The free edition of Macrium Reflect has for a long time been a “go to” application for anyone wanting to quickly perform an image-based backup of a disk, partition, entire PC or even migrate an existing running system to a new hard disk or SSD drive as well!
Whilst this free-to-use disk imaging software is undeniably very useful, being the free version of a fully featured backup solution (Macrium Reflect Home 8) means it is inevitably missing some very useful features which can be found else ware alongside featuring only limited functionality in certain areas. With this in mind, I will be using this guide to list 5 of my favourite Macrium Reflect Free alternatives as well as point out some of the best features of disk imaging software which anyone considering an alternative should be looking out for – Vamos!
Why Consider Alternatives to Macrium Reflect Free?
Macrium Reflect Free is without doubt one of the best free disk imaging and fully system backup solutions currently available as of today. Naturally, this begs the question as to why you might want to seek an alternative disk imaging solution, be it free or otherwise? In the items below I have picked-out 5 top considerations to think about when looking for an alternative to the free version of Macrium Reflect.
1) Encryption of Backed-up Data
Whilst the free version of Macrium Reflect does offer first-class disk imaging and backup capabilities, one feature notably missing from this free edition is the ability to apply strong encryption to any resulting data which is backed-up using the product!
NB – Whilst encryption of data will not be relevant in some circumstances, such as migrating an existing system directly from an old hard disk to a new one, it is strongly recommended to encrypt any data which is backed-up and then stored away for safe keeping and later recovery!
It might be the case that encryption is not important for your own individual use case regarding disk imaging software and this section is irrelevant. If, on the other hand, secure data encryption is relevant, then one of the first places to look at is at Macrium’s own upgraded Reflect 8 Home solution. This upgraded premium version of the Reflect software brings with it many additional and upgraded features including, amongst many others, provisions for applying strong AES 256-bit encryption to any backed-up and stored data!
Encryption of backed-up disk image data is also especially important when storing said data off-site (particularly so in the case of business users) or on unencrypted cloud storage services to help add an additional layer of protection to the potentially valuable data been protected.
2) Backup Scheduling Support
Another potentially important feature missing from the free version of Macrium Reflect is automatic backup scheduling (again, something which is available in the premium version – Reflect Home 8). Whilst many users of Reflect Free will be seeking a simple and easy-to-use imaging solution which can be used on an ad-hoc basis (as and when it is needed), the ability to create a backup set and then have it run on an automatic schedule can be a very useful addition in ensuring any protected data is always kept up-to-date!
NB – Further down on this page you will see my alternative solutions to Macrium Reflect Free including EaseUS ToDo Backup, AOMEI Backupper, MiniTool ShadowMaker, Paragon Backup & Recovery and Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows, all of which supporting the making of disk image backups on a fixed schedule!
3) Cloud Backup Support
Another area in which Macrium Reflect Free is lacking is when it comes to built-in support for making disk image backups directly to a cloud storage service, something which is jointly applicable to both the free version as well as the premium version of the Reflect software line!
It might be the case that built-in cloud storage support isn’t applicable for your own particular use-case for Reflect Free or, alternatively, it might be that case that many users don’t realise that alternatives such as Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office and EaseUS ToDo Backup (amongst others) now have built-in cloud support from day one! Having access to built-in cloud storage support means that disk imaging software is not only useful for making disk image backups to be stored locally, but also sending directly to the cloud for further safe keeping!
NB – As anyone reading this article will most likely already know, disk image backups tend to be large in size, this means cloud features might not be suitable for everyone, especially those with slow or unreliable internet connections!
4) Additional Features
Whilst Macrium Reflect Free is a solid disk imaging solution (and one very capable of basic disk imaging related tasks such as migrating from old to new disks), it is lacking a number of more advanced features which are found in various other competing software products.
One notable additional feature worthy of mention comes from Macrium themselves! This sees them adding the Image Guardian tool to the upgraded Home 8 version of Reflect, a tool which will help protect any existing image backups from ransomware attacks by restricting any unauthorised access to the file.
Other features missing in Reflect Free but found else ware include differential and incremental disk image backups, folder synchronisation tools and advanced backup scheduling options amongst many others.
5) Speed of Backups
Full system or disk image backups are usually considerably slower than file-level backups at the best of times, this means any features included within the imaging software to help speed up image backups are usually very welcome additions!
Unfortunately, the free version of Macrium Reflect is only capable of making full disk, partition or system images, meaning everything on the relevant disk or partition will need to be included in the backup, regardless of whether any information has been changed or not! This is in contrast to the premium version of Reflect (Reflect 8 Home) as well as various other solutions which allows for both incremental and differential backups to also be used, two additional backup methods which will help to speed up the imaging process and reduce the total time required for backing-up!
Finally, concerning the ability to make file-level backups, a much quicker type of backup which focuses only on backing-up individual files and folders, we see another feature missing in the free edition of Reflect (but this is available in the premium version as well as various other free-to-use alternatives including, EaseUS ToDo Backup and Paragon Backup & Recovery amongst others)
NB – For more information on the differences between file-level and disk image backups, be sure to read my detailed guide to System Image vs File Level Backups!
My Top 5 Macrium Reflect Free Alternatives
Finally, in this section I will finally be listing 5 of my favourite Macrium Reflect Free alternatives, these are disk image-based backup solutions which, like Macrium Reflect Free, make taking disk image backups quick and straightforward as well as being able to assist in migrating existing systems onto newer and quicker hard drives and SSD drives when applicable!
Remember, any ratings given below reflect my own opinions and are intended only for use as a guide, be sure to always check the details for any potential disk imaging solutions before making a purchase and, if possible, always try and make full use of any free trials before making a decision!
1) EaseUS ToDo Backup Home
ToDo Backup Free is the free-to-use backup solution form EaseUS, a tool which provides an impressive level of disk image-based backup functionality in a free-to-use software package!
What really impresses with ToDo Backup Free is the level of functionality provided within a free-to-use tool. This includes the ability to make file-level backups alongside disk-image, partition-image and even full system image backups alongside the ability to also make use of full or differential / incremental backup methodologies (something not supported in the free version of Macrium Reflect).
Whilst this free version of ToDo Backup does have its limitations (which is, of course, understandable being a free-to-use version), ToDo Backup Home provides a premium upgrade to this free version which brings much more functionality to the table. Upgraded functionality within the premium version includes full system cloning tools, EaseUS smart backup functionality plus universal restore for restoring disk image backups to dissimilar (or new) PC hardware amongst many other great additions.
EaseUS ToDo Backup Free is 100% free-to-use and available for download direct from the Official EaseUS website. The upgraded ToDo Backup Home is available on a subscription basis (with cloud storage from EaseUS themselves optionally available) as well as a one-off purchase with free lifetime upgrades included from just $79.95!
2) AOMEI Backupper (Standard)
Backupper Standard from AOMEI stands out as one of the best free-to-use disk image backup solutions in my opinion, especially so given how easy the software is to use and how quickly a full disk image backup can be taken and kept safe on various media devices using this tool!
Also included within AOMEI Backupper (Standard) are various other useful features including support for taking incremental image backups, sector-by-sector backups, folder synchronisation between devices, disk cloning and disk partition management tools plus recovery media building tools amongst many others.
Also available is an upgraded version of the software in the form of AOMEI Backupper Professional, a tool which brings with it much more functionality for a simple one-off licence cost. Additional features include strong encryption, upgraded operating modes including differential backup, advanced system cloning tools (including universal restore), advanced folder synchronisation options, advanced options for splitting-up backup files plus scheduling upgrades allowing a plugged-in USB drive to trigger a backup amongst others.
AOMEI Backupper Standard is 100% free-to-use for non-commercial purposes! The upgraded AOMEI Backupper Professional is priced from $39.95 / year or a one-off $69.95 with lifetime upgrades included, more information on both versions can be found via the official AOMEI website.
3) MiniTool ShadowMaker (Free)
With the free-to-use version of ShadowMaker, MiniTool continue to offer what is a fast, reliable and, above all, easy-to-use disk image backup solution for Windows PC users!
ShadowMaker really stands out thanks to the high number of tools and features included for a free-to-use application, this includes support for making both file-level and full system image backups, good scheduling support, folder synchronisation functionality, disk cloning tools (supporting both basic and dynamic volumes) plus the ability to use incremental disk image methodologies to speed up backup times amongst many others.
Also available from MiniTool is ShadowMaker Pro, an upgraded edition which brings with it many upgraded features including the ability to run backups based upon events (e.g., plugging-in USB drives), additional backup schemes, strong data encryption options, command line operation and, via the ShadowMaker recovery media, the ability to backup form within a Windows PE recovery environment as well.
MiniTool ShadowMaker Free is provided 100% free-to-use! The upgraded ShadowMaker Pro edition is priced form just $3 / month (on an annual subscription) or is also available for just $79 for a lifetime licence with free upgrades included! More information on both versions of ShadowMaker can be found at the official MiniTool website.
4) Paragon Backup & Recovery (Community Edition)
Backup & Recovery is the free-to-use backup software application from software experts’ Paragon, a tool which provides an impressive set of disk-imaging related backup functionality alongside many other useful tools not usually found on free-to-use backup software.
Whilst the core feature of Backup & Recovery is support for making disk-image backups, we see this functionality extended with many additional functions including support for encryption and compression, use of VHD file formats, automatic scheduling, support for making use of multiple backup sets plus the ability to specify (potentially) unlimited historic versioning depending upon the target disk space available.
Whilst this is undeniably a great set of features for a free-to-use disk tool, Paragon also offers a premium upgrade in the form of their Hard Disk Manager Suite package. This premium upgrade features not only an extended version of the Backup & Recovery client itself, but also brings many additional features including hard disk migration tools (including SSD support), disk partition management and secure drive wiping functionality amongst many others making for a fully functional system management and backup utility.
Paragon Backup & Recovery is 100% free for non-commercial usage! More details on Backup & Recovery plus the upgraded Hard Disk Manager suite can be found via the official Paragon Software website.
5) Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows Free
Making up the final sport in this list of alternatives to Macrium Reflect Free is the latest free-to-use Windows backup tool from Veeam – Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows!
Featuring both file-level and full system image backup functionality, a simplified and easy-to-use interface, automatic backup scheduling, support for saving backups to Microsoft OneDrive, recovery media building tools and built-in CyrptoLocker protection, this a surprisingly featureful free disk image-based backup solution!
Furthermore, Veeam provides one of the few free-to-use backup solutions which features support for full AES 256-bit encryption of any backed-up data making it also one of the most secure free disk image-based backup tools currently available as of today (especially so given that this tool is free for both personal and commercial use-cases).
Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows is 100% free-to-use for both personal and commercial users alike! More information on the software itself and the advanced Veeam technologies being deployed within this solution can be found via the official Veeam website.
In conclusion, whilst Macrium Reflect Free is undeniably a very useful and well-designed free disk imaging and backup solution in its own right, there still remains various other options existing for extending disk imaging, scheduling, security and cloud backup capabilities from within other free-to-use solutions as listed above.
The above list of my 5 favourite alternatives to Reflect Free shows similar tools which also include between them many additional features for making full disk and system image backups, disk cloning and migration capabilities, folder synchronisation, support for backing-up to the cloud, support for automatic scheduling and advanced encryption amongst any other related features. Best of all, with all of the above tools mentioned being both well-known and highly rated individually, there is always scope to try them out for yourself and even run one of more of them alongside Macrium Reflect Free, if required, to help boost the free disk imaging functionality currently on offer!
Overall, Macrium Reflect is an excellent tool, but this guide will hopefully show that various other free disk imaging offerings also exist which can help in keeping your PC and its valuable data safe!