Macrium Reflect Free
Offer nearly complete control over how you wish to re-instate your backup images.
Pros & Cons:
Overall the program does its intended job efficiently, however running into licensing validation issues can leave you with some serious problems in an emergency... The software on the face of it is user friendly enough but as I also stated in my test unless you fully understand what you are doing you may think you have a working system image but later come to find out you do not! Macirum in my opinion is for the more advanced user rather than the novice as it does offer you more or less complete control over how you wish to re-instate your backup images whilst still being user friendly.
After installation you will be presented with a registration pop up box that contains a serial key specific to your machine upon clicking "ok" an internet connection is required to authorize the serial before you can start using the program, also the WinPE recovery disk will not function correctly if the software is not registered... Now those are two major negative factors for me that can present problems if you come to do an emergency recovery and the software is not pre-installed.
Macrium also installs an Image Mounting Service set to Automatic run upon Windows start-up (like most others do) this can be safely set to "Manual" as the program itself will start this service if your intending to mount and explore an existing image you have created, there is no reason this should run on start up.
Creating a backup is pretty straightforward, Select the partition and click the icon with the folder and drive above it, you will then be presented with a pop up window where you can select backup location, now this can be another hard drive (or even the same hard drive but different partition other than the one you intend to back up for obvious reasons) across a Network or straight onto a CD/DVD burner. If you click on the advanced button you will then have the option to set compression level, Intelligent sector copy (This uses the Windows VSS) or an exact copy (clone) and also split file size.
Lastly there are check boxes to run the backup now and also create an XML file for scheduled or on-demand backups... On a 15GB partition with 8GB used for Windows 7 the backup process took 12mins to complete.
One very important factor to note though is on my test system I have a small 100MB partition created by Windows 7 to contain the boot files etc, now within Macrium I selected partition "C" to backup now in my opinion it should have detected that this was a system partition and the boot files are actually missing because they are on the hidden 100MB partition, that is all very well if you are an experienced user but if you're a novice and end up with a failed HDD and come to restore that image alone you would find it will not boot ! not without using a Windows Install DVD to rebuild and re-instate the boot files (Windows Repair CD won't re-create missing boot files, repair and copy them yes but create no).
So the lesson to learn here is if you see a 100MB partition and you're doing a system backup then make sure you do a backup of that partition also, you only need to back it up once and not on a regular basis (unless you like messing with multi boot systems that is) after that your ok with just backing up the main system drive "C"... If you're backing up just data drives then of course the 100MB partition is not needed... Not all Windows installs have a 100MB partition (I won't go into the reasons why here) so if you don't see one in the Macrium Partitions window then do not worry about it... It's not there your system does not need it
For testing the Image Recovery process I created and booted using their Linux recovery.iso, presented with a few options here, Where to find the image, set the partition as Active or Primary, Verify the image before restoring, Master Boot Record replacement options and finally options to test Windows integrity after the image restore process...
Wow lots of questions and options great for the advanced user a nightmare for the novice, some of those options I know for a fact would have rendered my test system in a bad state had I selected the wrong one's given the fact I did not create a back up of my 100MB System Reserved partition, Though the question pertaining to the MBR suggests that possibly Macrium has the ability to re-instate said boot files and BCD store onto the recovered partition, not something I would like to take for granted though... My test image however was restored successfully time taken 17mins.
There is also a few tools under other tasks to Verify your Image and Backup Files, Create either Linux or WinPE bootable rescue media and the ability to check your live file system for errors prior to backup.
NOTE: Version 6 is now free and includes incremental and differential backups now along with improvements to the Win PE Rescue environment.
Macrium Reflect Free was reviewed by Gizmos Freeware on based on version 6.1.1366.