Create A Recovery Drive For All Versions Of Windows

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How To Backup All Versions Of Windows

Macrium Reflect
Backup All Versions Of Windows.

You may be wondering why there is a guide showing how to create a recovery drive for the Windows operating system.

Before you dive in and start wiping partitions for a dual boot or wiping the entire disk in order to install Linux it is a good idea to backup your current setup in case you change your mind at a later point in time.

Whether you plan to install Linux or not this guide is worth following for disaster recovery purposes.

There are a number of tools on the market which you can use to create a system image of your hard drive including Macrium Reflect, Acronis TrueImage, Windows Recovery Tools and Clonezilla.

The package that I am going to show you is Macrium Reflect. The reasons for using this option over the others is as follows:

  • For Windows XP and Vista there aren't any built in recovery tools
  • The Windows 8 and 8.1 recovery tools are flaky at best and I have been left on more than one occasion without a working recovery partition.
  • Clonezilla is great for recovering Linux but either doesn't have the features or is too challenging in comparison when recovering both Windows and Linux partitions on a single drive.
  • Acronis TrueImage costs money whereas Macrium is free to use, although it is worth investing the money in the full version.
  • Whilst the Windows 7 recovery tools are fairly decent it makes more sense to write a guide for Macrium because it works with all versions of Windows.

Macrium Reflect is a great tool and this guide shows you how to download it, install it, create recovery media and how to create a system image of all the partitions on your hard drive.

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Download Macrium Reflect

Macrium Reflect Download Agent
Download Macrium Reflect.

Click this link to download Macrium Reflect for free.

After you have downloaded the Macrium Reflect Download Packages, double click the icon to start the download agent.

You can choose to install the free/trial version or install the full version by entering the product key.

You can also choose to run the installer after the package has finished downloading.

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Installing Macrium Reflect - Extract The Files

Macrium Reflect Installation Screen
Macrium Reflect - Extract The Files.

To install Macrium Reflect start the setup package (unless it is already open).

Click "Next" to extract the files.

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Installing Macrium Reflect - Welcome Message

Macrium Installer Welcome Screen
Macrium Installer Welcome Screen.

The installation is fairly straight forward. 

After the file extraction has finished a welcome screen will appear. 

Click "Next" to continue.

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Installing Macrium Reflect - EULA

The Macrium Reflect License Agreement
The Macrium Reflect License Agreement.

The Macrium Reflect End User License Agreement states that the software may be used for personal use only and is not to be used for any business, educational or charitable purpose.

Click "Accept" and then "Next" if you wish to continue with the installation.

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Installing Macrium Reflect - License Key

Macrium Reflect License Key
Macrium Reflect License Key.

If you have chosen the free version of Macrium Reflect a license key screen will appear.

Click "Next" to continue. 

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Installing Macrium Reflect - Product Registration

Macrium Reflect Product Registration
Macrium Reflect Product Registration.

You will now be asked whether you want to register your version of Macrium Reflect in order to find out about new features and product updates.

This is an optional step. I personally choose not to register as I get enough promotional email in my inbox.

If you wish to receive details about new features and offers choose yes and enter your name and email address.

Click "Next" to continue.

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Installing Macrium Reflect - Custom Setup

Macrium Reflect Setup
Macrium Reflect Setup.

You can now choose the features that you wish to install. I installed the full package.

I am usually wary download products from CNet because they can include toolbars and search tools which are usually undesirable but these aren't included with Macrium which is definitely a good thing.

Macrium can be made available to all users or just the current user. Macrium Reflect is a powerful tool so it might not be a good idea to let every user of your computer use it. 

I recommend installing the full package and clicking "Next".

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Installing Macrium Reflect - The Installation

Install Macrium Reflect
Install Macrium Reflect.

Finally you are ready to install Macrium Reflect. 

Click "Install".

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Create Full Recovery Disk Image

Create Full Windows Disk Image
Create Full Windows Disk Image.

To create a recovery image you will need either a USB drive with enough disk space to hold the recovery image, an external hard drive, a spare partition on your current hard drive or a bundle of blank DVDs

I recommend using an external hard drive or a large USB drive as you can place these somewhere safe after the backup has been created.

Insert your backup medium (i.e. external hard drive) and run Macrium Reflect.

Macrium Reflect works on older BIOS and modern UEFI based systems.

A list of all your disks and partitions will be displayed.

If you just want to backup the partitions required to recover Windows, click the "Create an image of the partitions required to backup and restore windows" link. This link appears on the "Disk Image" tab on the left side of the window under "Backup Tasks".

To backup all the partitions or a selection of partitions click the "image this disk" link.

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Choose The Partitions You Wish To Backup

Create A Recovery Drive
Create A Recovery Drive.

After clicking on the "image this disk" link you have to choose the partitions that you want to backup and you also have to choose the backup destination.

The destination can be another partition (i.e. one that you aren't backing up), an external hard drive, a USB drive and even multiple writable CDs or DVDs.

If you are backing up Windows 8 and 8.1 make sure you choose at the very least the EFI partition (500 megabytes), the OEM partition (if one exists) and the OS partition.

If you are backing up Windows XP, Vista or 7 I recommend backing up all the partitions unless you know that certain partitions aren't required.

You can backup all of the partitions or as many partitions as you require. If you end up dual booting with Linux this tool is great because you can backup your Windows and Linux partitions in one go.

After choosing the partitions you wish to backup and the drive to backup to, click "Next".

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Create An Image Of Any Or All Partitions Of Your Hard Drive

Create A Backup Drive
Create A Backup Drive.

A summary will appear showing all the partitions which are to going be backed up..

Click "Finish" to complete the task.

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Create A Macrium Reflect Recovery DVD

Macrium Recovery DVD
Macrium Recovery DVD.

Creating a disk image is useless unless you create a way of restoring the image.

To create a recovery DVD choose the "Create Rescue Media" option from the "Other Tasks" menu within Macrium Reflect.

There are two options available:

  1. Windows PE 5
  2. Linux

I recommend choosing the Windows PE 5 option as this makes it possible to restore Windows and Linux partitions.

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Prepare The Windows PE Image

Create Macrium Reflect Recovery DVD
Create Macrium Reflect Recovery DVD.

Choose whether you are using a 32-bit or 64-bit architecture and then whether you want to use the default Windows Image Format file or a custom version.

I recommend sticking with the default option.

This process takes a little while to complete.

Click "Next"

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Create Macrium Rescue Media

Macrium Rescue Media
Macrium Rescue Media.

This is the last step in the process.

The first two checkboxes on the rescue media screen let you decide whether to check for unsupported devices (i.e. external drives) and also whether to prompt for a key press when trying to boot the rescue DVD.

The rescue media can be either a DVD or USB device. This means you can use Macrium Reflect on computers without optical media such as netbooks and notebooks.

The "enable multiboot and UEFI support" checkbox should be checked if you are running Windows 8 or higher.

Click "Finish" to create the rescue media.

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After creating the recovery media using Macrium Reflect, boot the recovery DVD or USB to make sure it works.

When the rescue tool loads verify the validity of the disk image that you created so that you can be confident that the process has worked correctly.

If everything has gone as expected you are now in a position to be able to restore your current setup in the event of a catastrophe.