Windows 7 System Imaging vs. Macrium Reflect 7

Andreas Gieryic
Andreas Gieryic used Ask the Experts™
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I've been using the Windows 7 "system imaging' in both Windows 7 and Windows 10. I've been successful restoring images but I don't feel it's 100% reliable. I recall that I've used it about 25 times and it failed miserably two or three times.

The other day I had to do a replace a failed drive with a new SSD and then restore a system image that I created about three months old. The restore failed. The restore process saw the image and started the preparation to image the replacement drive and it failed with a number of errors that I did not document. I tried this three different ways. First, I booted from a system repair disk, the second time with the actual Windows 7 media and the third time, I actually installed a base Windows 7 operating system and attempted to restore the image to no avail. I ended up having to totally rebuild the PC and restore the data from backup.

- I believe that the Windows 7 system image is a "byte by byte" image and not a "sector by sector" image which means, if I'm installing a new SSD to replace the hard drive, the SSD needs to be equal or larger in size

I'm not a big fan ACRONIS, mainly because of the so many different versions to purchase and the install is quite large. Maybe down the road, I'll practice more with it to become more familiar with it

So my question is
- is the Macrium Reflect 7 free version more reliable than the Windows 7 system imaging version?
Read good things about this product. I know that it performs sector by sector and I use it once to clone a 500 GB drive to a 240 GB SSD.

I've not yet used it to create a system image

Would appreciate feedback and recommendations.
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IT administrator Small Business Owner
Commented:
With Macrium Reflect, if the imaging creation process completes successfully, the restore "will"  complete successfully and additionally with Reflect, you can mount the image as a drive letter, even  in a PE environment, and explore it and copy files and folders from it.

However, if there is the slightest damage to the original file system, like bad sectors or corrupted MFT, then Reflect will fail to create the image.
Reflect does allow you to resize partitions during restore, and restore to much smaller drive than original, just data size dependent.

When Reflect fails to create the image file we use DDRescue in Linux to make a bit for bit copy to a good scratch drive.  Then run chkdsk /f /r on it and Reflect usually completes successfully from there.
Andreas GieryicComputer Networking, Owner

Author

Commented:
So would you recommend using reflect versus Windows 7 system imaging?
I would assume bit by bit is far more reliable than sector by sector. What's your take on that
Top Expert 2013

Commented:
there are lots of free softwares that do what you want
aomei free is well known : https://www.aomeitech.com/aomei-backupper.html
personnally i have been using paragon free for several years : https://www.paragon-software.com/free/br-free/#
they all work well
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE Fellow)VMware and Virtualization Consultant
Fellow 2018
Expert of the Year 2017

Commented:
have you tried and tested the Veeam WIndows Free  Agent ?
Andreas GieryicComputer Networking, Owner

Author

Commented:
are any of these free versions faster than others. Another words do any of them buffer more than others?

many times, time is of the essence. If there is a paid version that’s faster than these free versions I would like to know recommendations. I’ve read only where the paid version may be about 10% faster. Not sure how true that is
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE Fellow)VMware and Virtualization Consultant
Fellow 2018
Expert of the Year 2017

Commented:
Free versus Paid contain the same actual engine which reads the data off the disk, and writes it to the target.

Nothing can really change how fast it reads other than the hardware, CPU, Storage and Network Device and write speed of target destination.

Veeam Free or Paid is the same speed, you are just paying for management features for 100s & 1000s of workstations management!

Commented:
I am always trying new products and tools looking for the best for me going forward.   For imaging and and basic disk management, I have already tried some of the products mentioned, however, my current favorite is Lazesoft suite.  It creates a bootable USB or CD/DVD, It has imaging and cloning tools as well as some basic partition management.  It can restore a larger image to a smaller disk (assuming the used space will fit).    As a bonus it also has some utilities that are useful, when trouble shooting hard disk and no boot issues.   They have free and paid versions.  The free version works just fine for imaging and backup.

Lazesoft suite see:  https://www.lazesoft.com/lazesoft-recovery-suite-free.html

You can click the comparison header to see differences between versions.
Andreas GieryicComputer Networking, Owner

Author

Commented:
I appreciate everyone's input. I plan to test all recommendations
Thanks!
Bagaudin SatuevGlobal Community Evangelist

Commented:
Hello Andreas,

Can you clarify - on that failed restore attempts - did you use any Acronis products or it was a restore from Windows backup?

Most of the manufacturers are trusting us with disk cloning or disk backup/restore tasks and all possible scenarios are extensively tested with relevant brands HDD/SSDs hence I am wondering whether it was something that might have been missed.
Andreas GieryicComputer Networking, Owner

Author

Commented:
The Windows 7 built-in system imaging is what I was referring to that fails upon restore. I was trying to find an opinion if other IT experts find it reliable.

I've used Acronis many years ago and have found it to be quite cumbersome. Using any of their products in the last two years

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