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This is a response to Anthony Cargile, who commented on “Vista, Previous Versions” from what I gather he wanted to try and say that Previous Versions in Vista is a copy of Time Machine.

Time Machine, the most touted feature of Mac OS X Leopard, the feature that Apple considered to be revolutionary was actually brought to us by Microsoft. First off, what is Time Machine? In simplest terms it is a versioning file system; it keeps tracks of different versions of your files as you change them. Apple is using this system for a means of incremental backups making it possible to not only restore files you deleted but files you changed.

Now versioning file systems have been around for a while, neither Apple nor Microsoft created that. However, Microsoft was first on integrating a versioning file system for backup purposes into Windows. Such a system was first introduced in Windows ME as System Restore. System Restore allowed the user to rollback changes made to system files, the registry, and installed programs to a previous state in the event of malfunctioning, failure, or user error. What System Restore didn’t do was mess with user files in anyway, (Files in “C:\Document and Settings” were never touched) so technically System Restore isn’t the same thing as Time Machine but rather the start.

When Windows Server 2003 came out it dropped System Restore (Unsupported but System Restore can be installed). To replace System Restore was Shadow Copy; it takes manual or automatic copies or snapshots of a file or folder on a specific volume at a specific point in time. In other words it makes a read-only copy of a file or folder at a specified time on a specified partition for use by backup software. Shadow Copy was actually introduced in Windows XP Service Pack 1 only in a limited form to make temporary snapshots. In Windows Server 2003 it was capable of making persistent snapshots to keep records for all the files on the partition up to a 512 max snapshot limit.

Moving onward to Windows Vista, System Restore was rewritten to make use of Shadow Copy. Windows Vista also brought with it “Shadow copies for Shared Folders” renamed to Previous Versions. {rewrite]Both of these systems pull from the same Shadow Copy snapshots taking up less resources then previous solutions.[/rewrite]

Now how does Previous Versions compare to Time Machine? For starters both primarily operate the same way in how they perform (we’ll refrain from going into the backend here). Granted, Apple must be given due credit for making the interface more user-friendly. There are a couple of problems with Time Machine despite the hype surrounding it.

First, Time Machine is turned off by default making it completely useless to the average user. Second, Time Machine requires a second hard drive available to work. The second hard drive must either be a Network Attached Storage device or a drive connected internally or externally.

Of course Previous Versions has its own flaws (or perks however you see it.) First, Previous Versions takes up 15% of the partition to store its snapshots for that particular partition. Second, Microsoft offers no official interface to Previous Versions for Windows Vista Home Premium/Basic editions.

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One Comment

  1. Good article, I was mainly making a reference to Apple’s having a feature that Vista does as well, something that Vista seems to do a lot. I’m not knocking Vista (hard), I just think it copied many features from other operating systems but in this case, you are correct, versioning file systems is nothing new at all.

    I recently partitioned my hard drive 11 different ways, and I installed leopard (OS x86) to one partition, and used another for time machine for the leopard install (not as useless as you think, I didn’t do that for hard drive failures as much as file restorations in case OS x86 fails an update or something).

    Good article overall, though.


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