Vista shadow copies- not just for breakfast anymore


413RestoringAShadowI lost all my recent OneNote notes due to a stupid blunder.  The jkOnTheRun community responded (and are still responding) with good backup suggestions that I am going to consider to prevent this from happening again.  Reader Ryan Kabir left a comment and sent me an email with the two words that I’ll never forget– Vista’s shadow copies.  OK, that’s three words but you’ll have to forgive me as I am as giddy as one can be without chemical influence.  Ryan’s comment pointed out correctly that in Vista, shadow copies are activated by default (at least I didn’t specifically enable them) which means the OS saves snapshots of user files when they are modified.  I’ve just spent 30 minutes, the most fun I’ve had in a good while, recovering EVERY SINGLE OneNote file that had been overwritten. Every. Single. File.

Vista and Ryan have come to my rescue and I am now grinning like the village idiot with all of my notes back where they were before catastrophe struck.  Big shout out to the Vista team for putting shadow copies into the OS for just such an emergency.  And all I can say to Ryan is– I love you man!



I can understand the merchandising position that some of the Vista Ultimate only features like BitLocker & Remoted Desktop are typically only considered valuable by more of a high-level (buisness/professional) user (thus providing a reason to pay more for an “Ultimate” version of Vista), but I’m still stunned that something like Shadow Copy is Ultimate only. What basic user wouldn’t be THRILLED and love their shiny new OS so much more if it had this feature enabled by default? Isn’t data loss one of the biggest concerns of the average user? I’m starting to feel like my free upgrade from MCE to Vista Home Premium will be a waste of the $10 I paid Dell for shipping the disc…

Also, I’m researching an appropriate back up solution, JKs comment above is really making me think about it a bit more. So would scheduling a couple of full system/drive images with something like Acronis True Image, and then doing incremental backups on top of that be a good solution?

Jerad from Indiana

Wow! That just made my day right there. I know how you feel when you lose everything, although what I lost wasn’t nearly as important. My hard drive in my desktop failed a few years back, and nothing I could do would bring it back. Then a couple months afterwards, I decided to try it with a USB to IDE adapter and it came right up and I got my data…

Vista and Shadow Copies – I’ve used it before, too, but I never even thought about it. Yeah for the Vista team!

Mike Cane

Oh man, I am so happy to read this! Your originally post made my stomach churn. Flashbacks to my PalmOS PDAs hard-resetting and taking many months of non-HotSynced data to Electron Hell. At least yours was only in Electron Purgatory!

Richard L.

Glad you were able to get back your files. I can’t offer software solution, I work mainly on the UNIX side of things. But I can offer some backup principles, at least from my point of view (other opinions might differ). First, most backup space is at least 2 1/2 times the original data, enough for 2 full backup and some incremental. Second is the schedule of the backup, how frequent the full backup will be done, the incremental. Attached to that is the retention time of the backup, how old is the backup before you start rewriting over it. Backup is not an archiving system. One major thing, check the content of the backup every so often, as you are unfortunately aware, it can happen that backups aren’t done right (there are some horror IT stories there).

These concepts assume that you are not doing a syncing style of backup, which to me is not proper way of doing a backup. I guess my main suggestion is to determine how you want to do your backup then find the software that will enable you to do it.

For work, as an IT guy, I use a retention of 6 weeks, full weekly, and incrementally daily. For home, well… as we say in french “Le cordonnier est toujours le plus mal chaussé” which sort of translate into “The shoe-maker has the worse shoes”, I know it there is an english expression for that. But basically, I do a backup once every 6 months, except for my photos which I put immediately to 2 CDs. It’s bad, but there is nothing really important apart for the pictures.

James Kendrick

Yep, Home Server is something I am considering. I’ve heard good things so far from those who are already trying it out. Look me up in Seattle, Matt. I’m easy to find, usually the only cartoon head walking around.

Matt (Xbox MVP)

Great to see you were able to recover everything. This is a case, that Windows Home Server would be a good thing to use. With its nightly backups and the ability to pick apart certain backups…this would have been solved nicely.

But again, good to hear you were able to recover everything. Hope to see ya at the MVP summit next week as well.


Whoo! Congrats! :D I’m glad you were able to recover. :)

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