System Restore is a handy backup feature that Microsoft has integrated into newer versions of the Windows operating system. The feature basically creates copies of files before system changes happen and on user command. This happens for instance when you install a new driver or update Windows. The default size depends on the size of the hard drive but is usually well in the Gigabyte range.
A quick test on my Windows 7 Pro system with a 128 Gigabyte SSD main drive revealed that Shadow Copies were using 5,86 Gigabytes of storage. The same check on a Windows 8 system and a 180 Gigabyte SSD revealed a slightly lower storage use of 3.09 Gigabytes.
You can manage the size of system restore on individual drives, or turn it off completely, via Control Panel > System and Security > System > Advanced system settings > System Protection. A click on configure in the menu opens the system restore preferences for the selected drive. Here you can reduce or increase the size available to the feature, or turn it off completely for the drive.
What you can't do is delete individual System Restore points or display the storage use of all connected hard drives at once. You can use a program like System Restore Manager to delete individual points to free up room on the hard drive.
If you can't or do not want to use a third party software, you can instead use the Windows command line and the vssadmin command to deal with these issues.
Open an elevated command prompt.
Windows Server admins furthermore can use the vssadmin add shadowstorage command to use another volume for storage of the system restore points.
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