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Selected Scenarios for Maintaining Data Integrity with Windows Vista

The Microsoft® Windows Vista® operating system brings the Shadow Copy feature in Microsoft Windows Server® 2003 (Shadow Copies of Shared Folders) to the client computer and further extends its functionality. The operating system automatically creates shadow copies of files and folders daily. You can also create shadow copies by setting a restore point using the System Protection tab in System Properties in Control Panel. When you right-click a file or folder, you now see an option to restore previous versions. This option takes you to the Previous Versions tab, which you can use to copy any of the stored previous versions or to restore the item to any of the prior states.

What Is New in Data Integrity

Shadow Copy enables you to access previous versions of files and folders.

Benefits of Shadow Copy

In the event of an inadvertent change or deletion of a file or folder, Shadow Copy enables you to revert the file or folder to any previous version, restore a previous version from a backup (created with the Backup and Restore Center), or make a copy of a previous version.

Shadow Copy accomplishes this locally, without requiring a server to act as a repository for the shadow copies. This means that IT Professionals no longer have to administer or manage the process unless they want to.

This feature is automatically enabled in Windows Vista. You can enable or disable the feature for each available volume using the System Protection tab in System Properties in Control Panel. To view or change the settings, click Start, right-click Computer, and then click Properties. In the window that opens, click System Protection.

What Is the Impact of Shadow Copy

There are currently no known major impacts associated with Shadow Copy.

However, Shadow Copy reserves a portion of each volume that has Previous Versions enabled in order to store the shadow copies. By default, the space reserved for shadow copies is 15% of the volume size. You can use the command-line tool Vssadmin.exe to change the size of this reserved space.

Key Scenarios for Evaluating Previous Versions in Your Organization

The system creates a restore point automatically soon after installation is complete. In addition, Windows Vista automatically creates system restore points daily. Most application and driver installers create a restore point before it changes your system.

Shadow Copy shows only those versions of files that are actually different from the current version. Shadow Copy shows all available previous versions of folders, usually one per day, although there may be more if another application (such as Windows Backup) creates restore points.


A previous version is not stored in a restore point every time you change a file, but only once per day or when triggered by certain applications (such as Windows Backup or installers).

Browsing Back in Time

For a quick demonstration of Shadow Copy, do the following.

To view shadow copies

  1. Once your computer has been running long enough for shadow copies to have been created, use Windows Explorer to navigate to a folder that has several files in it.

  2. Right-click a folder and click Restore previous versions.

  3. Double-click any of the listed Folder versions. A new Explorer window opens, showing all of the files in the folder as they existed at that point in time.

    Note that the date and time of the previous version you are viewing appears in the navigation box at the top of the Explorer window.

External Disks

You can also enable Shadow Copy for any external volume that is connected to your computer.

To turn on Shadow Copy for an external disk

  1. Open Control Panel.

  2. Click System and Maintenance, click System, and then click System protection.

  3. In Available Disks, select the check box for the available disk that you want to protect with Shadow Copy, and then click OK.


Once you have enabled Shadow Copy, traces of your files may persist for a long time. If you run very low on disk space and need to recover all available space, you can use Disk Cleanup to delete all but the most recent restore points. To do this, open Disk Cleanup, click the More Options tab and then, in the System Restore and Shadow Copies area, click Clean up.

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