What Is Shadow Copies for Shared Folders?

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

What Is Shadow Copies for Shared Folders?

Shadow Copies for Shared Folders is a new file-storage technology in the Microsoft Windows ServerĀ 2003 operating systems. Shadow Copies for Shared Folders uses the Volume Shadow Copy service to provide point-in-time copies of files that are located on a shared network resource, such as a file server. With the Previous Versions client for Shadow Copies for Shared Folders, users can view shared files and folders as they existed at points of time in the past, without administrator assistance. Accessing previous versions of files, or shadow copies, is useful because users can:

  • Recover files that were accidentally deleted. If users accidentally delete a file, they can open a previous version and copy it to a safe location.

  • Recover from accidentally overwriting a file. If users accidentally overwrite a file, they can recover a previous version of the file.

  • Compare different versions of a file while working. Users can use previous versions when they want to check what has changed between two versions of a file.

A common scenario for recovering lost or corrupted files occurs when an end user submits an urgent request to the IT help desk to find an archived version of a file. If the organization has an archiving system in place, this request usually requires a costly and time-intensive search of archived media, which in many instances is a tape backup. This situation creates several problems:

  • Potential loss of business if the lost document is time-sensitive or labor-intensive to replace

  • Decreased productivity for the end user

  • Increased cost to help-desk and IT-support services

Because end users can access previous versions of files by themselves, using Shadow Copies of Shared Files for routine file recovery scenarios can help to:

  • Reduce demand on busy administrators, for example, by reducing requests to restore files from tape.

  • Reduce the cost of recovering single or multiple files.


  • Shadow copies do not eliminate the need to perform regular backups or provide protection from media failure. In addition, shadow copies are not permanent. As new shadow copies are taken, old shadow copies are deleted when the storage limit is reached, when you run out of disk space, or when the number of shadow copies reaches 64, whichever occurs first. Therefore, shadow copies might not be present for as long as end users expect them to be.

The following resources contain additional information that is relevant to this section.