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Windows Server Backup: delete old backups

Posted on 2014-10-12
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Last Modified: 2014-10-14
I have a client with Windows Server 2008 that is using Windows Server Backup.  The immediate problem is that the backup drive has just filled up.  It has 440 copies on it and I'd like to delete most of them.

There is just a pair of drives in RAID 1 configuration in a single partition (C:) and the external backup drive for which I have temporarily assigned the letter E: to make the commands easier.

From an elevated prompt, I typed the following:
wbadmin delete systemstatebackup -deleteoldest
(also tried -keepversions:20 with the same result)

and got this result:
C:\Users\Administrator>wbadmin delete systemstatebackup -deleteoldest
wbadmin 1.0 - Backup command-line tool
(C) Copyright 2004 Microsoft Corp.

Enumerating System State Backups ...

ERROR - No system state backups were found - only full volume backups
are present. This command can be used to delete system state backups only.

When I run:
wbadmin get versions
I get a list of (likely all 440) backups.  All are similar to this (with different dates):
Backup time: 10/11/2014 9:00 PM
Backup target: 1394/USB Disk labeled zzzzzzW 2011_10_14 15:34 DISK_02(\\?\Volume
{03a23a16-f69e-11e0-b6ce-0019d160c5ce})
Version identifier: 10/12/2014-04:00
Can Recover: Volume(s), File(s), Application(s), Bare Metal Recovery, System Sta
te

This tells me that there ARE System State backups, regardless of the result from attempting to delete the oldest.


Then I tried deleting the shadow copies with vssadmin.  To start with, I tried listing them with:
vssadmin list shadows /for=c:
and I get:
No items found that satisfy the query.

I tried again with a different "/for":
vssadmin list shadows /for=e:

and it succeeds at listing them.

I then tried deleting with:
vssadmin delete shadows /for=e: /oldest
and I get:
No item found that satisfy the query.

I tried it with c:
vssadmin delete shadows /for=c: /oldest
With the same result.

From what I read in the docs on these commands, I'd have expected "/for=c:" to be the proper option, but clearly it was not when enumerating the shadow copies.

So.... a few questions:
1)  How do I get rid of the old backup copies?
2)  Is it correct for vssadmin to use the drive letter of the backup drive rather than the drive from which the shadow originated?
3)  Why do I get the error about "No items found..." with vssadmin?
4)  Why does wbadmin tell me that I don't have System State Backups when the list shows that I do?

Thanks in advance for assistance with this.
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Question by:CompProbSolv
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Expert Comment

by:Larry Struckmeyer MVP
ID: 40376272
IIRC, WSB 2008 is an image and incremental backup based on blocks of changed data.  So as the target drive fills up WSB should remove the oldest increment (or two or three) to make room for the new.

AFAIK, when the space cleared by WSB is not enough for the new changed blocks the drive should be cleared back to the initial backup and a new incremental should take place.  

If this is not working for you, I would install a new target drive of 2 TB and start a new chain.
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Author Comment

by:CompProbSolv
ID: 40376342
I thank you for your response, but I don't think it addresses the questions that I posed.

It is not working for me.  As evidenced by what I posted, it does not appear to be clearing old information.  If I do install a 2T drive as you suggest, it will certainly work around the problem for now, but I expect that I'd be in the same situation when it fills up.

The total space used on the server drive is about 80G.  The external drive is 500G.  That seems as if it should be more than adequate.

I have considered a 2T drive, but there are the issues with Windows Server Backup and advanced format.  It is a challenge to find drives that you can be sure will work with it.
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Accepted Solution

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noxcho earned 500 total points
ID: 40376486
Look here: http://community.spiceworks.com/topic/373234-windows-server-backup-delete
Especially the .doc document from Ideweaver.
And look here as well: http://michlstechblog.info/blog/windows-backup-with-diskshadow-exe/
Frankly speaking Windows Server Backup is not a flexible tool. So I would recommend you having a look on a third party backup tools such as Paragon Hard Disk Manager, Shadow Protect from StorageCraft etc. They have a good retention to work with the old images.
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LVL 21

Expert Comment

by:Larry Struckmeyer MVP
ID: 40376799
If I do install a 2T drive as you suggest, it will certainly work around the problem for now, but I expect that I'd be in the same situation when it fills up.

Sorry, I was not clear.  My thoughts were that the drive was the issue, not WSB.  Not the size, but something about that drive that was not allowing WSB to function as designed.  Really, it should be automagical.

It is a challenge to find drives that you can be sure will work with it.
True.  One way is to use WD Red drives in the carrier of your choice, and I have had excellent results with WD Passport Ultra, a 2 TB 2.5" external drive.

However, your situation seems to be strange.  This should just work if you are simply running the backup routine, pointing to the USB drive, selecting image backups and maybe excluding a few folders.

No clues in the backup report?  No errors in the Event viewer?
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Author Comment

by:CompProbSolv
ID: 40380711
@noxcho:
Diskshadow did the trick!  It is not at all clear to me why the others would not, but that is less important now.

I was able to delete multiple oldest shadows by a simple script file with the command duplicated numerous times.

Thanks!

As far as WSB in general, I've found it useful and the price is certainly right.  The main issue that I have with it now is the problem with 4k-sector drives.  Other than that, it tends to do what my clients need.
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Author Closing Comment

by:CompProbSolv
ID: 40380718
For anyone else that runs into this problem, the following will allow deletion of a specified number of oldest shadows:

1) Create a text file (call it DelOldest.txt) consisting of the following line repeated as many times as you want shadows deleted: delete shadows oldest e: (where "e:" is the drive letter for your backup drive; you may have to temporarily assign a letter in Disk Manager)
2) Run CMD as an administrator
3) Change directory to where you put DelOldest.txt
4) Type: diskshadow -s DelOldest.txt
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Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 40380890
Thanks for feedback. Btw this Hard Disk Manager I mentioned above does not have this problem with 4k disks like WSB in 2008r2. And Microsoft fixed this problem for WSB in 2012R2 as far as I know.
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