What Is Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS)?

Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) is a feature in Microsoft Windows that allows the OS or applications to periodically take "point-in-time snapshots" of an entire disk without locking the filesystem. This allows Windows (or the application) to perform backup operations against the disk without worrying about changes that may occur while the backup is running.

One implementation of VSS is the Shadow Copies feature in Windows Server (called Restore Points in client versions of Windows). You enable and schedule Shadow Copies on a disk, and you can then restore a file, folder, or the entire volume. Shadow Copies are "differential, block-level backups", meaning they only capture the changed bits of each file and so do not require a lot of storage space. They are also fast and easy to recover directly from Windows.

Why Should I Configure VSS in My Deployment?

itopia's Cloud Automation Stack (CAS) feature lets you schedule server-level snapshots of all servers in your VDI environment. These snapshots are created directly in your Google Cloud project (using the VM snapshot functionality in GCE) are useful for recovering servers after a critical failure such as disk corruption or a failed Windows update. However, recovering individual files or folders from these snapshots is difficult and time-consuming.

Shadow Copies are useful for recovering user files that were accidentally deleted or modified and should be used in conjunction with CAS Snapshots to provide a comprehensive data protection solution.

You can enable Shadow Copies on all disks on your servers, but Shadow Copies are most useful for volumes that store user data, such as the data disks on a Windows file server that store user profile disks and network drives.

Prerequisite Steps

  1. On each server you wish to protect using VSS, create an additional disk to hold the Shadow Copies, as per Microsoft's best practice to avoid performance issues. 

Enabling Volume Shadow Copies on Disk

  1. Open File Explorer and right click on the Volume for which you want to enable Shadow Copies. Select Configure Shadow Copies...

2. Click on the Volume you want to enable Shadow Copies for, then click Settings

  • Under Storage Area, change the location to the additional disk you created in the Prerequisite Steps section of this document. You can also change the size limit of the volume copies. If this storage limit is reached, it will automatically delete the oldest copy.
  • The Schedule button allows you to set a preferred schedule to capture the Shadow Copies
  • Configure the settings as desired, and click OK on the Schedule and Settings dialogues to save your changes.

3. In the Shadow Copies window, ensure the volume is still selected and click Enable. Windows will create the first Shadow Copy with the settings you implemented and will use the schedule to create subsequent Copies.

Reverting Changes

  1. When a file or folder has been modified (or deleted) and you would like to revert the changes, right-click on the file/folder and select Restore previous versions.

2. From the list of versions, select the desired version, click Restore, and then click Restore again in the dialogue prompt. 

3. Click OK in the final two boxes and the process is complete. 

Next Steps

Deploy Windows Apps and Desktops on Google Cloud with itopia.

Did this answer your question?