The Win­dows driveimag­ing tool is fine for oc­ca­sional im­age-based back­ups, but if you want to reg­u­larly back up your en­tire Win­dows in­stal­la­tion with­out run­ning out of drive space—handy if you want to test soft­ware, then roll things back with­out mak­ing per­ma­nent changes to your sys­tem, for ex­am­ple—you need a tool that of­fers dif­fer­en­tial backup im­ages, such as Macrium Reflect Free ( www.macrium. com/re­flect­free.aspx). Dif­fer­en­tial im­ages only record the changes made since the last backup was taken, re­duc­ing their file size dra­mat­i­cally.

Once in­stalled (cre­ate the res­cue me­dia when prompted, in case of dis­as­ter), click “Cre­ate an im­age of the par­ti­tion(s) re­quired to back up and re­store Win­dows.” Select a suit­able lo­ca­tion on your backup drive, and click “Next.” Click the “Tem­plate” drop-down, and choose “Dif­fer­en­tial Backup Set” to cre­ate a sched­ule that makes a monthly full drive im­age, then daily dif­fer­en­tial im­ages—select “Dif­fer­en­tial,” then “Edit Sched­ule” to change this (to a weekly sched­ule, say).

To pre­vent drive space from run­ning out, tweak the “De­fine Re­ten­tion Rules” by weeks, days, or num­ber of back­ups. Click “Next” to re­view your set­tings—click “Ad­vanced Op­tions > Auto Ver­ify Im­age,” and check the box to au­to­mat­i­cally ver­ify your drive im­age after it’s cre­ated. Click “OK,” fol­lowed by “Fin­ish.” You need to en­ter your ac­count pass­word to en­able sched­uled back­ups, and Macrium is set up to back up au­to­mat­i­cally go­ing for­ward, but you need to cre­ate your first backup: Switch to the “Backup Def­i­ni­tion Files” tab, select your backup def­i­ni­tion file, and click “Run,” choos­ing “Full” from the drop-down.

If you’re dili­gent, cre­ate an­other backup job from here to pe­ri­od­i­cally back up to an al­ter­na­tive lo­ca­tion—a net­work drive, say—to pro­vide an ex­tra layer of re­dun­dancy for your Win­dows in­stal­la­tion.

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