Failed Backups In Windows 7

backupwindows7-3Windows 7 has a lovely built-in backup routine – significantly improved from Vista’s backup program. You can attach an external USB hard drive and set up scheduled backups to it in a few seconds. (Windows 7 Professional can back up to a shared network folder or NAS, also.) It runs automatically and reliably, even waking the computer up from sleep if the backups are set for the middle of the night. By default it saves an image of the entire computer in addition to backing up individual files – multiple ways to restore your computer and your data when necessary.

For no particular reason, I just got three separate reports about backups that threw up an error message similar to the above, complaining that the “backup did not complete successfully” – two on Windows 7, one on Vista. Error codes are either 0x80070005 or 0x81000037. The details are not very helpful – “Windows Backup failed while trying to read from the shadow copy of one of the volumes being backed up.” “Access is denied.” The error codes are very general.

A Google search will turn up a few complaints about similar failures with those error codes, but no definitive answers. These are the tips I saw most often. If you have a problem with backups that won’t complete, try one of these and run another backup. If it fails again, try another one.

  • Open your antivirus software and delete any files that have been quarantined. This apparently helped some users of Microsoft Security Essentials as well as other security programs.
  • Open your antivirus software and turn off real-time scanning. This allowed me to complete a successful backup of a computer running Microsoft Security Essentials today, and again there are reports of the same thing happening with other security programs. This is obviously not a good answer! It can’t be automated to the best of my knowledge, and you can’t run your computer without real-time virus scanning.
  • If you have added a shared network folder to any of your Windows 7 libraries, try removing it. Many people reported that the presence of a network folder somehow interfered with the backups.

[I can’t resist mentioning that following that notion leads to an incredibly arcane Microsoft support note (KB973455):

“By design, Windows Backup does not traverse reparse points on a computer. However, if a reparse point is directly added to a Windows 7 Library, or if any of the child nodes of a reparse point is directly added to a Windows 7 Library, Windows Backup traverses these locations. This could cause several issues during the backup process.”

Those darned child nodes of reparse points! Little scamps. I should have guessed they’d be up to no good.]

  • Remove the APPDATA folder from the backup. Apparently the backup program can choke if files are locked during the backup, although the the backup routine is built on technology (VSS aka shadow copy) which is supposed to keep this from being a concern. This worked for me on one computer tonight. The steps to do that:
    • In Backup and Restore Center, click on Change Settings.
    • Click on Let me choose.
    • Expand the User’s Libraries section, then expand Additional Locations.
    • Uncheck AppData folder.



Unfortunately Vista does not allow the files selected for backup to be customized that deeply. I’m experimenting with unchecking Additional files to fix a failed Vista backup tonight.