why should we not regain valuable disc space and also decease fragmentation,

dAVErSF
dAVErSF

The majority of users are still using XP, and a few unfortunates on Vista, and many won't be jumping on the 7 bandwagon soon. Windows System Restore is far surpassed by ERUNT, an incredibly easy and complete registry backup tool from Lars Hederer (free for home use!). It saves the ENTIRE registry on first boot daily (or on demand) and restores to any chosen date in mere moments. The last 30 days are saved, the oldest being deleted each day. If you have a huge registry and are short on space, it's wise to open the ERDNT folder in Windows folder and periodically delete most the "dailies", or reduce the retention period (if you're short on HD space). This great utility has saved my bacon numerous times with far less hassle than Windows System Restore.

rmanning
rmanning

Disk cleanup is a great tool for cleaning up your drive. Even more so in the NT 6.X kernel for cleaning out the windows.old directory. However, in a stroke lacking genius, Microsoft removed disk cleanup from the server 2008 platform and bundled it into a feature addin... The feature is called "Desktop Experience". So if you are planning on using disk cleanup on your server, you will be faced with the dilemma of is using disk cleanup worth installing Windows Calendar, Windows Mail, Windows Media Player, Windows Aero and other desktop themes, etc on my corporate server.

charliebach
charliebach

If some alteration has been made in the registry it wont restore e.g. i use CCleaner and occasionally use its Registry checker to fix any problems, because of this i have been unable to use restore from that point. So its a trade-off situation i guess.