Support - Exchange - How to activate the Exchange 2003 VSS Writer when using SBS 2003


When you run Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 the Exchange Server defaults to disabling its own VSS Writer.


Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 comes with Exchange Server 2003.  Exchange Server 2003 supports two methods to backup the mailbox stores.  The first method uses an API that was built into older versions of Exchange starting with Exchange 5.5.  This API allowed backup programs to directly interact with Exchange to backup and restore the email data.

As of Windows 2003, Microsoft introduced Volume Shadow Service (VSS) into the operating system.  VSS allows backup programs to directly access files on disk that are locked and in use.  Exchange 2003 and higher supports the VSS approach to backup and as of Exchange 2008 this is the only way to backup Exchange mailbox stores.  Exchange 2008 dropped support for the API route.

The Exchange 2003 Server within SBS 2003 supports both the API approach and the VSS approach but defaults to the API approach and disables its own support for VSS.  It is best to backup Exchange Mailbox Stores using VSS since this is required for message level restores.  You can enable VSS support within SBS 2003 by making a single registry entry change.


The first thing to do is to check to see if Exchange 2003 in SBS 2003 is configured to support VSS or if it has been disabled.  To check for VSS support:

  1. Open a DOS shell (Start -> Run and type CMD) and type:
  2. vssadmin list writers

If you see Exchange in the list of Writers then Exchange has been configured to support VSS.  If you do not see Exchange listed in the list of writers, then you will need to make the following change in the Registry.

  1. Go to the computer running SBS 2003
  2. Open a DOS shell (Start -> Run and type CMD).
  3. Type RegEdit
  4. At RegEdit go to the following key:
  5. HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\MSExchangeIS\ParametersSystem
  6. Double Click on the key labeled "Disable Exchange Writer Value"
  7. Change the value from 1 to 0 and save your changes. This is somewhat of a double negative to enable the writer.
  8. Next you will need to stop and start the Microsoft Exchange Information Store service:
  9. Right Click on My Computer and select Manage
  10. Expand Services and Applications and select Services.
  11. Select the service Microsoft Exchange Information Store and right click to stop.
  12. Then repeat and choose to start the service.

To verify that Exchange has changed to support VSS you can open a DOS shell (Start -> Run and type CMD) and type:

vssadmin list writers

You should see Exchange in the list of Writers.

The next backup of the Exchange Mailbox Stores will use VSS.


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