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I have a 500 GB USB-disk which has been used as a backup device for a few years now, but now fails without telling me why.

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This is a Dell box with Intel USB-controllers (so the NVIDEA problem does not apply here). I have previously had problems with a Git package marking a non-existent directory for backup (adding it make the backup succeede). The inaccessible boot partition problem described in Windows Backup fails with 0x80070002: "The system cannot find the file specified" does not apply to me.

I would appreciate hints on where to look to identify why my backup fails so I can fix it.

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Have you made any system changes recently or altered any back up paths? – Dave Nov 23 '12 at 10:46
I have installed and uninstalled a few programs and done regular Windows updates (nothing pending). I have local administrator rights. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Nov 23 '12 at 11:22

In my case this message coincided with this command output

vssadmin list shadowstorage
No items found that satisfy the query.

and the backup completed after this command

vssadmin resize shadowstorage /for=c: /on=c: /maxsize=1%
Successfully resized the shadow copy storage association

so that the output is changed to

vssadmin list shadowstorage
Shadow Copy Storage association
   For volume: (C:)\\?\Volume{GUID}\
   Shadow Copy Storage volume: (C:)\\?\Volume{GUID}\
   Used Shadow Copy Storage space: 0 B (0%)
   Allocated Shadow Copy Storage space: 0 B (0%)
   Maximum Shadow Copy Storage space: 1.117 GB (1%)
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