Guide to Enable and Use Previous Versions in Server 2012

Previous Versions in Server 2012 is a practical feature that can be used to recover files/folders to an earlier version. For more information, please read this article.


By Delia Updated on December 19, 2022

Share this: instagram reddit

Overview of Previous Versions in Server 2012

When you accidentally delete or modify a file/folder, you may wonder if there is a way to revert it to the previous status. Luckily, the Previous Versions feature gives you such a chance. Built into Windows Server 2012, it allows users to restore files/folders to the older versions.

For system before Windows 2008, the Previous Versions tab works as a functionality of the Shadow Copy Client provided by Microsoft and can be downloaded from the official website. Unlike traditional file backup, Previous Versions only keeps track of changes of the data. Once your files/folders are deleted or damaged, you can use it to go back in time.

Windows Server 2012

How to use Previous Versions in Windows Server 2012

Follow the steps below to return your files to a previous version.

Step 1. Right click the file you want to restore. Then choose Restore previous versions from the menu.

Step 2. You can see the list of previous versions files. Simply select the version you need and click Open to view it.

Step 3. If the selected version is what you want, you can click Restore.



  • Copy: click it to create a copy of the selected version.

  • The current file will be replaced and the replacement cannot be undone.

  • These steps also work with Previous Versions in Server 2003.

However, according to some users, they sometimes find Previous Versions not working in Server 2012. Most commonly, there is no Restore previous versions option whenever they right click files. Even if you can find and open this option, you will be informed “There are no previous versions available”.

When these things take place, you might think about checking if the Shadow Copy in Server 2012 is turned on, but only to find that you have already configured it. In that case, there is no chance to recover data from that method.


How to enable Previous Versions (Shadow Copy) in Windows Server 2012

Enabling Shadow Copy allows you to configure how often the server takes “snapshots” of the files and allows you to go back in time and restore previous states.

To enable it, you can try the following steps:

Step 1. Open File Explorer and right-click the volume where you want to enable Volume Shadow Copies. Select Configure Shadow Copies.

Step 2. Select the volume and click Enable. Microsoft will suggest to use a dedicated drive to store Volume Shadow Copies. Click Yes to confirm.

Enable Shadow Copy Windows Server

Step 3. Then the first snapshot will be generated. You can also click Create Now to generate one manually.

Click Settings if you want to edit the default VSS settings. To restore a previous version, just click Revert.

Create Shadow Copy

Backup files in case Previous Versions fails

As a Windows Server user, it is critical to ensure your files are backed up. As far as I know, many small companies use Server systems to record customer information. To keep files safe, relying on Restore previous versions in Server 2012 is not enough, as this feature often goes wrong.

Regular file backups are highly recommended. Thus, you can restore files from backup image when you need older versions files. AOMEI Backupper Server has been committed to helping people backup files to internal/external hard drives, cloud drives, NAS devices, and network, etc. You can also backup files to AOMEI Cloud if you have an AOMEI account. 

With this utility, you can schedule your backup to start at a specific time, Windows Server 2012 backup weekly, for instance. When you have insufficient disk space, the Scheme feature serves you well to do an old backups cleanup. Learn how to backup files with this utility below.

Download 30-day free trial to enjoy one-click installation.

Download Free Trial All Windows Server and Client OS
Secure Download

Step 1. Open this program click Backup and File Backup subsequently.

File Backup

Step 2. Give this backup task a name. Click Add Folder or Add File, then select the folder you want to backup by choosing This PC. Then click OK.

Add File Or Folder

Step 3. Click to select the destination path (here is E:\).

Select Backup Destination

Step 4. Click Start Backup to run this backup task.

Start Backup


  • Options: you can comment, encrypt, compress or split your backups here.

  • Schedule Backup: use it to set up an auto backup based on Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Event triggers, USB plug in or Real-time Sync.

  • To restore files from backup you have created, you can visit Home > the file backup task > Restore.

Details about Scheme and Schedule Option

There are two powerful features that you may need: Backup Schedule and Scheme.

There are 6 options you may need in Schedule Backup settings:

  • Daily/Weekly/Monthly: Set up the backup running daily, weekly, monthly to backup unsupervised. There is no need to backup manually.

  • Event Triggers: Perform the backup via the following event triggers: User logon, User logoff, System startup, System shutdown.

  • USB plug in: AOMEI Backupper will automatically backup the data on the USB or backup data to USB device while detecting the USB drive of the task.

  • Real-time Sync: It enables you to sync files immediately once the data changed, and always make your files stay up to date. 

Schedule Settings General

Besides, you could free up space for your Windows Server 2012 (R2) with Backup Scheme settings:

Choose the Backup Method as you need. Besides Full Backup, you can also take Incremental or Differential Backup.

Click Backup Scheme -> Enable Automatic Backup Cleanup, choose a backup scheme and specify the number of backups to keep, click OK. then it's done to customize the retention policy.


Final words

Now you know how to revert files to their earlier versions via Previous Versions in Server 2012. Note that this feature doesn’t always work fine. In case Previous Versions fails, I suggest you do regular file backups with AOMEI Backupper Server. Except for file backup, system/disk/partition backup and file sync are also available in this utility. With these features, you can mange backups more flexibly.

Delia · Editor
Delia owns extensive experience in writing technology-related blog posts, and has been a part of AOMEI since 2020 to provide expertise in data security and disaster recovery. She works with Windows operating systems, SQL databases, and virtualization platforms such as VMware and Hyper-V, specializing in troubleshooting and advising on data protection and migration.