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How does Windows 7 System Image compare to Third Party (Acronis)

Posted on 2014-09-25
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Last Modified: 2016-10-27
I've researched this without getting a clear answer to the question: "Are there any differences in the backup image created through Windows 7 when compared to an image created with third party software, i.e. Acronis?"

I have successfully used images I created with Acronis software to restore machines at work after hard drive failures and other catastrophic incidents.  The restored system included program files, data, and the system configuration; the new machine was an exact snapshot of the previous machine as it was when the image was created.

Will Windows 7 also accomplish this, or does it limit the backup (i.e. only operating system, or OS & program files without data)?  web research indicates that it will have everything, but short of spending the time to test this I thought it would be best to verify that here.  Thanks in advance!
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Question by:jdjintx
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7 Comments
 
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Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 40345522
any image that is worth it's name should have everything OS, software + data
there are several things many do not back, like the page file.
if you want an EXACT image of the disk, you need to do a sector by sector imaging - but that will take much longer

i have used Acronis - but moved now to the paragon software.
if you like to test it, theres a free imaging tool here : http://www.paragon-software.com/home/br-free/download.html
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by:noxcho
noxcho earned 250 total points
ID: 40345560
Comparing to third party imaging software providers to Microsoft Backup & Restore feature I can outline the following:
1) The compression rate is better for non-microsoft backup software. MS compresses the backup image very little. So if you have a bigger internal drive you would like to image, expect you would need bigger backup storage drive.
2) The backup image file. For third party backup software you can set the password protection to archive so that nobody gets your private data out it. For MS image - you cannot. Plus browsing the MS image is pretty simple. It can be mounted as a virtual drive by any Windows 7/+ OS.
3) The number of images to store on storage. You can create with MS Backup & Restore only 1 backup directory on one storage drive. Means you cannot use the same drive for directories like week1 week2 etc.
4) Compared to MS Image tool the third party backup tools are often more rich in features and options. In other words they are simpler to use.

Sure MS Image is a good tool when you do not know any other backup software tools but today when there are so many free backup programs like one mentioned by nobus - it is preferable to use the third party backup tool.
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Author Comment

by:jdjintx
ID: 40350051
Nobus:  Your points make sense, but it wasn't clear where Win7 falls short.  "Any image that is worth it's name should have everything OS, software + data"  

Does Win7 do this?  
Does Win7 include the page file?
Can WIn7 do sector by sector imaging?

Noxcho:
1) Understood, larger storage drives are not an issue.
2) Passwords should not be an issue if I keep the physical drives secure, correct?  
3) Got it.
4) Got it.

Ultimately, I simply need to know what (if anything) will be missing if I try to restore a machine from a Win7 image.  I'm assuming third party software requires a license for every machine I'm backing up, so the expense outweighs the inconvenience of the larger drives and the lesser features.  On the other hand, the Win7 savings do not justify images that leave me with additional work to do after restoring a drive.  Again, thanks in advance for your help.
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Accepted Solution

by:
nobus earned 250 total points
ID: 40350229
i never use the win7 tool - so i can't vouch for it
but : Does Win7 include the page file? --> you don't need it; that's why most do not backup it
>>  Can WIn7 do sector by sector imaging?   <   no
a typical image from a drive that has 200 Gb occupied, can take 20- 80 Gb, depending on the compression used; a sector by sector  always takes the FULL disk space
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Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 40350243
Yes, as lomg as your drive is secure the security is not an issue for you. And yes, Windows Backup tool includes pagefile container as well.
As for the licensing. If you are non-profit organization then the free verson is ok for you or you get for paid version a special discount.
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Author Closing Comment

by:jdjintx
ID: 40352973
Thanks!
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Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 40353933
glad to help
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