I didn’t know Macrium Reflect before Claus and Bill recommended it in my review of DriveImageXML. I was so pleased when I tried this backup tool today that I have decided to use it as my own system backup tool for the time being.
Its major advantage over DriveImageXML is that it comes with its own rescue CD, which you need if you have to restore a system drive. It also supports BartPE, but I found the Reflect Rescue CD more convenient. It is Linux-based, so you don’t need a Windows license for it. Its user interface is very easy to use and can be used by anyone who knows how to operate a mouse. By the way, the mouse pointer behaved strangely sometimes in a virtual machine under VMware Workstation 6.5. I didn’t have these problem on physical machine, though.
The ISO image is only 7MB and boots up very quickly compared to BartPE or UBCD4Win. Best of all is that no extra download, installation or configuration is required because the ISO file is already included in the Macrium Reflect download.
Macrium Reflect’s user interface also made a better impression on me than DriveImageXMLs. It has all the important feature of a backup imaging tool. It supports scheduling, CD/DVD writing, verification, MBR backup, file system integrity check and network backups. You can mount backup images to drive letters, which is the feature I miss most in Windows Vista’s system backup tool.
Macrium Reflect also has a few downsides, though. First of all, it is a sector-based imaging tool. I have been using imaging solutions since Windows NT 4, so you can imagine that I have seen quite a few different tools in the past 10 years or so. Somehow, however, my experience with sector-based imaging tools is not really good. I have found them to be less reliable and sometimes slower than file-based imaging tools (despite the fact that they often are marketed to be faster). However, this is just my subjective view and I can’t give any hard facts to support it. The main advantage of sector-based imaging is that it often is file system independent. Thus if you have to back up Linux file systems (e.g., Ext2/3FS), you might benefit from the fact that Macrium Reflect uses sector-based imaging.
The tool’s second downside is that it doesn’t allow you to run backups from its boot disk. Live backups of running system are usually no problem, though. However, when I started a system that I restored with Macrium Reflect, I saw the Windows Recovery Error screen, which worried me a little. If you prefer super reliable backups, then a solution that supports offline backups might be a better choice. You can find a few such tools in this list of free backup tools.
Macrium Reflect, like DriveImageXML, is free only for personal use. Commercial use requires the purchase of the full edition, which has quite a few additional features, probably the most important of which is the support for incremental and differential backups. Scroll to the end of this page for a comparison table. $39.99 for the commercial edition is a fair price. It is just a pity that only home users can use the free edition. I think that Macrium Reflect would be more popular than it is if a completely free edition were also offered.