To begin with, I wouldn’t call Windows 7’s backup program a disk imaging program exactly. Yes, it can create what we would call an image backup. But the term “disk imaging utility” really implies, to me, a lot more functionality than the Windows 7 backup program actually has.
While the Windows 7 backup program is perhaps the first utility built into Windows that meets what I consider the bare minimum necessary for a backup program, I definitely prefer solutions like Reflect.
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Windows 7 Backup
One of the biggest issues I have with Windows 7’s program is that I have a very hard time telling exactly what it’s doing. Because backups are so incredibly important, I want things to be clear and complete. In Windows 7, the interface for backing up data only is confusingly melded with the interface for creating full image backups. You have little control over just where things go, and not a lot of control over exactly how the backups are created.
That being said it is, as I said, the first backup program to come with Windows where I feel comfortable saying, yes, if you do nothing else, go ahead and use it.
Defining the bare minimum
So, what’s necessary?
- Full image backups that you can schedule to happen automatically.
- A controlled and obvious way of managing your disk space so that you know what you’re getting.
- The ability to restore not only a full image, but to extract individual files from that image.
- Some sense that the backups are reliable and will be there when you need them.
The big risk I see with using Windows 7’s own backup program is actually kind of an odd one.
Microsoft has a very poor track record with maintaining backup compatibility across Windows versions. Windows XP backup images, as I understand it, are readable only by Windows XP backup. That just doesn’t help you if you’ve moved to, say, Windows 7 and need to recover a file from an old backup.
Windows 7 backup images are in .vhd format (Virtual Hard Disk). That could and should be readable not only by Windows 7 backup, but by other programs as well.
And lastly, Windows 7’s backup just feels like an afterthought in many ways. It’s as if it’s there because they needed to have something – they needed to check a box – not because they wanted to create a really good robust backup system.
Macrium Reflect, on the other hand, is a program that is specifically architected to back up your computer. It has all of the features we might want and then some.
The interface can be a little confusing, it’s true, but I have yet to find a backup program that meets all those minimum requirements and isn’t somewhat confusing. It is very clear about what it’s doing when you set up your backup, while the backup is happening, and when you need to restore.
And, yes, I’ve written, Saved: Backing Up with Macrium Reflect to help you get the basics set up and to recover when the time comes.
Reflect works on XP, Vista, 7 and 8. And, Reflect installed on any of those can read backups created on any of the others.
I just believe it’s a more robust solution created by people who are actually trying to create the best backup program. And ultimately; robustness, power and features aside, I have to say that I simply trust Macrium more.
And when it comes to backups, trust is incredibly important.