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I hope serverfault is the right place for this - if not, please tell me where to post it.

The situation is the following: our company has a WebDAV fileserver running on a Windows Server 2012 that I am now in charge of. My boss wants backups of every change of every file, so that we can easily revert from any unwanted change. Example cases are a user deleting a file or (part of) the content of a file by accident, and us being able to restore the deleted file or being able to revert to an earlier revision of the file.

The plan was to use the shadow copy system that's integrated in Windows and its "restore previous versions" functionality. Problem is, I can't get that to work - all I ever get is "no previous versions available", even though shadow copies of the drive are being made regularly. After some digging, I found that this functionality was removed for local files in Windows 8 because it impacted performance and apparently wasn't used much in Windows 7 and is now available only for network shares, and although I haven't yet found a proper source on this, I suspect that the same is true for Windows Server 2012.

Now the question: Is there any way to get this functionality back in Windows Server 2012? Or is there something I've missed to get it to work?

And if that isn't possible, what are alternatives to get this kind of functionality? It would be enough to be able to revert things directly on the server as admin, the users don't have to be able to do it themselves. Important is that it's not a daily/hourly backup, but that every file change is saved and can be undone.

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/Edit : Tony is correct. Netware's filesystem had this, and so does VMS, but Windows doesn't have versioning, which is what you're asking for. You could use SharePoint with checkin/checkout and versioning to get this, however.

My original answer for your question about access to the UI for "previous versions" :

The answer is right in the article you linked. Access the 2012 Server's fileshares from another machine using either a network path or mapped drive. You'll be able to access the UI that way.

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  • Unfortuantely I don't think shadow copies will accomplish the requirement noted in the last sentence. – tony roth Aug 13 '13 at 16:45
  • if you really wanted to you could fire off a shadow copy on a file system write event.. but somehow I don't really think thats the best idea. – tony roth Aug 13 '13 at 18:32
  • Thanks, I will propose that as a solution. Is there a way to setup SharePoint or one of the other systems so that the user works with a standard WebDAV network drive and his/her changes are checked in automatically? We have a lot of really tech-unsavvy users for whom editing their excel files on the server is technical hurdle enough, and I fear that every solution that alters their workflow the slightest will either result in lots of support calls or be blocked off by my boss from the start. – Christian Aug 14 '13 at 7:26
  • Anyway, thanks for the help so far. This task is growing a lot bigger than it sounded in the beginning (which was bascially "Turn on versioning by enabling shadow copies", which I, never having configured a Windows Server before, naively really believed to be that simple). – Christian Aug 14 '13 at 7:30
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Configure Shadow Copy of Shared Folder in Server 2012 describes how to enable shadow copies on Windows 2012 and 2012 R2. I tried it on R2 and it works.

The steps are:

  • in Explorer right click on C: and select the menu item Configure Shadow Copies...
  • a dialog appears with settings for each drive in the system. Here shadow copies can be enabled, configured, run and scheduled.
  • (more in the linked article, with screenshots)

After that one can open the Properties dialog of a file and in the tab Previous Versions select, open or restore older versions of the file.

NOTE: (as far as I know) Shadow copies run on schedule and not each time a file is changed.

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So, it's not exactly proper versioning, but at least I have a solution for using Shadow Copies. I'll share it here in case anyone has the same requirement of using Windows shadow copies at all costs.

I have found a tool called ShadowExplorer, which let's you browse your shadow copies and extract single files or folders from it. We have now agreed to use that solution and let the server make new shadows every two hours. If anyone needs step-by-step instructions, those can be found here.

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