Download the video: free-quick-640x360_512kbps.mp4.
One of the common questions I get after talking about image backups is “Great – how do I make one?”
There are many ways and tools with which to make image backups. Detailed instructions will vary, of course, depending on exactly which tool you want to use.
In the brief video linked above, I’m going to show you the steps to create an image backup using Macrium Reflect’s free edition (there’s a link to the transcript of the video at the end of this post). This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive how-to, but rather a very quick demonstration of just how easy it can be to create an image backup. As brief and simple as it is, it’s possible that this may be all you need to create your own backup image.
Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
Macrium Reflect Free
You can get Macrium Reflect Free from their website, here. Be sure to get the free version, and not the trial version of their paid product. The free version is all we need for this.
Download and install it as you would any other application downloaded from the internet. Naturally, that means always choosing the non-default or “custom” install, if there is such an option, and paying careful attention to the options presented. Macrium has no history of including foistware, but it’s a habit you should always use when installing downloaded software.
Once installed, run Macrium Reflect. It will present you with the user access control dialogue, since it needs administrative level access.
It may ask if you want to create a rescue disk.
We do not need to create a rescue disk at this time. That is something you would use if you needed to restore the image at some later time, and you can make the rescue disk when and if you ever need it.
Backing up the system
Macrium then presents a display of all of the hard disks found on your system. On my example machine, I have two internal disks and one external (our backup drive).
Click on Create an image of the partitions required to backup and restore Windows. That automatically selects the disk we boot from as well as the C: drive on that disk.1
This will back up the system drive.
The destination is going to be our external drive, which, in the example above, is attached as z:. (It may be a different drive letter for you.)
We’ll use the image ID as the filename. If you prefer, you can specify a more descriptive name to help you remember what it is.
Thats it! The backup proceeds.
After starting Reflect, it took only four clicks of the mouse to make it happen.
The backup process
How long the backup takes depends on many factors, including but not limited to:
- The amount of data on your hard disk to be backed up.
- The speed of your internal hard disk.
- The speed of your external hard disk.
- The speed of the connection used for your external hard disk (USB2, USB3, your LAN, or something else).
- The impact of other software running on your machine at the same time as the backup.
- …and probably more.
It could be minutes; it could be hours.
The result of a backup
If we look at the results of the example backup using Windows Explorer, we see a backup image file on my external backup drive.
Macrium Reflect creates “.mrimg” files that contain whatever it is you’re backing up, be it one drive or many, one partition or many. Should you need to restore, that’s the file you need.
But what about restore?
I want to be very clear here: having the backup in the first place is much more important than knowing how to restore. Once you have the backup, you have options, including learning to restore the entire image, picking out individual files to restore, or finding a knowledgeable friend or technician to do it all for you.
As long as you have a backup image, you have options. Without it, you don’t.
Nonetheless, “How do I restore?” is the question that people always ask every time I talk about creating a backup.
Performing a full restore is beyond the scope of this article, but I will show you one handy trick: double-click on the mrimg file.
Reflect will run, if it’s not running already, and will bring up a dialog box to ask you to specify a drive letter.
Check the box in front of the partition listed – the C: partition, for example – and Reflect will propose a default drive letter to assign. You may change that to another letter if you like – I selected drive “O:”. Click OK.
The contents of the entire image file are now available for examination in Windows Explorer, just as if it were another hard disk: drive “O:”. You can see what the image contains, and even copy files out of the image, using normal Windows copy operations.
When you’re done, just right-click on the drive in Windows Explorer, click on Macrium Reflect, and click on Unmount Macrium Image.
You now have a backup
The bottom line is, we’ve created an image and we can see what that image contains. Save that for a rainy day, just in case something ever goes wrong.
As I mentioned, this article is simply a brief overview of exactly how simple creating a backup image can be. In many cases, this is all you ever need.
There are also several articles covering Macrium Reflect – both the current version as well as previous ones – here on askleo.com. I’ve linked to several in the Read More section below.
If you want to learn more about backing up with Macrium Reflect, including how to schedule your backups to happen automatically, how to manage disk space, and the complete answer to that oh-so-common question “How do I restore?”, I do have a book on the topic that goes into all that and more: Saved! Backing Up with Macrium Reflect. It’s available as a downloadable PDF bundle with an accompanying video course, and as a standalone book in PDF form, as well as on Kindle and paperback from Amazon.
You can check it out and buy your copy here.