Time Machine – In Windows Vista?

When Apple OS X Leopard (10.5) was launched, one of the biggest marketing points was the inclusion of Time Machine.

time-machine-modeTime Machine is the backup program that goes on automatic when using OS X and backs up every file on your Mac automatically to an external hard drive. If you ever want an old version of a particular file, just find the file in Finder and then activate Time Machine. You’ll take a very graphical trek into time (pictured to the left) where you can find the old version of the file you want and restore it.

But, did you know that Windows Vista has something somewhat similar to this? Yes it does and it is called Shadow Copy.

Shadow Copy is built into all versions of Windows Vista, although only Vista Business, Enterprise and Ultimate have the necessary GUI setup to work with it from Explorer. But, the idea is that it allows you to browse back in time and restore a file from a past restore point. Shadow Copy is more or less the replacement for System Restore in Windows Vista. If you are running Vista, it runs by default as a Windows service.

Using Shadow Copy, you can restore a single file relatively easily. To do so, right-click on the file you wish to restore. You can also right-click on an entire folder. Then choose “Restore Previous Versions” from the context menu. You’ll be presented a list of dates for which you have restore points for the file. Click Open to view it as it was on that day. To restore, just hit Restore.

If you are not running a version of Vista which has this built into the GUI, you can still use the system by downloading a utility called ShadowExplorer. Using that program, you can browse to a particular restore point in the date dropdown, then find the file or folder you wish to restore and select Export.

An Equivalent to Time Machine? No.

On the Mac, Time Machine backs up every hour. In Windows, it creates restore points on a schedule you set. Usually once a day. Any file you wish to restore would need to be tied to a restore point. A restore point is just that – an entire set of files for your computer so you could restore the whole thing. So, given the nature of it, this is certainly NOT Time Machine. Apple’s Time Machine is much easier to use and is much more thorough in the backups it does.

Also, Time Machine is set to back up to an external drive. Windows Shadow Copy creates restore points on the system hard drive. This defeats the point usually because hard drive failure is one of the more common reasons to have this type of system in place.

So, Shadow Copy certainly should never be your replacement for a good data backup policy. Mac users, Time Machine can be your backup policy and you need not worry about it aside from that.


  1. You might wana check this out if you’re interested in a Time Machine for Windows! It still has not been released yet.. but from the looks of the site, it seems to be amazing! cant wait to get my hands on it

  2. Genie Timeline http://www.genietimeline.com
    Windows Time Machine

  3. Nathalie says:

    You might want to try TimeTraveler from Bears on the Loose. It presents all Shadow Copies on a timeline integrated in Windows Explorer. You simply move the time cursor on the timeline to bring Explorer back in time and look back at your files and folders. It has a comparison feature that is really useful. You select two points-in-time (shadow copies), right-click on a file or a folder in the list view and select “Compare Points-in-time”. TimeTraveler then launches the best comparison tool (a tool that can show file differences using a side by side presentation) it can find on your machine for the selected file type. Furthermore it lets you create, delete, and schedule shadow copies. You can also configure the storage used by volume shadow copy. You can find it at:


  4. Check this out if you’re interested in Apple’s Time Machine and have a Windows platform OS.


    Can’t wait to get my hands on Genie Timeline…

    Apparently, its features include Realtime CDP, endless file versions for files as they existed in the past, automated backup, window’s integration to the core… utilization of VSS (volume Shadow Copy Service.

  5. Genie Timeline is released FINALLY .. i have downloaded it, and the interface is soo simple i like it a lot !!

  6. Disclosure : I work for Altaro Software


    If you want your time machine for windows check out Oops! Backup – http://www.time-machine-for-windows.com/time_machine_for_windows.php

    It will be in BETA soon and we are looking for BETA testers – BETA testers will get free licenses 🙂 Worth looking into it (and getting it for free if you BETA test it) instead of paying for Genie … especially considering that Oops! is probably faster, more featured and easier to use then Genie 🙂

    Subscribe to BETA from here – http://www.time-machine-for-windows.com/download.php


    David Vella – [email protected]

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