A few years ago I wrote an article on Ghosting Windows XP for Free with DriveImage XML. It’s proven to be one of the most popular articles on TipsFor.us. Back in 2007 I also wrote a complementary article on Ghosting Windows for Free using Open-Source Tools. I suppose you could say that finding free ways to “ghost” Windows is an obsession of mine.
One bit of criticism levied at these aforementioned methods is that they both require a fair amount of upfront work. A restoration using DriveImage XML requires the creation of a boot disc such as BartPE. Using open-source tools like ntfsclone requires mucking around with the command line – an intimidating process for a newbie. Yes, I said “mucking.”
Isn’t there an easier way? One that requires far less prep time with an easy learning curve? The answer is a resounding YES!
Enter Macrium Reflect FREE Edition. While the free version is the little brother to the commercial version, it still packs a mighty punch. Feast your eyes on a feature comparison as of 17 October 2008.
To successfully image and restore your system using Macrium Reflect, you will need the following:
- Windows XP or Vista (32 or 64-bit) – required to install the free version of Macrium Reflect, of course.
- CD or DVD burner – You need a place to store your backup image. Macrium allows you to burn it directly to CDs or DVDs.
- Spare Hard Disk or Partition (Optional) – Instead of storing the backup image on optical media, you may choose to simply store it on a spare partition or hard disk.
Before we begin, allow me to remind you to BACK UP YOUR DATA! Working with disk imaging is a volatile process, and you should always have backups of your critical files. Burn everything to CDs or DVDs. Buy a spare hard disk, or maybe take a look at available online storage. Do whatever it takes to keep your data safe.
Ready? Let’s get started!
Here’s an outline of the entire process:
- Install Macrium Reflect FREE Edition
- Configure Your System
- Create the Disk Image
- Verify the Disk Image
- Create the Rescue CD
- Restore the Disk Image
- Final Thoughts
1. Install Macrium Reflect FREE Edition
This is the easiest step. Download and install the executable (Download.com link). The installer will automatically detect whether you are running a 32-bit or a 64-bit operating system. Curiously, the installation process requires Internet access to validate the automatically generated serial number. After the installation is complete, launch Macrium Reflect.
2. Configure Your System
At this point you should configure your operating system to the way you like it. Here are a few suggestions:
- Make sure Windows has the latest security patches and drivers.
- Scan for viruses and other malware.
- Run a Defrag.
- Remove any unnecessary applications.
Ideally, I like to create a couple different disk images. I prefer to have one image of a freshly installed state, and another image that includes all my main applications.
3. Create the Disk Image
Now we’re getting to the fun part. One quick note here: I used VMware for the purpose of convenient screenshots, but the process is no different than if it were a real machine. I also tested the process on a spare computer, and it worked flawlessly for me.
To get started, launch Macrium Reflect, select the disk that you wish to image, and from the Backup menu, choose Create Image.
(Alternative – you could also open My Computer, right-click on the chosen disk, and select Create an Image of this partition…)
The Create Backup Wizard will spawn:
At this point you need to choose where you would like to store the disk image. Options include:
- On a spare partition or hard disk
- On a network share – Note: make sure your network share is using WORKGROUP as the Workgroup name.
- On blank CDs or DVDs
I suggest you also take a look at the Advanced Settings. Here you can choose the amount of compression and also set a maximum file size (for splitting purposes).
When you are done with the Backup Wizard, take a last glance over your settings….
Enter a name for the backup definition, and away we go!
It took me only 3 minutes to image my tiny VMware disk, so your mileage will vary. Go make a cup of coffee.
Now that your backup is complete, let’s talk about how to restore it. Please continue to the next page.