Restore Files With Shadow Explorer

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 29, 2008
Updated • Sep 24, 2017
Software, Windows Vista

Windows Vista uses a service called Volume Shadow Copy Service which is turned on by default on all versions of Windows Vista.

The service created shadow copies of files from time to time in Windows Vista. These previous versions of files is a basic protection against file damages, accidental deletions, successful malware attacks, file corruption, and any other form of changes to files that you want undone.

The system is linked to the System Restore process, and files stored as shadow copies are deleted when the number of shadow copies exceeds 64, or when the allocated disk space for the feature is used up.

On the downside the ability to restore files using the Volume Shadow Copy Service is only available in Windows Vista Ultimate, Enterprise and Business editions officially.

Shadow Explorer

Shadow Explorer is a software for Windows Vista that makes it possible to restore files using the Volume Shadow Copy Service on all versions of Windows Vista. The program can be installed under Windows XP but it does not work if you execute it. It can also be run in newer versions of Windows, and should work fine provided that shadow copies are used on these systems as well.

Shadow Explorer requires administrative privileges to start. The easiest way to do run the program with elevated rights is to right-click on the application and select "run as administrator" from the context menu

The interface is displayed as a explorer-like window with information about the stored shadow copies in the header area.

You can select the drive and one of the available snapshots in the header area. Just click on the drive letter or the snapshot menu to do so.

You may change the format of the listing with a click on the list menu as well. The default format lists all files of the selected folder.

A right-click on selected files or folders opens up a context menu with the option to restore these.

You may restore files to the folder they have been backed up from, or select another folder. It is usually better to select a different folder first.

A confirmation dialog is displayed when you try to save shadow copies to the same folder they originated from. The selected files will overwrite files of the same name automatically when you select yes in the dialog.

A message highlights success, failure or issues in the end.


Shadow Explorer is a powerful program for Microsoft Windows to restore previous copies of files quickly that were saved by Windows' Shadow Copies process. It is especially handy if you don't have regular backups of the files that you want to recover.

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