Macrium Reflect Free

Offer nearly complete control over how you wish to re-instate your backup images.

Our Score
Our Score
License Free (Limited features)
Easy to use, fast and stable; restore individual files; works with Linux file systems; clone hard drives including the working system partition; schedule backups and great compression.
Recovery options can be confusing for the novice user.

Overall, the program does its intended job efficiently, however running into licensing validation issues can leave you with some serious problems in an emergency. Macrium 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 number before you can start using the program. Also the WinPE recovery disk will not function correctly if the software is not registered. 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 you intend to mount and explore an existing image you have created, there is no reason this should run on start up.

Image Creation

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 the backup location. 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 using 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.

One very important factor to note though is on my test system I have a small 100MB partition created by Windows to contain the boot files, etc. Running Macrium, I selected partition “C” to backup. 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 well if you are an experienced user. 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! Nope, unless you use 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 them, 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 system). After that, you are 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.

Image Recovery

For testing the Image Recovery process, I created and booted using their Linux recovery iso image, 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 but a nightmare for the novice. Some of those options 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. Even 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, it is not something I would like to take for granted. My test image however was restored successfully with time taken 17 minutes.

There is also a few tools under other tasks, like 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: The new version includes incremental and differential backups along with improvements to the Win PE Rescue environment.

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