Delete Shadow Copies in Windows Server 2012 R2 (3 Ways)

You can learn how to delete shadow copies in Windows Server 2012 R2 with 3 effective methods, as well as one more powerful protect it and save disk space.


By Miya / Updated on November 28, 2023

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What Is Shadow Copy?

Shadow Copy (also known as Volume Snapshot Service, Volume Shadow Copy Service, or Windows VSS) is a technology. It’s available in Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10, 11, and Windows Server 2003, 2008 (R2), 2012, 2016, 2019, and 2022 which allows manual or automatic backup of computer files and volumes even if they are in use. Shadow copies can be created on local and external volumes by any Windows component that uses this technology.

Shadow  Copies

Why Delete Shadow Copies in Windows Server 2012 R2?

There are two main reasons why you should delete volume shadow copies.

  • Occupy lots of storage space: Too many volume shadow copies can take up a lot of storage space, then causing disk space shortage, the computer running slowly, or even the system becoming unstable.
  • Bring security risks: Volume shadow copies may bring some security risks, such as attackers may find SAM files in the shadow copies and read user password hashes or even use them to log in to remote servers.

Therefore, it is necessary to delete volume shadow copies in Windows Server 2012 R2, which not only helps you save disk space but also protects your data.

How to Delete Shadow Copies in Windows Server 2012 R2

So, how to delete shadow copies for a specific folder? This article will introduce you to 3 useful ways to delete shadow copies in Windows Server 2012 R2 in turn, you can choose any one of them according to your own needs. Please read on.

Method 1. Delete Shadow Copies in Windows Server 2012 R2 via Vssadmin Command

The Vssadmin command can delete all shadow copies or specific shadow copies from the volume. You can follow the steps below to use the vssadmin delete shadows command.

Step 1. Right-click on the Start icon and select Command Prompt (Admin).

Command Prompt Admin

Step 2. Enter the corresponding command according to your needs.

  • To delete all shadow copies on a Specific Volume, type the command below and press Enter.

vssadmin delete shadows /for=c: /all

  • To delete a specific shadow copy from any volume, type the command below and press Enter.

vssadmin delete shadows /shadow=[Shadow ID].

  • To delete the oldest shadow copy on a Specific Volume, type the command below and press Enter.

vssadmin delete shadows /for=c: /oldest

Vssadmin Delete Shadows

Step 3. Type exit and press Enter to exit Command Prompt.

Note: If you are not familiar with vssadmin, please learn the basic syntax and its parameters first.

▶ The sync task: 

vssadmin delete shadows /for= [/oldest | /all | /shadow=] [/quiet]

▶ The parameters and meanings:

  • /for=: Specifies the volume for which the shadow copy is to be deleted.
  • /oldest: Deletes only the oldest shadow copy.
  • /all: Deletes all of the shadow copies for the specified volume.
  • /shadow=: Deletes the shadow copy specified by ShadowID. To get the shadow copy ID, use the vssadmin list shadows command.
  • /quiet: Specifies that the command will not display messages while it is running.

Method 2. Delete Shadow Copies in Windows Server 2012 R2 via System Properties

The second method to delete shadow copies in Windows Server 2012 R2 is through the system properties. And you can follow the steps below.

Step 1. Open File Explorer and right-click the drive you want to delete volume shadow copies. Select Configure Shadow Copies.

Configure Shadow Copies

Step 2. Select the volume and click Disable, then, click Delete Now and click OK.

Delete Now

Method 3. Delete Shadow Copies in Windows Server 2012 R2 via Disk Cleanup

You can also use Disk Cleanup to delete all shadow copies and restore points saved to the selected hard drive letter except the most recent copy. Please follow the steps below.

Step 1. Open the Start Menu, type cleanmgr into the search box, and press Enter.

Step 2. Select the drive that you want to delete shadow copies, and click OK.

Select The Drive

Step 3. Click on the Clean up system files button, choose the partition again and press OK.

Clean Up System Files

Step 4. Click on the More Options tab, and click the Clean up button in the bottom System Restore and Shadow Copies section.

Clean Up

Step 5. Click on the Delete button to delete all shadow copies but the most recent one, then click OK.


More Powerful Way to Protect Windows Server 2012 R2 and Delete Shadow Copies 

In fact, the Volume Shadow Copy Service is able to restore your computer to the previous date without downtime, but it's limited to drivers or program issues. If the OS or disk is damaged, it will become useless, resulting in heavy data loss, and you may need to reinstall Windows.

To prevent this bad thing from happening, it's still suggested to create a backup image in Windows Server 2012 R2 with professional backup and restore software t- AOMEI Backupper Server. With it, you can:

choose to backup files, partitions, system, or disk. And there are two ways to back up files, namely, File Backup and Cloud Backup. The former is more compatible.
 create a VSS backup and always be sure your backup is working without interrupting via  VSS (default) and AOMEI Backup Service. Even if there is a problem with VSS, the other service will continue to work to keep the backup process going.
schedule backup files automatically with fixed intervals, such as daily, weekly, or monthly, or based on specific events in Event trigger and plug-and-pull backup feature - USB plug in.
delete the older backups automatically to save the target disk space and free up more space for new backups.  

Then, you can follow the graphic tutorial below to delete shadow copies in Windows Server 2012 R2 automatically. And you can also use it in Windows Server 2003/2008 (R2)/2011/2012/2016 (R2)/2019/2022/SBS and Windows XP/Vista/7/8,/8.1/10/11.

Step 1. Download AOMEI Backupper Server, install it, and open it. You can click Backup > File Backup.

Download Free Trial Windows PCs & Servers
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File- Backup

Tip: To protect unlimited PCs or servers, try the AOMEI Backupepr TechPlus edition. It allows you to create a portable version of this software and backup files on any computer without installing again.

Step 2. Click Add File or Add Folder to select the files/folders you want to backup.

Add File Or Folder

Step 3. Select a destination to store your file backups. You can backup files to external hard drive, USB drive, network drive, NAS, etc.

Select Backup Destination

Step 4.  Click the following three options to set backup settings, and be sure the backup task is running without interrupting and makes up space for new backups.

  • To backup files as well as changes without interrupting, click Options and select one of the Backup Services. By default, this software will enable Use Microsoft VSS Backup under Backup Mode.

Backup Settings Backup Mode

  • To delete shadow copies, you need to enable Schedule Backup and then switch to Backup Scheme

For schedule backup, you can use Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Event triggers, and USB Plug in. Since the last one is a plug-and-pull method, you can use it if you want to backup files to USB drive automatically when connected.

For the backup scheme, you can enable the automatic backup cleanup and select one of the cleanup methods - By quantity, By time, By daily/weekly/monthly in default mode. If you use Differential Backup instead,  you can also use By space cleanup method. 


Step 5. Confirm all your operations and click Start Backup to backup your files and delete shadow copies in Windows Server 2012 R2 automatically.

Start Backup

Bonus Tip: Best Enterprise Data Backup Solution

If you are an enterprise user who has multiple Windows Server devices that need to be backed up, you can try the best enterprise backup software - AOMEI Cyber Backup. It offers you all-around enterprise data backup solutions:

  • It enables you to create system/disk/partition backup for a bunch of Windows PCs and Servers, supporting Windows 11/10/8.1/8/7 and Windows Server 2022/2019/2016/2012 (R2)/2008 (R2).
  • You are allowed to save backup images on a local disk, external hard drive, network share or NAS device, etc.
  • You can schedule a backup task to run every day/week/month using the full/incremental/differential backup method.

Download this powerful enterprise backup software now to have a try!

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To make backups for client computers, just log in AOMEI Cyber Backup, and add the Windows device that you want to backup. Then click Backup Task on the left menu bar and select Backup Task Create New Task.

Create New Task

Note: AOMEI Cyber Backup can not only help you backup physical machines but also virtual machines. It enables you to backup Hyper-V and VMware easily.


This article introduces you to 3 ways to remove shadow copies in Windows Server 2012 R2 and one more powerful way to protect Windows Server 2012 R2 and delete shadow copies, here I mean the created backup image, and you can also use it to create partition backup, system backup, disk backup, or cloud backup automatically.

Therefore, it protects your data security and saves disk storage space. This software supports both VSS and AOMEI Backupper Service, so you don't need to worry that the backup process will be interrupted due to problems with one of the services. In addition, you can use its advanced edition to protect the unlimited servers of your company.

Miya · Editor
Miya has an excellent insight and receives professional and systematic technical training since joining AOMEI. She has a comprehensive understanding of computer issues, aiming at helping users troubleshoot all kinds of problems. A lot of computer users around the world have found her articles very helpful!