Purge stale shadow copy data in Windows Vista


Some versions of Windows Vista comes with Volume Shadow Copy, a souped up version of the system restore function of Windows XP. Now, not only registry and core files are restored but any file on a protected drive can be restored to an earlier point in time.

If this feature is enabled on a drive, Windows Vista sets aside a significant amount of disk space to keep the old copies. Supposedly this space can be reclaimed by using the Disk Cleanup feature. I had partitioned my hard drive and installed Windows Vista. When reinstalling Windows Vista I only reformatted my system drive and later noticed that a large amount of disk space was not accounted for when adding the sizes of all folders on the drive.

It turned out that Volume Shadow Copy was not enabled on my data drive after the reinstallation, but the data was kept from the previous installation and just wouldn't go away. To see the shadow storage I opened a console as administrator and typed 'vssadmin list shadowstorage'. I enabled Volume Shadow Copy on the data drive and ran the Disk Cleanup, before I disabled Volume Shadow Copy. No luck.

From what I have been able to tell, the Disk Cleanup feature does not work in this case. When I did the same thing but instead of the Disk Cleanup function issued the following command (still in the administrator console) it worked:

vssadmin resize shadowstorage /For=D: /On=D: /MaxSize=300MB

Put user data on another disk in Windows Vista

By default, Windows Vista, like all previous versions, insists on saving user data on the same disk as the system files. This may be fine for many people but I really don't want it to work that way. Before Windows Vista, you could edit the registry to move the folders around. Now in Windows Vista, Microsoft has added support to move the folders directly from within the file explorer which, in theory, should simplify matters. However, it doesn't always work and many applications fail to save in the new location. What is even worse, it appears to be impossible to change the location of the public folders from the GUI – even though the text in the GUI states that it is possible.

Realising that doing the changes via the GUI was totally worthless I tried to find another way. What worked very well for me was to change the two keys ProfilesDirectory and Public under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Windows NT \ CurrentVersion \ ProfileList.

The change to the key Public affects all users in the system whereas changing the key ProfilesDirectory only affects accounts that are created (or rather when the user first logs on) after the change was made. I recommend you create an Admin user at the end of the Windows Vista installation process, make the changes to the registry and then add normal accounts for the users who will use the system.

As always, be very careful when changing the registry as a mistake could potentially wreck your system.

Use Ubuntu Live CD to backup partitions

After having run Windows Vista Ultimate unactivated for some time I decided it was time to install it properly and take a full backup of the system drive at intermediate steps along the way to be able to back-track later.

I could have used the built-in Volume Shadow Copy service, perhaps together with DriveImage XML. I did try that and even made a slipstreamed boot CD using Bart PE to be able to restore the system.

However, I wanted a little more control and the potential of being able to boot off a USB stick when restoring. I also wanted to backup to and restore from a network based NAS (in my case a DNS-323). Besides, Volume Shadow Copy is only available on Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate whereas this method will work for virtually any system.

For the time being I have settled on the following process.

a) Download and burn the Ubuntu 7.04 desktop CD and use it to boot your computer

b) Start a terminal window and change to root

  > sudo su

c) Add repositories by adding /etc/apt/sources.list and uncommenting the two lines for universe repositories.

  > nano -w /etc/apt/sources.list

d) Update the sources and install partimage and smbfs (answer yes when requested)

  > apt-get update
  > apt-get install partimage
  > apt-get install smbfs

e) Mount the NAS over the network using the samba file system driver.

  > mkdir /mnt/backup
  > mount -t smbfs -o username:[login] //[ip]/[share] /mnt/backup

Replace the parts within square brackets with whatever is appropriate in your case.

f) Run partimage and select the partition to save and the filename where the image should be placed (somewhere below /mnt/backup where the network NAS share is mounted).

  > partimage

Stop capitalising 'i' in Outlook

For years I have been annoyed by the fact that Microsoft Outlook insists on capitalising the letter 'i' when I write email. In Swedish 'i' means 'in' and is not to be capitalised like the pronoun 'I' in English. It was not exactly apparent how to stop this AutoCorrect (bad name in this case) feature.

For me, the 'bug' didn't manifest itself all the time but only when I wrote mail in plain text.

One would assume that application wide options for Outlook could control this behaviour. I could uncheck the 'Replace text as you type' option but that removed all corrections which was not what I wanted.

It turns out that the way to change the behaviour is to change the AutoCorrect options from within a plain text email (i.e. not from the main Outlook window). Just remove the i/I pair from the list of corrections. After that, 'i' will not be changed to 'I' in future emails.