Set up snapshots
The Windows drive-imaging 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 you’ve installed Macrium Reflect Free (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, then click Next. Click the Template drop-down menu, 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, for example).
To stop you running out of spare drive space, tweak Macrium Reflect Free’s 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 menu.
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.