How to troubleshoot Volume shadow Copies on Windows

Table of Contents

What is Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS)

Volume shadow copy service in Windows operating system allows you to create consistent backups of open files and applications. You can create shadow copies of shared folders on your file server or Windows client OS on regular intervals. If any file has been deleted by user from a file server, you can quickly go to the shadow copy backup and restore the file for the user.

A Volume Shadow Copy Service component encountered an unexpected error. Check the Application event log for more information. Error code 0x80042302

You may experience this error message while taking backup on a window device or while performing a system restore. Please follow below troubeshooting steps to fix this issue:

Make sure Volume shadow copy service is not in disabled state. If Its in disabled state, please follow below steps to enable it:

  1. Go to Start and search for services App. Alternatively press Windows key + R to open a Run dialog box.
  2. Type services.msc and press enter.
  3. Search for Volume Shadow Copy service from the list and check its Startup Type. If its disabled then double-click on the service and then change the Startup type to Automatic.
Enable Volume Shadow Copy service and change its Startup type to automatic
  1. Make sure Microsoft Software Shadow Copy Provider service is also not in disabled state. If its in disabled state, you need to double-click on the service and then change the Startup type to Automatic.
enable Microsoft Software Shadow Copy Provider service
  1. If the error message persists, then you can try to disable Windows defender and any third party security system installed on that device temporarily. Try to take the backup / perform system restore again to see if its working fine. Once the back up process completes, switch on your security solution and windows defender.
  1. Perform Clean boot of your windows device. To enable clean boot on the device:
  • Press Windows Key + R to open Run box.
  • Type msconfig.exe in the run box.
  • Go to General tab and uncheck Load startup items from Selective startup.
Perform a clean boot of windows Uncheck load startup items
  • Go to Services tab and select Hide all Microsoft services, click on Disable All button on the bottom right hand side corner of the window.
Hide all Microsoft services msconfig.exe
  • Click on Apply or OK to save the changes.
  • Restart your device.

Test Volume shadow copy once to check if its working now. Make sure to change the startup time to Normal startup once you are done with the troubleshooting this error.

msconfig normal startup while troubleshooting 0x80042302

There are a lot of other errors related to Volume shadow copy service. You can troubleshoot it using the commands shown in the next section of this post.

Vssadmin command

A quite useful built-in command which you can use as a starting point while troubleshooting the Shadow Copies is Vssadmin. Lets run this command with different parameters and check the results.

There are different switches / commands which can be used with vssadmin. To show / list the different commands, Open Powershell as Administrator or Command prompt as an Administrator and type vssadmin

Vssadmin /? command
Vssadmin add shadowstorageAdds a volume shadow copy storage association.Server only
Vssadmin create shadowCreates a new volume shadow copy.Server only
Vssadmin delete shadowsDeletes volume shadow copies.Client and Server
Vssadmin delete shadowstorageDeletes volume shadow copy storage associations.Server only
Vssadmin list providersLists registered volume shadow copy providers.Client and Server
Vssadmin list shadowsLists existing volume shadow copies.Client and Server
Vssadmin list shadowstorageLists all shadow copy storage associations on the system.Client and Server
Vssadmin list volumesLists volumes that are eligible for shadow copies.Client and Server
Vssadmin list writersLists all subscribed volume shadow copy writers on the system.Client and Server
Vssadmin resize shadowstorageResizes the maximum size for a shadow copy storage association.Client and Server
Vssadmin commands

Ensure that the VSS writers are in Stable State

Run the Command vssadmin list writers and make sure that all the VSS writers are in [1] stable state. you may see different vss writers depending upon application server you are running this command e.g. If you are running this command on Microsoft Exchange Server, you will see [Writer name: ‘Microsoft Exchange Writerin addition to the other vss writers. If Microsoft Exchange Writer status is not stable, Restart the Microsoft Exchange Information Store Service or restart Exchange Server and check the writer state again before re-starting the backup job.

Vssadmin list writers
Vssadmin list writers

Ensure that you can see Registered Shadow Copy Providers

To list the currently registered shadow copy providers, Run the command vssadmin list providers

vssadmin list providers
vssadmin list providers

If you do not see providers listed after running the above command it could be OS related issue or the Volume Shadow Copy Service is not running.

List existing Volume Shadow Copies

To list existing shadow Copies use the command vssadmin list shadows

vssadmin list shadows
vssadmin list shadows

Lists all shadow copy storage associations on the system.

Run below command to see all storage associations for the existing shadow copies. The default storage allocates 10% of the volume to the shadow copies.

vssadmin list shadowstorage
vssadmin list shadowstorage

You can also check the Shadow Copy Storage Association on the volume using GUI Method by Right Clicking the Volume -> Properties -> click Shadow Copies Tab.

Shadow Copies
Shadow Copies

Run the command vssadmin list shadowstorage /? to get more parameters which you can use with this command. For example you can use /for parameter to list all associations for a specified volume.

vssadmin list shadowstorage /?
vssadmin list shadowstorage /?

Delete Shadow Copies using command line

There are few options or commands you can use to delete the shadow copies. Shadow Copies data is stored in a folder called System Volume information which is a hidden system folder. If you see that the System volume information folder is quite big in size and consuming a lot of space then you can check if you got any stale shadow copies which might be stored in this system folder and which you may want to delete to free up the space. If you decided to get rid of shadow copies from the volume then follow below command line options to complete your task.

wmic command

Use wmic command to delete the shadow copies. When you run this command, you will be on the wmic:\root\cli> prompt. Type shadowcopy delete to delete the the shadow copies one by one. type Y to delete the shadow copy or N to skip to next shadow copy.

Note: To find the shadow copy ID use the command vssadmin list shadows. After using wmic command if you find that the shadow copies are not deleted or you get an error message as shown in the below screenshot, you can either use Vssadmin delete shadows command or Diskshadow command as shown in the next sections.

wmic command example

Vssadmin delete shadows

vssadmin delete shadows command can be used to delete all shadow copies or specific shadow copies from the volume. Use the /? in the end of the command to list parameters which you can use with this command. To delete all shadow copies using vssadmin delete shadows command, you can use below command.

Vssadmin delete shadows /all

diskshadow Command

You can also use diskshadow command to delete all the shadow copies from the system. Open command prompt as administrator -> Type diskshadow -> then on the DISKSHADOW> prompt type delete shadows all to delete / remove all shadow copies from the server.

Diskshadow command reference

diskshadow command

Best Practices

Best Practice when configuring the Shadow Copy is to use a disk which will not be shadow copied and have enough free space to store the shadow copies as per the configuration. You get below message when setting it up which suggest the same.

Enable Shadow Copies
Enable Shadow Copies

More Information

Volume Shadow Copy Service | Microsoft Docs


In this blog post, we have seen how you can troubleshoot issues related to shadow copies. Vssadmin command is very handy to use on windows devices when you are working on windows devices. You can also find examples of the commands with screenshots.

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