Monday, 5 September 2016

Backing Up Your PC/Computer for Free

With the relatively low cost of computer storage (hard drives) these days, and the ever increasing risk of viruses and malware infections, there's really no excuse for not backing up your PC to an external hard disk drive on a regular basis.

Having a full backup of your computer ensures that all those important files you have on your computer (think photos, songs, documents, spreadsheets etc) are able to be recovered/restored in the event of a serious problem. Such problems could be a virus or malware infection (as previously mentioned), or your computer/laptop being lost, stolen or damaged, or could even be a random hard disk drive failure that can happen from time to time.

One of the best and easiest backup solution products available that is absolutely free for home/personal use is a product called Macrium Reflect. In this blog post I'll be outlining the process for downloading, installing and configuring Macrium Reflect to backup your computer.

Macrium's process for backing up is referred to as "imaging". It essentially takes a snapshot, or "image" of everything on your hard drive and stores it into a large, compressed "image" file.

Before we begin though, you will need an external hard disk drive (USB connected) for your backup to be stored on. These can be bought from any computer or technology store. A 1TB drive would typically be large enough to backup everything on most personal computers, but large drives are available if required.

  1. To begin the installation, open your web browser and go to and click the "Download" button at the top of the page. Select the option for "Home Use" if prompted.
  2. A file called ReflectDL.exe will now begin to download. Once the download is finished, run/open the file to begin the installer
  3. Ensure the option for Free/Trial software is selected (it should be by default). All other default options can remain. Click the "Download" button to begin the download.

  4. Select "Yes" to proceed with the download. Note that the download is quite large and can take some time to complete (depending on the speed of your internet connection)
  5. The installer will automatically launch once the download is completed. Click the "Next" button to begin
  6. Click "Next" again to proceed past the welcome page and begin the installer
  7. Select "I accept the terms in the license agreement" and select "Next"
  8. Your macrium reflect free license key is automatically generated and displayed here. Click "Next" to continue

  9. Registration is optional. For the purpose of this tutorial we will select "No" then select "Next"

  10. Leave the default installation options then click "Next"

  11. Click "Install" to begin the installation then click "Finish" to complete the installation when prompted

  12. A shortcut to the Reflect application should have been placed on your desktop. Double click the icon to launch Macrium Reflect

  13. From the main Reflect window, ensure you are on the "Create a backup" tab. Select the disks/drives you wish to backup then click the "Image this disk..." option. For this example, we will only be imaging/backing up the C:\ (system drive). If you have multiple disks/drives you can select them from this screen.

  14. Select the destination folder for where the backup image file is to be kept. This should be the external hard drive you have connected to your computer. In this example, my external hard drive has drive letter G:\ assigned to it, and I'll store the backup in a folder called "Win10Backup" on the G:\. Click "Next" to continue

  15. From the next screen you can select a retention or schedule/policy for your backups. You can click the "Add Schedule" button and select the option for "Full". I recommend running a full backup on a weekly basis. Schedule the backup to run on a day/time where the computer is not being utilised (the computer will need to be left switched on for the backup to run). For this example, we'll schedule to run on Monday mornings at 2:00am

  16. Uncheck the options to "Define Retention Rules" and set the option to "Purge the oldest backup set(s) if less than 500GB remaining". Click "Next" to continue

  17. Review your settings and click "Finish" to complete the process
  18. Uncheck the option to "Run this backup now" then click "OK" to save the backup definition file you've just created

  19. You will now be taken to the "Backup Definition Files" tab where you can see the backup definition you have just created. From here you can make amendments/adjustments to the backup file if required

  20. From the "Scheduled Backups" tab you can also review the schedule for your backups and can make amendments if required

    Depending on the size of your hard drive(s) and the amount of data on them, it can take several hours for a backup to complete.

    Once a full backup has completed, you can check for a .mrimg file in the backup location you specified in Step 14 (above). If there is a file in this folder then you have successfully backed up your computer to an image file!

    Stay tuned for my next blog post where I'll run through the process of restoring/recovering files from a backup image file.

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