Macrium Reflect 7 (Free Edition)
Reflect 7 Free Edition is the latest free disk imaging software from Macrium, a company with a great reputation for producing solid and reliable disk imaging software.
This free edition is a slightly cut-down version of the premium Macrium Reflect 7 Home version, the Home version does, of course, contain a few additional options and tools which are more suited to the more advanced or small business user!
Don’t let the fact this software is free put you off however, Macrium have made a very powerful tool which excels at its main purpose of creating images of disks as well as cloning and migrating windows systems between old and new disks!
Key Features of Macrium Reflect 7
- Well designed and reliable backup software
- Excellent set of features for a free application
- Now free for both home and business usage
- Both disk imaging (to a file) and disk to disk cloning
- Good image compression options
- Encryption only available in the premium (Home) version
- Very comprehensive recovery media building solution
- Alternative backup location – a very innovative tool
- Available completely for free!
Macrium Reflect 7 Usability
Starting off with obtaining Macrium Reflect 7 is easy enough, the software is completely free so downloading and installing was a quick and simple process. Within just a few minutes and a few clicks I had the software up and running on my PC.
Once installed and having started p the application Reflect 7 will take you to the main start screen, from here ll of the main backup and imaging tasks can be performed. Any disks installed on the current system will be displayed in the main window and tasks such as imaging or cloning the specified disk can be started by clicking the buttons below the disk or on the left side menu.
Starting off with the imaging backup functionality Reflect 7 will begin the imaging wizard, initially requiring use to specify what disk to image backup and where to store the image file.
As well as selecting the disk and the storage location we can also set up alternative storage location which is an excellent addition to the software. Essentially, should you primary storage location be unavailable (if it is a network drive for example) then the application will automatically try and perform the backup again, this time using one of the alternate storage locations. This is a great feature as with many other providers the backup would have simply failed, potentially leaving the user vulnerable to data loss!
Moving further into the wizard we can also specify the backup method we wish to use, for example we could just create a single disk image which is manually run once or a full disk image with weekly differential backups adding to this initial image (NB incremental images are only available in the Home version). There is also the option to create a schedule meaning the what ever backup method we choose the whole process can be automated by the software.
Towards the bottom of the scheduling screen we can also find the button for the advanced settings configuration page, here we can set things such as the level of compression, email notifications and whether the image should be auto verified after a backup has completed. Be aware that although email notifications are available you will need to enter SMTP server credentials in order to make use of them (fair enough in free software I suppose).
Once of the big limitations with the free version Reflect 7 is that encryption of the backup is one of the features limited only to the premium (Home) version of the application. In other words if having your backup encrypted is important then you should consider upgrading!
Moving on, before actually completing our image backup job the application will shows us a summary screen with the details for our newly created backup job. From this point we can optionally run the backup manually or simply await the schedule kicking in!
After image backups the other big feature of Reflect 7 is the ability to clone hard disks directly onto other hard disks, for example migrating an entire system from an old hard drive to a new hard drive. This is especially useful when moving from an old mechanical hard drive to a newer and faster SSD drive.
As with most of the functionality within Macrium Reflect 7 cloning a disk is simple and straight forwards with the wizard doing most of the configuration for us. As before to start a new clone simply click on the “Clone Drive” button below the drive to be cloned.
Once in the wizard we first start by selecting the drive to be cloned and the target drive to be written to, the next screen will allow us to set a schedule for the job (should this be needed). Finally, almost as quickly as it began we are now ready to clone the disk, a very nice and simple tool which makes introducing new hard drives into a PC very quick and simple!
When it comes to restoring from an image backup we must first head over to the separate restore tab, this is a nice addition as it helps keep backups and restores separate and makes it easier to see all restore options on a single screen.
To restore from a previous image first means location the necessary image file(s), if the image backup was taken recently it might be already be showing under the list of recently modified image backups. Another nice feature before starting the restore process is the ability to browse an image file and check what files / folder are available before going any further, individual files and folders can of course also be copied over from this view if a full restore is not warranted.
If a full restore of the image is required then clicking on the “Restore Image” button will start this off, if necessary the target disk (or any other disk) can be specified as the target and also only specific partitions can be copied if this is specified.
There is not much else to the restore wizard after this, the application will then be ready to begin the restore process.
Macrium Reflect 7 really is a very focused tool, aside form the core functionality of image backups and disk cloning other tools are very limited. One of the useful additions which is included, however, is the recovery media builder.
I have used a lot of recovery media building tools and most are quite basic, simply a couple of clicks and you are away. The recovery media builder built into Refelct 7 differs in that it is very powerful and allows for a very specific recovery media to be created. For example support can be added for Bitlocker drives and the specific version of Windows PE can also be selected should this be needed!
Macrium Reflect Home vs Pro
As I have mentioned earlier this is the free version of Reflect 7 I am testing and that here is a premium version called Macrium Reflect 7 Home. As you would expect the Home version does include a few additional and useful features missing from the free version.
The first (and potentially most important) of those missing features is the password protection and encryption functionality. If this is an issue for you or you know your data might be stored somewhere off site (in the case of business users) then it is definitely worth considering upgrading for this alone! This probably wont be much of an issue for the typical home user however!
Another interesting feature limited only to the home version is the new “Image Guardian” tool, this aims to add an additional layer of defences for your images against malware attacks. Again I dont think this will be a necessity for the average home user but if you take your PC and backup security very seriously then this tool might be worth looking into further!
Another useful tool available only in the Home version is the File ad Folder backup tool, in the free version of Reflect 7 we are limited to only taking image backups (and cloning of course). If you like the image backup functionality of Reflect 7 and would like to compliment it with a file and folder backup the again upgrading might be worth thinking about?
Macrium Reflect Security
Unfortunately one of the main features of a secure backup (encryption) is not available in the free version of Reflect 7. Whilst this will not be too much of an issue for many users you should look at upgrading to the Home version if security is of importance.
Macrium have a very good support section on their website featuring user documentation, a knowledge base and a user support forum. Whilst there is also an online ticketing system to submit support requests it should be noted the free version might receive limited support via the ticketing system.
Macrium Reflect Pricing
Macrium Reflect 7 Free Edition is, well, free!
Not only this software free but it can now be used by both individuals and businesses for free as well, excellent!
Macrium Relect Review Summary
The main focus of Macrium Reflect 7 is that of disk imaging, this includes both making images of a disk to a file or the cloning of a disk directly to another disk. Whilst more and more backup applications are starting to offer some form of disk image backup these days it is fair to say Macrium have been in this field for a long time and know what they are doing!
One of the things which really stands out is how well designed the user interface is, everything you need is easy to find and the application so well laid out so well you probably don’t need to look for it in the first place! Furthermore the two wizards for image backups and disk cloning were very straight forward to use and produces the desired results with the minimal of fuss, excellent!
Of course, I understand been a business, Macrium cant give us everything for free and as such one of the noticeable missing features from the free edition is that of encryption and incremental backup schemes (we only have differential available). Whilst probably not a big deal for the majority of users if you do have the budget for a complete backup solution I think the upgrade would definitely be worth considering.
All in all very impressive for a free tool, well done Macrium!