Restart VSS Writers without a reboot

Having started working in my current IT support role a little over a year ago, I was shocked to discover that the general fix for Windows Server Backup errors caused by failed VSS writers was to reboot the server. I had in my previous role resolved this issue many times by restarting the service that related to the VSS writer. For example the “Microsoft Hyper-V VSS Writer” failure can be resolved by restarting the “Hyper-V Virtual Machine Management” service (vmms).

A list of failed writers on any given Windows server can be generated by executing the following command from an elevated command prompt:

Microsoft Windows [Version 6.3.9600]
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C:\Windows\system32>vssadmin list writers

For easier reference I personally export the results to a text file using the following:

C:\Windows\system32>vssadmin list writers c:\vsswriters.txt

Once completed you can easily open the generated file in notepad with:

C:\Windows\system32>notepad.exe c:\vsswriters.txt

Using the table below find the service for each VSS Writer that is in a failed state, make a note of each service name.

VSS Writer Service Name Service Display Name
ASR Writer VSS Volume Shadow Copy
BITS Writer BITS Background Intelligent Transfer Service
Certificate Authority EventSystem COM+ Event System
COM+ REGDB Writer VSS Volume Shadow Copy
DFS Replication service writer DFSR DFS Replication
DHCP Jet Writer DHCPServer DHCP Server
FRS Writer NtFrs File Replication
FSRM writer srmsvc File Server Resource Manager
IIS Config Writer AppHostSvc Application Host Helper Service
IIS Metabase Writer IISADMIN IIS Admin Service
Microsoft Exchange Writer MSExchangeIS Microsoft Exchange Information Store
Microsoft Hyper-V VSS Writer vmms Hyper-V Virtual Machine Management
NTDS NTDS Active Directory Domain Services
OSearch VSS Writer OSearch Office SharePoint Server Search
OSearch14 VSS Writer OSearch14 SharePoint Server Search 14
Registry Writer VSS Volume Shadow Copy
Shadow Copy Optimization Writer VSS Volume Shadow Copy
SPSearch VSS Writer SPSearch Windows SharePoint Services Search
SPSearch4 VSS Writer SPSearch4 SharePoint Foundation Search V4
SqlServerWriter SQLWriter SQL Server VSS Writer
System Writer CryptSvc Cryptographic Services
TermServLicensing TermServLicensing Remote Desktop Licensing
WINS Jet Writer WINS Windows Internet Name Service (WINS)
WMI Writer Winmgmt Windows Management Instrumentation

Using the list of service names complied from the above table restart each of the services, this can be achieved from services.msc or an elevated command prompt.

Right click on the service, and then, on the Action menu, click Restart.

Elevated command prompt
Execute the following to stop the service:

C:\Windows\system32>net stop VSS-SERVICE-NAME

Once stopped the service needs to be restarted with:

C:\Windows\system32>net start VSS-SERVICE-NAME

Once the necessary services have been restarted check the status of the VSS Writers:

C:\Windows\system32>vssadmin list writers

The relevant VSS writers should now show as stable with no Error.