How to Back Up Your Windows Installation With Macrium Reflect
Modern versions of Windows are much more resilient to problems than their ancestors. They also come equipped with tools that can attempt to fix any issue that pops up. In a worst-case scenario, there’s always the option of reverting your OS to its initial state or reinstalling it from scratch.
And yet, those options can be far from optimal. They can be complicated, time-consuming, and demand a lot of input from you.
That’s why keeping full backups of your OS with a tool like Macrium Reflect is much better, as we’ll see here. With such backups available, when catastrophe strikes, you’ll be able to restore your computer to its most recent working state in mere minutes. Let’s see how.
How to Download and Install Macrium Reflect
The first step for backing up your system with Macrium Reflect is downloading and installing the app. So, visit Macrium Reflect Free’s wensite, and scroll down a bit to find the download links.
Macrium also offers trials of the “Workstation” variant of the app. Skip those and download the “Macrium X Free” version (where X is the number of the version, which at the time of writing is “8”). Then, install it.
Backups are useless if you cannot restore them. To do that, you need access to the app that created them. Since we’re talking about operating system (OS) backups, you’ll need access to them from “outside” the OS. That way, if something catastrophic happens to your PC, you can still get to its backup.
For that, you’ll have to create “rescue media”. Such media, usually in the form of an optical disc or a USB Flash Drive, allow you to boot your computer from them to access the software within.
Once done, you’ll be able to boot from your rescue media in the future, even if you can’t reach your OS’s desktop. You can then run Macrium Reflect without issue and use it to restore the most recent backup of your OS.
To create a Macrium Reflect rescue media, run the app. Then, perform the following steps:
- Expand the Other Tasks menu and choose Create Rescue Media.
- Insert an optical disk in your CD/DVD recorder or connect the USB Flash Drive that you want to turn into rescue media. Then, choose the appropriate option from the window that shows up. Note that for this guide, we went with a USB Flash Drive.
- If you wish, click on the Advanced link at the bottom of the window to customize your rescue media further. The defaults should work OK for most cases. However, it’s worth paying a visit to those options for more “fringe” usage cases.
- Do you need support for BitLocker encryption?
- Do you require your rescue media to be usable on legacy systems with low screen resolutions or the first generation of the SAMBA networking protocol?
- Does your hardware require extra drivers to work?
- Would you like to change the rescue media’s default base OS?
Still, we won’t dive into such options in this guide, for most users should be fine skipping them altogether.
- When you’re happy with your selection, click the Build button on the bottom right of the window, to start creating the rescue media. You’ll also need to accept an agreement that you’ll only use the created media for personal, non-commercial use.
After that, wait a while, and soon your rescue media will be ready. Now all you need to do is put it away somewhere safe but easy to get to in case your PC encounters a critical error.
How to Back Up Your System With Macrium Reflect
With your rescue media ready, you can proceed to the actual OS backup. Macrium Reflect makes the process easy by offering an option for the purpose.
- With Macrium Reflect up and running, expand its Backup menu and choose Backup Windows.
- Macrium Reflect will detect and select for backup all Windows-related partitions. Still, it’s worth checking its selection. In some cases, it can also choose to include in its backup plans partitions you’re using for storing data. You might want to skip those to keep your OS backups small and their creation process swift.
- Use the button on the right of the Destination > Folder field to choose where you want to store Macrium Reflect’s backups. Then, choose a secondary storage device like an external HDD or any other device apart from the one where Windows is installed, with enough storage space.
- You can customize your backup’s name if you wish. Apart from typing whatever you want, Macrium Reflect also offers some unique “keywords” you can include in a backup’s name. To see them, click on the button with the bracket on the right of the Backup File Name field. Macrium Reflect will replace them dynamically during backup with data like the date, OS version, etc.
- The next step is to Select a Template for your Backup Plan. You can use that drop-down menu to choose from various such plans, including “Grandfather, Father, Son”, “Differential Backup Set”, and “Incremental Backup Set”. We won’t expand on them since Macrium Reflect does an excellent job explaining how they differ.
- If you want to customize your backup plan further, click on the Advanced Options link on the bottom left of Macrium Reflect’s summary window. From there, you can change the backup file’s compression level, choose to copy only data (default) or make an exact copy of each partition, add a password, etc. As before, we won’t go over those options since the defaults should be fine for most people.
- When you’re happy with your settings, click on Finish on Macrium Reflect’s backup plan summary window. You’ll be offered the option to run the backup immediately if you wish, and save it as a definition file that you can reuse for creating similar backup plans in the future.
If you’re trying to back up your OS to a new external hard drive, you might meet some extra roadblocks. For example, your PC might refuse to recognize your spanking new storage device. Thankfully, we already have an article on the topic, so, feel free to check it out to find what you should do when Windows is not detecting your external drive during backup.
How to Update Your Backup in the Future
When you perform a backup, you’re taking a “snapshot” of your PC as it was when you made it. As such, you may like to update your backup in the future to better reflect what your PC looks like since you made the initial one.
Macrium Reflect can automatically update your backup based on the plan you chose when setting it up. However, sometimes you might want to update it manually—for example, before installing a questionable piece of software.
- To do that, select the Existing Backups tab under Macrium Reflect’s main buttons toolbar. Choose your backup from the list on the bottom right of the window. Then, click on the New button above it.
- You’ll have two options for updating your existing backup, despite what you chose for its plan: Differential or Incremental. Macrium Reflect explains how they differ when you select a backup plan.
The rest of the process is self-explanatory. When it completes, your backup will be updated to reflect your OS’s current state.
Restore Your OS From a Backup
To restore your OS to a previous state using Macrium Reflect’s rescue media, boot your PC from it.
The way to do this also depends on your particular motherboard, so you should check its manual for more information. You’ll usually be able to press a key like F11 when your computer powers on to choose from which device to boot. Alternatively, you may have to change your storage devices’ boot sequence through your motherboard’s BIOS/UEFI menu.
Once you’re booted into Macrium Reflect, it’s time to restore your backup.
- Wait for the rescue media’s lite OS to boot and then for Macrium Reflect itself to load and detect your storage devices. When you see its window, move to the Existing Backups tab, and click on the Browse for an image file link under Image.
- Navigate to the storage device and its subfolder where you stored your backup, and choose the backup image. Then, click on OK.
- Finally, click the Restore button, and follow along to return your OS to its state during the backup. The process will take some time, depending on your storage device’s and PC’s speed.
If you like what Macrium Reflect “does”, but you find its interface complicated, check out our article on how to perform effortless Windows backups with Veeam Agent. With that solution you’ll be trading some of the extra control Macrium Reflect offers for a more straightforward and streamlined backup process.
Backed Up Peace of Mind
By keeping a complete OS backup available, you’ll be able to revert any changes and undo catastrophic problems almost in no time. Whenever you wish, boot from Macrium Reflect’s rescue media, and choose your backup. Then, let your PC revert your OS to a previous state while you make a cup of coffee or catch up on your social media.
After the initial setup we saw here, you won’t have to overthink it again and only turn to your backup files when needed.