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Reduce System Restore’s Disk Usage in Vista

The System Restore feature in Windows Vista is very important to keep enabled, what with all the problems Vista users are having with compatibility. Even so, the disk usage can get out of hand if you install a large amount of software.

Update: We’ve also covered how to limit system restore’s disk usage in Windows 7.

The utility to change the settings is a command line utility called vssadmin. You’ll have to open a command prompt in administrator mode by entering cmd into the start menu and hitting Ctrl+Shift+Enter, or right-clicking the command prompt and selecting Run as Administrator.

Show Allocated System Restore Size

Type in the following command into the prompt:

vssadmin list shadowstorage

As you can see in the screenshot, System Restore is taking up 2.2 GB on my system.. and I just reinstalled!

Changing the Allocated System Restore Size

To change the maximum size on the disk that System Restore will use, you will need to type in the following command:

vssadmin Resize ShadowStorage /For=C: /On=C: /Maxsize=3GB

You can change the /for and /on to match the drive that System Restore is enabled on, and you can set a different size for the max size. I chose 3GB for the sake of this example, but you could also limit it to 500MB or something else if you wanted to.

If you have plenty of disk space, I’d recommend leaving the values alone, but if you are running low on space, this is a quick way to help the problem.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 05/7/07

Comments (82)

  1. Sean

    Awesome awesome tip. Wow, I’d been looking for a way to do this from the command line as part of a script I run when installing Windows a new.

  2. Wayne London

    My Vista’s System Restore is using 31 GBs (max 35). This is more than 10 times your example.

    My already underpowered 238 GB HDrive seems to be losing another GB every couple days; and yes; I have had to use Restore, so disabling is not in the cards.

    Just curious – why the big discrepancy and what can I do to save disc space? Thanks, Wayne.

  3. Rod Lane

    Thank you for this page – I have a new Vista Home Premium system which has a huge 500GB disk of which, after only a few weeks, 68GB was being used as system restore – but was inoperable as various error messages would appear about corrupt snapshots and incompatible serializing packages and Vista could not find any disk at all to restore to or from!
    Having reduced the max size of the shadow storage to only 10GB suddenly Vista is happy with no errors and instant access to system restore.
    Thanks again!

  4. Wayne London

    My Vista will not let me change Max Size. After entering everything exact, allowing for case sensitivity, and trying various sizes, I get “Invalid Request”.
    However, since it’s now at maximum capacity – 35 out of 238 GBs – I suppose I should move on.
    Thanks, Wayne

  5. Wayne London

    If anyone is still following this thread and hasn’t been able to reduce SR, the following might help.
    In my failed attempts I had System Restore on. While SR was off I was able to reduce to 10 GB max from 35 GB. Whether this made the difference, I don’t know. Good luck. Wayne

  6. The Geek

    Thanks for the update… that’s a good tip to know!

  7. Kyle

    Great Tip! Had over 95GB of space tied up. HD was almost full! Turned off SR, then reenabled. Tons of space now. But I had no restore points… This, I think, had something to do with why I got an error at first. No restore points… Created one and this tip worked wonderfully. In contrast, with no restore points, I got an error.

  8. Wayne London

    Your post is a bit of a mystery. Since SR uses only 15% max by default, your HD could never be “almost full” because of it.
    My advice was to disable SR, then do the above mentioned Resize, then reenable SR, in that order.
    You seem to have had success but it wasn’t from my tip.
    What did you reduce Max size to, just for curiousity sake. And you didn’t have to create a restore point. This was done automatically as soon as you reenabled SR. Thanks, Wayne

  9. Rob

    How can I so this process in Windows XP??

  10. Frank

    The command on the website is incorrect at least for Vista computers it should read:

    “vssadmin resize shadowstorage /on=c: /for=c: /maxsize 3gb” Also make sure you have turned on restore points and that there are some already out there.

  11. Wayne London

    Frank is correct. My earlier comments should be disregarded in case they misled anyone.
    SR should be on.
    I have since further reduced to 5 GBs and find my earliest restore point is about 5 days ago. Wayne

  12. William

    Is there any way to keep my original restore point from being overwritten (Vista Home Basic)? I haven’t discovered one….Thanks yall. W

  13. Paul

    I too had to resize shadowstorage.I have Vista Premium and tried the above mentioned commands but with no success.What eventually worked was;

    vssadmin Resize ShadowStorage /For=C: /On=C: /MaxSize=3000mb

    I had to pay attention to case,spaces before / ,= after MaxSize and instead of 3gb I had to enter 3000mb.

    This is what worked for me.If anyone has an explanation for the difference in what I did and what was previously suggested,please, be my guest.

  14. Wayne London

    Paul – I discovered the same thing. In my case I omitted a few spaces by accident and had to keep trying till I figured it out.

    Are you sure 3000mb will be enough?

    Mine is set for 5 GBs and I only have about a 4 day window to catch a problem and restore if necessary. You might want to check your earliest restore point? Is it enough protection?

  15. Neal

    Still can’t find my missing GB’s and I don’t need/use restore points… I have a Thinkpad w/Vista factory installed. Recently I saw that I have 78GB used of 105GB on my C drive. What the ? I accounted for 43GB in my file system using Disktective but cant find the missing 35GB’s… that’s a lot more than 15% for Shadow Copy. The analysis tools show folders RRbackups, Documents and Settings, and System Volume Information all without file sizes or space usage info.

    How can I see how big these folders are or where else something may be gorging on 35GB’s of my data…?

  16. Fat Gooner

    ok i tried this and im getting the message that i dont have the correct permissions to run this command, this is on a brand new out the box packard bell, any ideas?

  17. Steve Lindberg

    Any tips on how to reduce the size of he files you’re backing up with restore point? trying to help a family member who has got almost 10gb allocated and it’s still not enough to avoid errors. I’ve not worked with vista before so I’ve tried messing with the restore point settings but haven’t gotten anywhere.

  18. Gavan Watson

    Just wanted to say thanks for the how-to. It helped me reign-in my 191 GB shadow copy!

  19. Jason

    Thanks for the tip. I have 2 hard drives, primary 120gb and secondary 150gb. All of these dumb system restore points had wiped out all but 30 gb of my backup hard drive. I just did all the steps now so hopefully this works successfully.

  20. Ken Webster

    Thanks for the info. I was perplexed by a significant chunk of missing space on my 1TB drive that I couldn’t account for … it turns out that my shadow copy storage was 140GB. I’ll leave it alone for now but its nice to know where the space is being used (I just hate it when the numbers don’t add up!)

  21. Sam

    Great tips……….I have changed mine successfully!

  22. Darkimmortal

    Great tips – I got mine changed from 50gb down to 3gb successfully! :D

  23. parabolic

    “You can change the /for and /on to match the drive that System Restore is enabled on,”

    Where /for is my main operating system drive, can I adjust /on to another partition used for data ? I find that whenever I do a disk analysis it’s always the system restore files which are highly fragmeneted and are spread about the entire disk.

  24. Bruce

    This worked great for me,
    vssadmin resize shadowstorage /for=c: /on=c: /maxsize=3.00GB

    Thanks
    Bruce

  25. Wayne London

    Everyone should not get too excited about how low they can reduce SR usage. How many days protection do you have? That’s the main thing.

    If you go below, say, 10GBs, you may have only a few days of points, less if you have had many events which caused points to be created.

    Monitor your SR over a number of days after you use this tip to see what I mean. It varies greatly from day to day. Are you adequately protected?

  26. dmt

    i turned off my restore and theres still about 13 gigs of unknown space used on my hard drive.how do i find and delete this.

  27. sandeep

    Hi All,
    I had a Sony vaio laptop with Windows Vista Home Basic Version.
    It come with one partition C drive.Defaultly it was given with one drive.
    I want to partion it into other drives.I want d,e Drives for m,y own files.

    How can i do partion to my hard disk without formatting the system?

  28. quepsi

    Worked like a charm…thx…

  29. veritas

    @DMT, you might want to check C:\ and see what you are taking up with hiberfil.sys and pagefile.sys — that will probably account for the remaining 13 gigs

  30. Eddie

    hi all

    just wanted to address what Fat Gooner said, you have to run it as administrator. What you do is when you open up start to run cmd (command prompt) instead of pressing enter you press Ctrl+Shift+Enter, then you will get a popup which is the User Account Control dialog, just click yes and it would running as admin.

    Cheers

  31. David

    Wow…great to find this, just to add to the post above, you can also right click on “cmd” and select
    “Run as Administrator” even if you are on your admin acct……you must do this.

    also, I set mine to 3GB about a month ago and it only kept 2 restore points…..not a good idea! and certainly nowhere near 15%. I reset for 37GB, about 11% for me. I have also noticed that it seems to use about 1gig per RP,
    I am going to go set the triggers now…lol if I can find the “how to” again.

  32. sarah

    Thank you sooo much, I just recovered about 12GB of missing disk space!!! I really needed it because my computer was running really slow after reinstallation.

  33. Map

    Neal… IBM/Lenovo had a backup software that they factory install which takes up a lot of space and the backups(automatic) are hidden. If you try with Windows Explorer you cant see them. Open your ThinkVantage Backup tool and try to delete some of the backup points and see your space reclaimed.

  34. Eric

    Thank you SOOOOOOOOOOOO much!!!!!!!!!!!

  35. Ronni

    I am so glad to find these posts about system restore. I have vista home premium sp1 and my computer uses at least 1g each restore. I am glad to see this is what should be happening.

  36. kenny

    Ok for the Lenovo owners if this trick does not recover the disk space then the lenovo rescue and recovery is the culprit.
    There should be a Lenovo care folder in start menu programs.
    You can find the rescue and recovery tool over there.

    Go to “Advanced > Delete Backups” ..to free up the space.

    Deselect the Scheduled backups under
    “Manage Settings > Set Schedule and Preferences”

  37. Les

    Thanks…. I needed this to increase my shadow storage to 200gb so that System Restore would stop removing the older entries. My C drive is only for the Vista system as all my programs are on other drives. Worked great.

  38. Paul

    Thanks to all the posters with solutions here – excellent work! Kenny the Lenovo backups were indeed causing the source of much unwanted disc usage. The annoything thing is that on a 160gb drive it was showing just 27gb of HDD usage with a file and folder analyser. Yet only 3GB free on the disc!

    The backups seems to be hidden from the file and folder analyser too which made diagnosis even harder.

    Thanks again to all on this thread.

  39. Taty Sena

    For the person who asked about XP. You don’t need the cmd prompt for XP. Just go to control panel, system. Find system restore and you can change the amount from there for each drive. Why on earth did they change that in Vista???
    For the person who said they couldn’t get permission, you have to go to start > accessories > right click on command prompt and select ” run as admin”. Just typing cmd on the search bar doesn’t give you that option. Hope that helps.

  40. Manny

    Thanks a lot bro!

  41. Taty Sena

    It’s sis, not bro, but you are welcome, bro :)

  42. Nigel

    Thankyou so much, my comp was using 113 GB !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  43. Yiyi

    Thank you so much.

  44. Yiyi

    Thank you so much

  45. Tony

    Thanks for the great tip….the thing is, when I now want to create a restore point I get an error message including ‘The task image is corrupt or has been tampered with (0×80041321)’. Any clues as to how I can fix this…?

  46. Tony

    DO NOT DO THIS WITH VISTA…..I did this and went to create a restore point & was hit with a message ‘Could not create the scheduled task for the following reason: The task image is corrupt or has been tempered with. (0×80041321)’. When I then click ‘ok’ to exit another message pops up ‘There was an unexpected error in the property page: The task image is corrupt or has been tampered with. (0×80041321) Please close the property page and try again’. I have been informed by a technition that this can only be rectified by re-installing (and wiping the hard drive clean) your Vista operating system. I’m running Vista Ultimate 64bit…so be warned & have a backup copy of your entire system to re-install from…

  47. Tony

    Ignore all that I printed above. The problem I had was related to another glich in my system with the only option left to rectify it was a complete reinstall of the operating system & now my computer is running like a well oiled machine (luckily I had it backed up on an external hard drive, strongly recomended). I also reduced the amount of space for system restore points from 22GB down to 3GB & everything is working great….

  48. Sashidharan

    That was an excellent write up which is very useful..

  49. Mike_in_Akron

    Ok, I have one question: Right now I have like 20 GB full of restore points and I run the command to shrink it down to say 5GB… when I do this, does Vista remove the oldest restore points during the resize??.. just wondering before I do this.

    thanks much

  50. Javier Pino

    Answering Mike…

    In my case, using the command deleted all my previous restore points.
    Even though I created one last night. It got erased too.

  51. Dipak

    Nice tip..Worked like charm, I could recover 56GB on sony Vaoi……….Thanks a lot bro….

  52. Jay

    OMG you’re a life saver. I was going nuts trying to figure out why I was losing gbs of free space with no files to account for it. Thank you very much.

  53. John L

    I may have come to this rather late but an excellent piece of information. I’ve been trying to track down why I’ve been loosing about 2GB a day on my Vista system! Even WinDirStat wasn’t that helpful, But now I know. Thanks a lot

  54. shah

    Someone asked how you can do this in xp. Well as far as I know, you can’t. But what you can do, is go to disk clean up. Then go to the more options tab. There is an option to remove all but the most recent restore point. I had never done this before and I freed up 7GB of data. This can also be xp and vista. However, if you frequently make changes to your computer, or have lots of problems with it, i’d go against doing it.

  55. ches

    Great Post.. I used winDir to show me the free space on my laptop hard drive and stumbled upon the unknown space taken up which was 10GB!!! It was the shadow storage all along
    Thanx Again

  56. Mai

    What are the implications of reducing my shadow storage from 4.4gb to 300mb?

  57. annette

    my shadow storage only takes up 800mb, and the max storage is 2gb. i only have 2.64gb free on my 68gb hard drive. i moved all of my photos and documents to an external hard drive, where they only take up 10gb.
    the only thing left on my laptop is my music library, which is about 9.5gb. i used windirstat to scan my computer, and it says that only 42.4gb of space is being used on my entire hard drive. there’s 25.6gb unaccounted for, plus winsxs is taking up 11.7gb. help me?

  58. Alex Todd

    Whoa… awesome information… totally just deleted about 86G of shadow copies because i didn’t know that small bit of information.

    big fan… thanks a million

  59. Alex Todd

    @annette… i had a problem with the winsxs thing that is taking up 12G on ur hard drive, i did some research on that, and basically found out that it is not to be messed with, but something you can try is… go to computer, right click (C:) go to properties, and there will be a box at the bottom to compress the drive to save disk space. Try that.

  60. Gordon

    Excellent post! I was “missing” about 200GB and this took care of it like a charm.

  61. capo

    i really need to change the maximum
    but it doesnt work for me! i entered the command exactly as written here.
    it tells me Eroor: A required option is missing
    how can i fix it?

  62. capo

    I read through the comments and i found out that i had to “run as administrator” and it worked :D
    saved me so much memory!
    i just wish i could kiss u! LOL
    thank a looooooooooooooot!

  63. AlexB

    Hi…I’d really like to try this, but I can’t run it as administrator. I’ve tried right clicking on it, but there’s no option, which is weird. I see it all the time if I right click on any old .exe. I’ve tried Ctrl+shift+enter too, to no avail. Any idea why I wouldn’t see the option to run as administrator? Thanks.

  64. Tking

    Fantastic! This works great! Thanks.

    BTW, I tried “/For=C: /On=D:” and got “Error: The specified volume shadow copy storage association was not found”.

    How do I put the restore points from one partition (C:) onto another (D:)? Just a small point to keep clutter off my system partition.

  65. lee

    i do this on every system i do now (make sure that the CMD is ran with admin Right click on it), this command works under Windows 7 but is not needed as they re added back the option to set the size of the shaddows and restore points (stupid in the first place removing it)

    vssadmin list shadowstorage

    so i can see how big it is (Just purely for my self intrest) then below, 10GB should be Plently for most users as if something whent bad they norm only need to go back 1 check point or an day or two

    vssadmin Resize ShadowStorage /For=C: /On=C: /Maxsize=10GB

    if other disks have it enabled you can replace C: with the drive letter

  66. Robert

    Great tip!

  67. Siddharta

    Thanks a lot, I bookmarked this page months ago … today I applied new settings.

    Siddharta

  68. techsurfer

    Thanks, very useful.

  69. Rob Neal

    Don’t mean to be scathing but . . .!
    I can’t believe that all you techno wizards don’t know the oh-so-simple solution to Restore Point excesses. Just download the free version of CCleaner (you should all be running it anyway!) and run it, go into Tools – System Restore, select the top restore point in the list which you want to delete, press and hold Shift, select the bottom res pt you wt to dlte (or hold down Ctrl while selecting several pts from the list), and press the “Remove” button. Bingo, all the nasties disappear. It even protects the most recent res pt by greying it to inaccessible, so it’s twit-proof too !
    I run CCleaner every time I shut down, and in the process remove all but three res pts. So my PC always runs like a spring chicken ! Smug smug smug.
    Rob

  70. daniel

    I have windows vista home premium running on a HP pavilion dv6500 notebook. My C drive has 66GB of storage, however only has 169MB free. The hard drive starting filling up rapidly about a month ago.
    I have tried: deleted unused programs, disk cleanup, defragmenting, CCleaner, extending partitions, turning off system restore, deleting shadow copies with disk cleanup, and read an extensive amount of forums talking about full hard drive problems but have not found an answer.

    On occasion I have been able to free up a GB or two by deleting old programs or removing pictures, however the free space disappears almost immediately.

    I have tried opening command prompt as an administrator and using the commands: vssadmin list shadow storage but only get an error message.
    When i try pressing ctrl+shift+enter nothing happens, no dialog box appears. I have also tried the commands such as:
    vssadmin resize shadowstorage /for=c: /on=c: /maxsize=3.00GB
    but nothing happens.
    I read somewhere that vista home premium does not allow users to manipulate shadow storage capacity, not sure if that true.

    any new ideas on what could be the problem would be greatly appreciated.

  71. stephane

    Thank You!!! I had 70.2 GB left on a 500 GB HDD and now I have 132 GB left. You’re a good Techie keep up the good work.

  72. Rachel

    I have done exactly the same as Daniel – done everything listed and still my space is missing Help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  73. daniel

    comforting to know somebody is having the same problem. I have still not found any solution. I am trying to avoid paying big bucks to have my computer looked at, or purchasing an external hard drive, but that might have to happen.

    I barely use my computer for anything besides music, which I only have 15GBs of on a 66GB hard drive. I find it hard to believe that my hard drive should be full.

    I suspected Netflix as the culprit, but found that to be a dead end. Then I looked into my itunes library being doubled up somehow but haven’t found anything there either. It is becoming a real nuisance, paying for help might be just around the corner.

    good luck

  74. mundubra

    To recover lost HDD space I have found running chkdsk and defrag over and over can recover the missing space

  75. daniel

    turns out my c drive was backing up onto itself, taking up all the space. Norton back up funtcions were set wrong.

  76. bc

    I read many accounts that 6GB is the ideal amount of space you should allocate for SR shadow copies:

    vssadmin resize shadowstorage /For=C: /On=C: /MaxSize=6GB

    What I do is once a week run DISK CLEANUP and selection the option to delete SR shadow copies. This will delete all but one restore point. You can do this at any interval that suits you, once every two weeks, once a month, whatever. When the max has been reached in the size you have allocated for SR restore points, the earliest point will be erased and the newest one will show and be available.

    6GB will give you approximately 3 to 5 restore points depending on much must be copied. Any more restore points beyond that amount is useless.

  77. Lewis77

    Hey there
    I have been trying the above with little success. In the command prompt i can get vssadmin /? to work which gives me a list of commands supported. then when i do vssadmin Resize ShadowStorage i get more info on volumespec and maxsizespec. but when i do vssadmin Resize ShadowStorage /For=C: /On=C: /MaxSize=5GB all i get is ‘the specified volume shadow copy storage was not found’. I get the same if i do vssadmin list ShadowStorage. I have checked the syntax but not had any joy. Any help anyone please? Cheers

  78. JIMMY

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  79. JIMMY

    i liike nipples in the morning

  80. JIMMY

    GOML

  81. 1337 Man

    @Wayne London
    You can remove the language packs that you don’t use.
    Go to Control Panel (not classic view)-> Under the Clock, Language, and Region category click “Change display language”-> in the window that opens there should be a button labled Install/uninstall language-> Self-explanitory from there.

  82. Zac

    Wow man. Just wow. I used the vssadmin list shadowstorage in cmd. 180.1GB allocated to shadowstorage. Dropped it back to 3GB, and now my disk has space again!
    Thank you so much – I wish Windows would make it easier to do this…

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