Holy cow, I wrote a book!
If you are running Windows Server 2003,
you owe it to yourself to
enable the Volume Shadow Copy service.
What this service does is periodically
(according to a schedule you set)
capture a snapshot of the files you specify
so they can be recovered later.
The copies are lazy: If a file doesn't change
between snapshots, a new copy isn't made.
Up to 64 versions of a file can be recorded in the
Bear this in mind when setting your snapshot schedule.
If you take a snapshot twice a day, you're good for a month,
but if you take a snapshot every minute,
you get only an hour's worth of snapshots.
You are trading off snapshot quality against quantity.
Although I can count on my hand the number of times
the Volume Shadow Copy service has saved my bacon,
each time I needed it, it saved me at least a day's work.
Typically, it's because I wasn't paying attention and deleted
the wrong file.
Once it was because I make some changes to a file and ended up
making a bigger mess of things
and would have been better off just returning to the version I had
the previous day.
I just click on "View previous versions of this folder" in the
Tasks Pane, pick the snapshot from yesterday, and drag yesterday's
version of the file to my desktop.
Then I can take that file and compare it to the version I have now
and reconcile the changes.
In the case of a deleted file,
I just click the "Restore" button and back to life it comes.
(Be careful about using "Restore" for a file that still exists,
however, because that will overwrite the current
version with the snapshot version.)
One tricky bit about viewing snapshots is that it works only on
If you want to restore a file from a local hard drive,
you'll need to either connect to the drive from another computer
or (what I do) create a loopback connection and restore it
via the loopback.
Note that the Volume Shadow Copy service is not a replacement for
The shadow copies are kept on the drive itself, so if you lose the
drive, you lose the shadow copies too.
Given the ability of the Volume Shadow Copy service to go back in time
and recover previous versions of a file,
you're probably not surprised that the code name for the feature
John, a colleague in security, points out that
shadow copies provide a curious backdoor to the quota system.
Although you have access to shadow copies of your file, they
do not count against your quota.
Counting them against your quota would be unfair since it is
the system that created these files, not you.
(Of course, this isn't a very useful way to circumvent quota,
because the system will also delete shadow copies whenever it
feels the urge.)