Macrium Reflect Free Review – VSS, Compression & Disaster Recovery

After using Macrium Reflect Free for a while, I can sum it up in the three words I used in the title. Macrium Reflect employs the Volume Shadow Copy Service in Windows to create a disk image and hence is faster than any of the other free imaging software in its category. It can compress the captured images up to 40%, thereby allowing you to save more snaps/images in your backup device. Finally, it offers a bootable method that allows you to boot and restore your system drive in no time. And above all, it is completely free. This review of Macrium Reflect is my experience with the software.

Macrium Reflect Free Review

Macrium Reflect Free Review

Macrium Reflect is a disk imaging software; it is free, and it is the best if you ask me. The first thing to do after installing a fresh copy of Windows and tuning up programs I use, Macrium helps me create a snap that I can use in the event of a spoiled system drive. As far as the disk drives are same, Macrium Reflect can help you restore the drives properly. However, if you have changed the drive size or added more drives to the hard disk drive, your new settings will be gone.

That much risk is associated with any paid disk imaging program as well. When you go back into time by x number of weeks, you are bound to lose the changes you made to the system in those x weeks. Leaving that aside, here are the reasons why I call Macrium Reflect, the best free disk imaging software:

  1. Employs VSS Service, Hence Fast: Most of the disk imaging and cloning software rely on Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service. So does Macrium’s disk imaging software. The outcome is a faster imaging. If you wish to know, here are some details of Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service. The entire process has to be completed as fast as possible. When Windows uses it, the service employs few seconds to one or two minutes to create images. Macrium Reflect takes a little longer, but that does not mean hours of waiting. For restoring too, VSS is used, and hence that part is faster as well. If you compare all this with manual backup, you are saving hours and hours of time… or days?! With the imaging, you can continue your work while the image is being created. That is a plus point compared to back up programs.
  2. Compression: As said earlier, Reflect can compress the disk images up to 40 percent. That means the ability to store more copies of backup. Whether a scheduled backup or a manual one, you get to store more copies of backup on whatever backup device you are using. You will need a CD to boot to the PE environment in either Windows or Linux environment. Once there, you can use the backup device to restore the copy you wish.
  3. Ease of Use: Though the processes are complex if you look at the working, the GUI helps you get the work done easily – both when backing up and during restoration. To boot restore your system, you have to get BART PE, or WAID PE integrated into the restore CD. This integration is done automatically while you are using the backup and restore wizard.

Setup Confusion

The initial installation screen calls free version as Free/Trial, making you wonder if you are installing a trialware. But no, it is the free edition of Macrium Reflect so go ahead with the option. The installation is a bit longer if you opt to download and install PE as well. But I recommend that as you would or may need a bootable CD and PE serves that purpose, allowing you to boot to Windows or Linux – according to the operating system you use.

Using Free Macrium Reflect Imaging Software For Windows

Create Restore Media

The first step I recommend is creating a Rescue Media soon after you install Macrium Reflect. From Other Tasks menu, select Create Rescue Media. Select your operating system and click Next. The second screen sounds a little complex as it is for Advanced Users who know how to handle PE atmosphere. Just click Next with the defaults selected. Before clicking Next, make sure you have an empty CD/DVD in your DVD drive. That disk will be prepared for booting in future – in case the system drive goes corrupt.

Click To Enlarge

Click To Enlarge

NOTE: You may also opt to make it a bootable Pen drive. PE supports booting both from DVD and USB. In case you do not have anything ready, select to create an ISO image that will store to your local disk. You can later use the ISO to create the bootable disk or Pen drive.

Schedule backups

Once you have the restore media, you are all set to schedule backups. You can also go for manual backups. Macrium Reflect will recognize all the disk drives on your computer and present them in an understandable format. To image or clone a drive, select it and click on the link that says Image This Drive or Clone This Drive as required. You can select a Folder to create images that can be used post booting from the Rescue Media.

Fig 2 - Macrium Reflect - Creating an Image

However, using an external media is recommended by experts. You can use a Pen Drive or another Hard Disk Drive or even a DVD. I would say use DVD only if the other two options are not available, as DVDs too tend to get corrupted by scratches etc.

When creating images, you get to select compression level and other options including if to shut down the computer after imaging/cloning. And yes, you can also select Reflect – the best free disk imaging software – to image only those sectors on the drive that contain data thereby making the backup file size even smaller.

Macrium Reflect 7 Free Edition includes the following new features:

  • Integrated viBoot 2: Instant virtualization of Macrium backup images.
  • Task Scheduler 2: For compatibility with Windows 10 1605 (Anniversary Edition) and later.
  • Licensed for Commercial Use: Macrium Reflect 7 Free Edition is now licensed for use in a business environment.

You can download it from its home page.

In this review of Macrium Reflect, I left out certain features that are easy to understand. You can check the Macrium Reflect Tutorial, and this Macrium Reflect video tutorial which shows you how to use Macrium Reflect Free.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN