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Step by Step Guide: How to Install and Configure Shadow Copy for Windows Server 2003 and 2008

Introduction

Welcome to my guide to the installation and configuration of Shadow Copy for Windows.

Shadow Copy allows both home and business users to restore damaged or lost files simply and quickly.

For a home user, it is an excellent way of ensuring that you can easily and quickly restore a file should it become lost or damaged. This should not replace regular scheduled backups, but is extremely useful for restoring single files.

For a business, the installation of Shadow Copy will reduce significantly the number of restore requests that your IT staff will have to action; as well as reducing the time a user has to wait before receiving the restored file (this typically would be next day at the earliest for those companies whose backups are stored off-site). The two main causes of restore requests, accidental deletion of a file or a file being overwritten in error can both be quickly resolved using a previous version of a file created by Shadow Copy. For those businesses running a server with Windows Server 2003 or later, Shadow Copy is a free feature bundled with this and all subsequent Operating Systems up to and including Windows Server 2008.

Users simply right click on the folder that the file resides in (or resided in if the file was accidentally deleted) and select Previous Version. How to use this feature is covered in a section below

Installation and Configuration

There are two configuration options available for Shadow Copy.

  • For home users; configure Shadow Copy on a PC and have the Previous Versions of files stored on the PC itself,
  • For business users; run Shadow Copy on a server and have Previous Versions and Shadow Copies stored centrally (Shadow copy will still have to be installed / configured on PC’s)

To begin with, I will discuss installing Shadow Copy on a PC. Depending on the Operating System, a client may have to be installed.


Installing and Configuring Shadow Copy on Windows 7 / Windows Vista

For a PC running Windows 7, the client is already installed and requires no installation. The shadow copy service (Volume Shadow Copy) must be set to Manual or Automatic for Shadow Copy to function. To check this,

  • Type services.msc into Start / Search Programs and Files and press return.
  • Scroll down to Volume Shadow Copy and ensure it is set to Manual or Automatic as shown below


Configure the Volume Shadow Copy service to enable Shadow Copy on your PC.
Configure the Volume Shadow Copy service to enable Shadow Copy on your PC. | Source
  • If it is disabled, double click it and change the Startup Type to Manual.

Installing and Configuring Shadow Copy on Windows 2000, XP and Windows 98

For PCs running Operating Systems earlier than Windows XP Service Pack 2 (Windows XP SP 1 or earlier, Windows 2000 or 98) a client will have to be installed.

  • Windows XP SP1 or Windows 2000 (SP3 or higher) need to install the Shadow Copy Client to access shadow copies. The client can be accessed here.
  • Client PCs running Windows 98 or Windows 2000 (SP2 or lower) need to install Windows Installer 2.0 as well as the Shadow Copy Client. This is also available from the same URL as the client itself

Configuration of Shadow Copy on the Server

Before beginning to configure your server for Shadow Copies, you must check two things on your server.

  • Firstly, check in Disk Management that the volume you will use for creating Shadow Copies is formatted using NTFS. The quickest way to do so is via My Computer. Right click on the volume you will use and the file system will be displayed on the General tab.
  • Secondly, it is important to note that Shadow Copy can only be enabled on a per volume basis; it is not possible to enable it for a folder or a file.

How to check if your volume is formatted as NTFS.
How to check if your volume is formatted as NTFS. | Source

To convert a volume to NTFS use the following command

  • <Click Start / Run> <Then enter>
  • CONVERT H: /FS:NTFS
  • <Then press Enter once more>
  • Note that H: is the drive letter assigned to the volume that you want to convert. It is also important to note that this cannot be reversed without formatting the volume.


Using Previous Versions to restore files

Suppose I have a folder with two files as shown below. I have been happily working with these files for some time.

Folder before file is accidentally deleted
Folder before file is accidentally deleted | Source

Then for some unknown reason, I delete a file.

Folder with file accidentally deleted.
Folder with file accidentally deleted. | Source

To access the Shadow Copy / Previous Version of the file I just deleted right click on the folder the file was stored in Select Properties and click on the Previous Versions tab.

Accessing Previous Versions of my deleted files
Accessing Previous Versions of my deleted files | Source

This will display all previous versions of the file available. As I just deleted the file, the latest one will be the most appropriate, so double click on the New folder icon with the latest date (in this example it is the folder modified on 5/5/2012 at 11:20 AM).

Previous Version showing the file I deleted.
Previous Version showing the file I deleted. | Source

Note that at the top of the window the folder states that the folder was created six minutes ago and is a read only copy.

To restore a file, either

  • copy and paste or
  • drag and drop it into the original location

If the entire contents of the folder need to be restored, I can either restore it to its original location using restore, or click Copy to create another copy in a different location.


Warning received when restoring an entire folder from a Previous Version.
Warning received when restoring an entire folder from a Previous Version. | Source
Choosing folder location when restoring an entire folder from a Previous Version.
Choosing folder location when restoring an entire folder from a Previous Version. | Source

The process for an overwritten file is identical; the most important thing for the user to determine is when exactly the file was overwritten so that the appropriate Previous Version can be chosen.

Configuration of Shadow Copies on a Server

Considerations before configuring Shadow Copy

Before beginning to install and configure Shadow Copies on a server you must consider the following factors:

  • The file shares that your users’ access must also reside on this server, so the server selected to run Shadow Copy should be a File Server.
  • The Server should have sufficient space to accommodate all the Previous Versions you choose to keep
  • A scheduled backup backing the data up to removable media such as tape should still run in conjunction with the use of Shadow Copy

Installing the client

For small companies with PCs that require a client to be installed it may be easiest to install the application manually.

The client can be manually installed either by:

  • Downloading the installation media as outlined above, or
  • The client can be deployed from the server by sharing out the folder %SystemRoot%\system32\clients\ on the server itself and running the client installation from there (twclient.exe).

Configuration

For larger organisations with hundreds of PCs or more will typically use packaging or other means to deploy the client if required.

To begin, click Start / All Programs / Administrative Tools / Computer Management.

Then select Storage in the console tree on the left hand side and select Disk Management.

This will display graphically the disk and volume information for the local system.

Right click on a volume and select Properties and then select the Shadow Copy tab.

Shadow Copy tab showing default settings, before Shadow Copy is enabled.
Shadow Copy tab showing default settings, before Shadow Copy is enabled. | Source

Choose the volume that you want Shadow Copy enabled on and select Settings

Configuring Shadow Copy, illustration of Settings tab.
Configuring Shadow Copy, illustration of Settings tab. | Source

From the Settings Tab, a number of settings can be configured:

Located on this volume determines where the shadow copies are to be stored. They can either be stored on the same volume or on another volume.

Maximum size determines the maximum amount of space available for shadow copies. This can be unlimited, or set to a specific size. Shadow copies are differential which means that only files that have changed since the last shadow copy are backed up.

Schedule enables the creation of additional shadow copy snapshots. As shown in the screenshot, the default snapshots are taken at 7:00 AM and 12:00 PM.

To modify an existing shadow copy,

  • Select it from the drop down list and modify the required settings and press OK.

To create a new snapshot schedule, click New and configure the snapshot to your required specifications.

While creating new snapshots it is important to bear the following factors in mind.

  • Shadow copies are resource intensive particularly on volumes with a large number of frequently updated files.
  • Shadow Copy will keep the last 64 versions of a file. The frequency of shadow copies will determine how far into the past a user will be able to restore a file.
  • The final step once the scheduling of shadow copies is completed and configured to your companies need is to enable Shadow Copy for the volume(s) desired.

Click OK to return to the Shadow Copy tab and select the volumes required and click Enable.

On this tab, the Create Now button will initiate a manual shadow copy immediately.

Conclusion

Once Shadow Copy is installed and configured it will become an invaluable tool for both business and home users alike. For businesses, it will reduce time waiting for restores to be completed as well as time wasted rewriting lost documents and allow users to access old versions of documents easily. For home users it is a simple solution allowing users to restore lost files quickly and easily. I hope you have enjoyed reading this guide as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Please feel free to leave any comments you may have below.

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