Windows 7 backup file management.


  • One of my users with a lot of data is getting a backup drive full message.
    Does Windows 7 backup automatically manage deleting old backups so that new backups will fit on the drive?
    I am assuming this is the way it works because it only makes sense.  I just need confirmation.

    Monday, March 15, 2010 1:17 PM


All replies

  • Hi,

    When you get the notification that backup drive is full, a pop up appears in system tray and takes you to Manage Space Wizard. If you have missed or disabled the pop ups you can also go to Manage Space wizard from Backup and Restore control panel.

    From there you can free space on your backup disk by selecting which backups to delete and also configure how windows manage space occupied by system image backups.
    Unfortunately backup does not support automatic deletion of older backups. For more information on how to manage space for Windows backup:


    Wednesday, March 17, 2010 5:25 AM
  • Most unfortunate.
    I need a backup system that works unattended.  I can't be going around manually deleting old backup files on all my user's machines.

    Thanks for your answer, Neha.

    Thursday, March 18, 2010 1:28 PM
  • We appreciate your feedback. But as our backup is incremental and backs up only changed files after first run, we do not suspect backup drive to get full every now and then.




    Friday, March 19, 2010 11:17 AM
  • But what happens, if the files are really huge? How can you not expect the drive to get full, if the only tiny change that happens is with a 10GB file.

    I hope this gets fixed, as the current implementation is just outright useless.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 12:04 PM
  • But what happens, if the files are really huge? How can you not expect the drive to get full, if the only tiny change that happens is with a 10GB file.

    I hope this gets fixed, as the current implementation is just outright useless.

    I also want to voice my displeasure with Windows 7 backup.  Developers should take a look at history and give us a solution as useful the 13 year old NTBACKUP.
    Thursday, April 22, 2010 3:12 PM
  • nehaaMSFT, you say that "we do not suspect backup drive to get full..."?


    What a stupid, and ignorant statement! It assumes that you 1) know the maximum size of the backup drive(s), 2) you know the size of the original data being backed up, 3) you know the size of the increments of each successive backup, and 4) you know the frequency of the backups and change of increments.

    Once in a programing class (Algol and Lisp) at Syracuse University the professor asked a question of the class. A fellow classmate answered with the opening statement, "I assume..." That is when the professor cut her off with the infamous statement as he wrote it out on the board, "When you ASSUME, you make an 'ASS' of 'U' and 'ME'".

    You have, or Microsoft has, done just that with you, me, and the others using the Microsoft Backup system in good faith.

    I am an independent software contract/developer. It doesn't take long for me to massage a multi-gigabyte file, a serious of them, on a daily basis such that I am seeing increments of 90 gig or more. I backup up the system once a day (in the evening when not programming).

    In the short span of one (1) month I have filled to capacity a terabyte drive. A good software backup program would have the option to overwrite old files, delete files after a particular age, or keep all data. What you have done is say that we do not have the option, and you know better.

    Sorry, you are mistaken. And experience has taught that if I have the problem, so do others (and not a few.)

    thank you

    Thursday, January 27, 2011 4:09 PM
  • Dear Microsoft et al -

    What is really lame is the fact that, AFAICT, there is no way to delete more than one backup set at a time.

    So, for last month, I have about 25 backup sets.

    I only want to save 1 of these.

    So I have to single-select each one to delete and wait 10-20 for it to delete and refresh the screen.

    Do that 20+ times and you will really fell like you are wasting your time.

    There has GOT to be a better way.

    Please help Microsoft et al.

    (I am hoping I am wrong about the missing-multi-select-for-backup-deletion-- but, I tried CTRL+CLICK and SHIFT+CLICK to no avail.)

    Thank you.

    - Mark Kamoski


    Friday, June 03, 2011 1:50 PM
  • I don't know whether to laugh or cry.  


    I have very large files.  These files change frequently.  Only slightly.  This results in large incremental backups that fills up the backup drive.  Microsoft's solution is that I keep manually deleting them?  


    This is the sort of thing that makes people want to take a baseball bat to their computers.


    In my opinion the backup tool in Windows 7 is about the worst designed software in that OS.  It makes the ancient ntbackup tool look very powerful and advanced.



    Thursday, August 25, 2011 9:42 AM
  • I ran into the same shortcomings of Windows 7 backup after migrating. My situation: I want to backup only files and settings to a network drive where I have a couple of GB's assigned. This backup should run daily, e.g. at noon. Because the major part of the backup is consumed by Outlook PST files (about 1GB) that change daily, I get a "backup drive full" message after 3 days. 

    I created this workaround, that deletes old backup files just before a new backup is started, using a batchfile:

    • Open Notepad and enter the following line:
      where <DRIVELETTER> and <BACKUPFOLDER> are the settings you entered in Windows backup (e.g. H:\backup)
    • save this file in a suitable folder with the extension .BAT, e.g. as D:\documents\Del_Old_Backups.BAT
    • Go to Start-All Programs-Accessories-System Tools-Task Scheduler
    • On the menu bar, select Action - Create Basic Task
    • Chose a name, e.g. Daily delete backup files, then click [Next]
    • Select trigger frequency (daily, weekly,...), then click [Next]
    • Adjust start date and time. In my case, I entered a time 2 minutes before the backup is started (11:58 AM). Click [Next]
    • Click [Next] (leave the "Start a program" bullet unaffected)
    • Click [Browse], and point to the batch file you created in the second step. Click [Next], [Finish]

    I agree that this workaround can hardly be called "solution" because it will not be waterproof for all users. Reason it is for me, is that our network drive is backed up every night (using - I presume- a more sophisticated backup tool). So even if my harddisk would crash in the 2 minutes between deleting the old backup and creating the new one, my files are safely stored on tape somewhere.
    Now you may wonder: why don't you just save your files directly on the network drive if this is already backed up automatically? Well, even though our network is pretty reliable, it can be sluggish every now and then. So I'm still a believer in local storage.

    Hope this workaround can be useful for some of you!

    Wednesday, February 01, 2012 3:09 PM
  • To make matters worse, you can't even delete multiple backups at the same time!!!
    Tuesday, February 21, 2012 2:43 PM
  • I haven't known this until today, I have been using windows 7 for a year or more. I thought the system is backing up correctly.  I have never expected such an idiotic "by design" backup system.  only today I was checking the space on one hard 500GB I thought it was full because of recorded TV shows, but I noticed they are only 140GB. the rest are backups.  managing backups require me to delete old files one by one.  what the hell?    the designers must be idiots or simply a bug you don't want to acknowledge, rather you resort to the claim that this is a feature for our "own good". 

    We pay a lot for Microsoft Windows that we soon will have to upgrade and buy the new one.  you have to develop the ability to listen to us and correct such incomplete and idiotic features.   an automatic backup system by design should be able to manage space, to keep the backups fresh.  what's the benefit if I gonna have full backup so old because your system so stupid to delete old data and make new ones?  Add options that allow us to choose between your "system" and standard auto-backup system.  I believe it's not difficult.   when you say windows include auto backup system, then that backup system not works as it should, that's a deceptive practice.    This is like selling an operating system that can't manage the memory on its own.  

    Your assumption that backup drive won't be full is so crazy . have you not expected we gonna use Windows 7 for more than a month or what?  it's incremental like you said, means it will increase over time eventually will get full. then I have delete 20 backups?    I only have 5 backup files and old full image backup .   glad I didn't need those backups yet.  so stupid 

    Friday, April 20, 2012 2:23 AM
  • I agree with everyone's disapproval of Windows Backup because of this ridiculous oversight in not having a feature for the automatic deletion of old backups or even letting users delete more than one backup period at one time! 
    Tuesday, June 19, 2012 7:02 PM
  • This is a really old issue, to be sure. Most of us have moved on to other backup programs because of this shortfall in Windows 7. I just wanted to say that, as a generally helpful person, troubleshooting silly issues like these for friends and family are what make helpful people reaaaaally annoyed. I've helped tons of people fix tons of windows problems with TeamViewer and this one takes the cake for the most repetitive and time-consuming. I can't teach my grand parents the series of 7 clicks to delete old backups, so I have to do it myself. Every month or so. Plus 3 other family friends. Every month! Probably 4 to 5 hours of my life is gone every month finding and deleting and waiting for old backups to delete. And I'm a computer nobody. I can only image how this must feel for people who actually have to manage many computers using this software.
    Tuesday, August 07, 2012 1:26 AM
  • "most of us have moved on to other backup programs"

    Like what?

    Really, I'm in the market for something that will:

    Make a full system back-up once a month

    Make incremental back-ups once a week

    delete the oldest full back up (I'd like to keep two ... the beginning of this month and the beginning of last month)

    delete the incremental backups prior to the full back up .... so at the beginning of this month, a full back up is run, I don't need the previous incremental back-ups

    So, any software solutions out there?

    • Edited by Catsnkites Friday, September 14, 2012 2:50 AM
    Monday, September 10, 2012 5:38 PM
  • The other problem with the Windows backup is it also needs to have the ability to use the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th day of the week and NOT to just pick a random day 1 through 31 to run backups.  If you manually edit the backup task you can select these options which I thought was nice but if you go back and look at the backup from Backup and Restore you will see that Windows now thinks the backup is not setup.  The backup will still run that way but if you want the user to have the ability to to restore their own files they can't unless they know how to set the backup routine up again.  The ability to set ANY and ALL options should be available and not limited especially when you are running the enterprise version.  You pay more for the higher end versions hoping you have more functionality but it is the fine details that make it more useable and we are not getting that.

    In the end you you have to jump through hoops to delete old backups because there is no option to remove backups older than xx days or to be able to set your backup to run on the 4th Thursday of the month.

    Tuesday, September 18, 2012 12:28 PM
  • my C drive has about 80GB used.  Windows Backup disk space manager for the 500 GB backup drive shows Data file backup 218.44 GB, System Image 204.91, free space 37.28 GB.

    This is insane, and to think this operating system is not free, INSANE!

    Friday, December 14, 2012 7:59 PM
  • This "delete no more than one at a time" thing is absolutely retarded.  Too bad nobody in this thread has yet suggested a better solution.
    Friday, December 14, 2012 8:03 PM
  • Like Portlander above, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I found this thread "alive and kicking" after 4 years. I too have stuggled all this time to master Windows 7 backup and still haven't succeeded! I have managed to back up what I believe to be the essential for the past year or so (data files mainly) albeit through playing with the settings as the default Windows settings just don't work for me (believe me I've tried everything).

    So, content with my weekly back-ups which Windows reported were "effected correctly" for a year (I'm working with the French Windows so some of my message interpretations in English may not be exact).

    Anyway, decided recently to give the computer a complete overhaul - delete all unused programmes, clean out unwanted files etc. I didn't want to go a complete re-install for obvious reasons, and I accept that my (Acer Aspire 9920G) computer is a bit long in the tooth, but nevertheless does what I need.

    First problem - I find I've got 57,000 (yes that's right) temporary internet files hidden in System Volume Information. Only by working with Foldersizes (v6) (a really neat appli which I might even buy when the 15 days free trial is up) did I get to see and get rid of this crap. So I came to my backups and particularly the System Image Restore Points discussed in this thread. These went back to 2009 so I just wanted to get rid of all the old ones and only retain the most recent. Believe me I tried everything (disable restore and reboot etc. etc.) which I've found on the many forums dedicated to the suject with no success. Finally I decided to format the hard disk I'm using to back up. Well, that worked for all the System Image Restore Points created automatically when backing up to that physical drive which miraculously disappeared. BUT I'd used another physical drive from 2009 to 2011 and those System Image Restore Points still appear in:

    Control Panel>System Protection>Restore System>Show Other Restore points

    Worse still, when I click on Look for Programmes" on the earliest restore point (2009) I find that Windows could try to reinstall all the crap I've cleaned out and ignore all the programmes I've installed since. And I can't see how to get rid of all these early restore points.

    Anyway, moral of the story (sorry it's been a bit long).

    1. My computer mag tells be that Cobian Backup is a good free alternative to the Windows 7 appli. I'm going to disable the Windows backup and go that route when I've finished this post.
    2. I've been with Windows (and MS Office) all my PC life and was quite looking forward to trying Windows 8 and get a new touch-screen computer in the New Year when Windows 8 (Pro or whatever not RT) is available. Now most likely I'll just go Android. I really do think that Microsoft has lost the plot.

    Still not sure whether to laugh or cry!

    Saturday, December 22, 2012 10:44 AM
  • Fully agree. I had to go and spend $44.00 for Macrium Reflect to get the features that should be present in MS Backup. In Macrium, I can set a limit to the number of backup sets to be retained, and the program will purge the oldest set whenever I run a full backup (I do this weekly). This purges the last full backup and all associated incremental backups, thereby keeping my disk space at a fair constant level.

    There is probably a cheaper program that does this - have to look around, but Macrium is feature rich.

    They also have a free edition, but this only supports disk imaging, not file backups.

    ASUS CM-6850 Intel I7-2600 CPU, 16GB RAM, 1 TB HDD, 180 GD Corsair Force 3 SSD, Windows 8 Professional 64 bit

    Thursday, March 14, 2013 11:58 AM
  • I just deleted a whole set of backups in seconds because my disc was showing 'full': I used Windows Explorer, found the backup folder (USER-PC with a disc backup icon)  to select and delete multiple folders then emptied the Bin (Trash?). When I clicked first time it said I didn't have access permission, but pressing 'Continue' allowed me access. The same happened with deleting the backup folders. Hope this helps.
    Wednesday, June 12, 2013 4:27 PM
  • We appreciate your feedback. But as our backup is incremental and backs up only changed files after first run, we do not suspect backup drive to get full every now and then.




    Wow. "we do not suspect backup drive to get full every now and then."

    I cannot believe you would make such an ignorant assumption. You have no idea about how large our backups are, how often we perform backups, how large our backup storage is, or how often we make modifications to our files.

    Your reply was not only unhelpful, but really showed the pure ignorance of Microsoft with this matter.

    Sorry if this reply sounds harsh, but you could not have been anymore incorrect with your statement.


    Friday, July 26, 2013 5:03 PM
  • Not only that, but Neha's statement is false.

    My backup set is 18 GB, every time it runs, day after day.  There's no way they are backing up incremental changes.... 

    Furthermore, if that was true, if you deleted old backup sets, you would have NO BACKUP AT ALL.

    I don't understand the difficulty in building a decent backup engine, we had this in the 1970's on VAX computers, VAX/VMS was the model NT was built from.

    The same can be said for FTP.  Microsoft cannot build an FTP client that works in active/passive mode.

    It doesn't make any sense how they can get so many things right, and a few things horribly wrong.

    Thursday, August 29, 2013 7:57 PM
  • Try scripting this to delete the oldest backup

    diskshadow /s C:\shadow.txt


    Delete shadows OLDEST G:

    Where G: is your backup drive letter

    Thursday, November 06, 2014 6:34 PM
  • that reply should not have been marked as answer. tkonte's reply suggests what's needed. A scheduled script to do removal of old backups and creation of new ones. Does anyone have a diskshadow script ready, with some comments what each command does?

    For example for backing up the C: drive to D: and if the space is not enough remove some of the old backups.

    Christmas spirit all year long Please remember to vote on useful replies. Mark answers. Help to answer questions of others while you are visting the forums. Thank you.

    Wednesday, December 09, 2015 10:10 AM