How to Delete All VSS Shadows and Orphaned Shadows

What Causes VSS Shadows to Stick?

Deleting orphaned Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) shadows may be necessary from time to time for several reasons.

A: You are using defect backup software or some scripts that don't clean up correctly. In that case follow instructions below and switch to BackupChain®.

B: Your backup software crashes all the time. In that case you would want to switch to BackupChain. It’s also critical to never manually kill the BackupChain Service while a backup is running, as this would leave behind VSS shadows as well.

C: System Restore keeps filling up your drive with shadows. Some people argue, it's Microsoft's bad design; we agree.

D: Shadows may have been created by another operating system instance in a multi-boot environment

E: a lot more causes are possible…


The Result / Effect VSS Shadows Have

A slow PC or Server, or worse, the system becomes unstable and unresponsive. There are several ways the Windows system may get clogged with orphaned shadows and unfortunately the system won't start deleting until you have a whopping 64 of them!

See the clean-up instructions below.

Note: Each version of Windows is a little different and the command parameters may vary:

Note #2: Some backup applications may be relying on these shadows to remain in the system. In the case of BackupChain, they are not required and BackupChain always deletes its own shadows immediately.


Delete on Windows PCs and Servers

Use the command prompt with administrator rights:

	vssadmin delete shadows /all

To delete VSS shadows that can’t be deleted with the above command: there's a trick:

	vssadmin Resize ShadowStorage /For=C: /On=C: /MaxSize=300MB

For each drive in the system run the above command with the minimum MaxSize permitted. Windows will then voluntarily remove all shadows due to lack of space.

Then, set MaxSize to UNBOUNDED or a very high number (for example, 100GB) for best performance. This is just an upper limit, not an actual permanent storage allocation.


Delete on Windows Server

On a Windows Server you can use a great utility that ships with Windows called:


It will open a screen like this one below:

VSSUIRUN screenshot


Now go through each drive and:

  • delete each shadow
  • disable the schedule (this won't disable shadows; it's impossible to disable shadows)
  • go to the settings of each drive and use "No Limit" for best performance
  • ensure you have at least 50GB free on each disk and at least 10% whichever is higher.


Last Resort

If that doesn't work and the shadows won't go away, use the trick above with vssadmin and reduce the storage area limit to the bare minimum. Then set it back to no limit.

There’s also another command-line tool on Window Server: diskshadow. Run diskshadow and inside of it, issue: DELETE SHADOWS ALL

In the worst case, use our Volume Shadow Copy Service Troubleshooting Guide and use VSS Repair Strategy #5 for a VSS reset (no reboot required).

Feel free to contact our tech support team as needed.


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BackupChain Features

BackupChain has earned itself a solid reputation of being the reliable backup software on the market, designed specifically for IT professionals. Its features include live backup, Windows Server 2012 backup, VirtualBox backup, VMware backup and deduplication backup.
Its remote backup features make it a great choice because BackupChain’s features go way beyond other basic copy tools.
Hyper-V backup and virtual machine backup are another great feature section you will find in BackupChain at no additional charge and these features are augmented by FTP backup, granular restore and version backup, allowing you to quickly access a virtual machine’s image from several restore points.

From file backup to cloud backup, BackupChain covers many typical and also very specific backup scenarios. You can customize BackupChain to suit your unique environment within minutes.
For the IT professionals amongst us who are also web designers, we offer a free FTP client called DriveMaker, that mounts FTP sites as drive letters. DriveMaker is part of a series of freeware for servers we offer to our network of IT professionals.
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