Recently, I bought a one terabyte external hard drive and Macrium Reflect backup software as you recommended. But now I’m very much confused about two features of it… and that is “Create Backup Image Wizard” and “Backup Files and Folder Wizard”. What is the difference between the two? What are the respective purposes? I’ve Googled about this and even searched on your site, but I couldn’t figure it out, so I finally decided to write you my first
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Images vs. Files
They are two different things. It’s actually very confusing and very important to understand the difference.
A backup “image”
When you create a “backup image,” you are creating an image of the hard drive, of all of the data that’s stored on the hard drive. So what that means is:
- You’re backing up all of Windows;
- All of the programs that you have installed in Windows;
- All of the settings;
- All of your data;
- All of everything that happens to be on the drive that you’re backing up.
- You create an “image” of a drive.
So, you might backup by creating an image of your C drive.
Backup files and folders
Usinf the files and folder wizard (“backup files and folders”) means that you are choosing not to backup everything, but in fact, you will determine which folders are going to get backed up:
- So you might elect to then backup only your documents.
Recovering from a failure
A hard disk drive failure (which is in my opinion the biggest reason for backing up) is going to take away everything on the hard drive. That means you would want an “image backup” to restore to a replacement hard drive.
Backing up files only
Now, on the other hand, there are definitely scenarios where you don’t need to do that.
- You may have other ways of dealing with hardware failure;
- Or you may be backing up for other reasons.
In which case backing up only your documents, or only the files you choose to backup, may be an appropriate way. It certainly uses less disk space. Clearly, if you’re only backing up your documents, that’s going to be significantly smaller than backing up your entire computer. Your entire hard disk includes not only your documents, but all of Windows and all of your applications;
So it really depends on specifically what your intent is behind creating this backup.
Image backup is safest
In most cases, what you want is an image backup. You want to be able to restore everything and anything.
And that’s the other virtue of an image backup. When you are creating a file and folder backup, you need to be right. In other words:
- You need to know everything that it is that you want to back up and list it.
- You have to tell Macrium, “Backup everything in this folder”, “Backup everything in that folder…”
- If you miss a folder, if you forget a folder, it’s not going to get backed up.
If you create an image backup, then everything on that hard drive gets backed up; And I do mean everything! Everything except the space that isn’t used.
Recovering with your backup
What that means is that you can use that in either of two ways – the scenario that I mentioned earlier:
- Your hard drive fails;
- You replace the hard drive;
- And then you restore that image onto your replacement hard drive;
- And you pick up where you left off.
Or if for some reason, you suddenly realize, “Oh, crap! I deleted a file yesterday that I didn’t mean to delete,” you can still use that image backup to:
- Go and extract just that single file;
- And restore just that single file,
No matter what file it was – because the image backup included everything – including that file.
So, like I said, in general, in most cases, I honestly believe that most people want “image backups” for their routine backups, for their ongoing maintenance, for their disaster preparedness.
“Files folders backup” is something that you would consider generally for special needs… and I’ll put it this way: I don’t use it. I only do image backups of my machine. That’s all I need; that’s what my backups are for.
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