How to Create a Recovery Drive for Any Version of Windows

Macrium Reflect can be used to back up any version of Windows

Making a full back up of your computer is extremely important. Preparing for disasters gives you peace of mind that your vacation images, tax documents, home movies, software purchases, etc., are safe from disasters.

Macrium Reflect is the perfect program for this for several reasons: it's free, very easy to use, and lets you pick exactly which parts of your computer (the partitions) to back up. Plus, it works no matter which version of Windows you're using, from Windows 10 down to Windows XP.

When you back up your computer with this program, it creates a single file that stores everything you told it to back up. Whenever you need to, you can restore that backup (called an image file) to get all your files back.

Below is a step-by-step guide showing how to download Macrium Reflect, what to do after you open the program, how to pick a backup option, how and where to save the backup, and what you need to know about restoring the Macrium Reflect backup.

Not all backup programs are made the same. Macrium Reflect isn't like your typical backup software because you can't back up just specific files and folders, and nor is it like an online backup service since you're unable to save the backup image online.

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Download Macrium Reflect

Screenshot showing how to download Macrium Reflect free

Macrium Reflect is a little strange to download because unlike most programs, you have to download the setup file first and then open that file to download the rest of the software.

It's fairly straightforward and easy to do:

  1. Download Macrium Reflect.
  2. Click Home Use. The other option is for business users.
  3. Click Continue.
  4. Open the ReflectDLHF.exe file you just downloaded.
  5. Choose Free next to "Choose Edition."
  6. Pick a download location in the text box.
  7. Click Download.
    1. If you're asked about downloading WinPE components, click Yes.
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Install Macrium Reflect

Screenshot of the first step in the Macrium Reflect free installer

Now that Macrium Reflect is downloaded, you can install it with the step-by-step wizard. If the program isn't already open to the screen you see above, launch the file from the download location you chose in Step 6 above.

These steps are very easy to follow along with because most of what you're doing is clicking through the installer with the default options.

  1. Click Next on the first screen.
  2. Click Next on the screen that reads "Welcome to the Macrium Reflect Free Edition Setup Wizard."
  3. Accept the license agreement and then click Next.
  4. Select Home on the "License key" screen, and then click Next.
  5. Select No on the "Registration" screen, and then click Next.
    1. You can optionally register for updates from Macrium about their products if you don't mind getting emails from them, but it isn't required in order to use the backup software.
  6. Click Next on the "Custom Setup" screen.
    1. If you want, you can select or deselect the options you see on this screen. For example, if you want to install the program for all users on the computer, and/or make a desktop shortcut to the program, select those options.
  7. Click Install.
    1. Setup might take a while, but at this point, you don't need to click anything else, so you can walk away while it finishes.
  8. Click Finish at the end of the installation to open Macrium Reflect.
    1. If you're presented with an "Email Registration" screen, either fill out the information or click Do not remind me.
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Decide What to Back Up

Screenshot of Macrium Reflect

Macrium Reflect can back up all of the partitions on the hard drive for a true full backup, or you can have it back up just the partitions that are required for Windows to work.

In other words, if you have multiple parts of your hard drive partitioned off for separate things like movies, music, etc., and you want all of that backed up, then you want to pick the full disk option. Click Image this disk.

However, if you just want to be sure that you can get Windows working again should something happen to the system files, then you should choose that option. Click Create an image of the partition(s) required to backup and restore Windows.

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Choose Where to Save the Backup

Screenshot of the disk image screen in Macrium Reflect in Windows 10

Now that you know which parts of Windows you want to back up, you can start the backup process by selecting the partitions and choosing where to save the image.

  1. Make sure the correct partitions are selected.
    1. If you're backing up just the Windows partition, you should see something similar to the image above where just the "Windows" partition is selected.
    2. A full image backup shows all partitions selected, but if you want to stop one partition from being included in the backup, you can uncheck it.
  2. Choose a destination for where you store the Macrium Reflect backup image.
    1. Folder: Select any folder, like one on another hard drive or an external HDD. It's best to use a drive that has lots of free space, which is typically the case with external drives (plus, they're relatively cheap for the storage you get).
    2. CD/DVD Burner: This option lets you store the backup image on one or more disc. This is great if you have lots of discs to spare, but not so great if you're backing up lots and lots of data.
  3. Optionally type something into the Backup filename area.
    1. This is auto-generated by default, but if you deselect Use the Image ID as the file name, you can rename the backup anything you want.
  4. Click Next.
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Optionally Edit the Backup Plan

Screenshot of the Macrium Reflect backup plan editor screen in Windows 10

Macrium Reflect lets you keep your computer backed up on a schedule and has some really nice data retention rules you can apply. Pick a template from the drop-down box or keep it as None and pick your own scheduling options.

You can skip over this screen if all you're interested in is a full backup of the partition(s) you chose above. To do that, click Next at the bottom of the screen.

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Review the Summary Page

Screenshot of the Macrium Reflect summary page in Windows 10

This screen summarizes what it is you've told Macrium Reflect to do. You can see various things about your backup, including how much data you're going to image.

You can click Advanced Options at the bottom of the summary page to changes some of the settings you see listed here. You can change the compression settings, enable a password for the backup, change the backup type from an intelligent copy to an exact copy, and more.

In the middle of the screen is information on the retention rules may or may not have applied in the previous step. You can always use the Back button to change anything.

Confirm that the destination location is correct at the bottom of this screen before continuing.

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Start the Backup

Screenshot of the backup save options in Macrium Reflect in Windows 10

If everything is in proper order, you can start the backup.

  1. Click Finish.
  2. Click OK when asked "What do you want to do now?"
    1. You can run the backup right now or you can uncheck that option and save the backup job so that you can run it later.
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Wait While the Backup Completes

Screenshot of the backup progress in Macrium Reflect in Windows 10

Now, you wait for the backup to complete. The two progress bars at the bottom of the program let you monitor the progress of the backup job and see the estimated completion time.

You can change the priority at the bottom of the program. What this does is adjusts Macrium Reflect's ability to use more or less system resources. The higher the better, in terms of speed, but as you increase the priority level, you also decrease the performance of your computer (i.e., if you plan to use your computer during the backup, change this to a medium or low priority as needed).

The time it will take to complete the whole backup depends on a number of things, from where the backup is being stored to the speed of your computer and how much data you're backing up.

Notice the "On completion" option at the bottom of this screen. You can tell Macrium Reflect to shut down, hibernate, or sleep once the backup is completely finished, or leave No Shutdown selected to keep your computer running normally at the end.

Once your backup image is finished being created, click Close from the backup results page to return to the program.

If you open the destination folder during the backup, you'll notice just a couple files there. One is a TMP file that will eventually be renamed to an MRIMG file, but you don't need to worry about renaming it; the program will do it automatically when the job completes.

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Create a Macrium Reflect Recovery Disc

Screenshot showing how to start the Rescue Media creation wizard in Macrium Reflect

You have two options for restoring the Macrium Reflect backup image. You can use the program from within your computer or you can use the recovery DVD.

The first option is great if you want to restore partitions that don't include the one Windows is installed on; for obvious reasons, you can't restore Windows while you're using it. You can restore a backup from the Restore area of the program.

The recovery disc option lets you use a DVD running Macrium Reflect to restore the backup. This method is necessary for restoring the Windows partition but is also an option even if you're restoring a non-system partition. It's a good option because it works even when Windows won't start.

For the purpose of this tutorial, the remaining steps will take a look at creating the Macrium Reflect Rescue Media. To get started, go to Other Tasks > Create Rescue Media.

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Pick the Correct Windows PE Version

Screenshot of the Macrium Reflect Windows PE selection screen

The first step in making this recovery DVD is choosing the correct software that should be installed to the disc.

  1. Click Change PE Version.
  2. Select Windows PE 10.0 to restore to a Windows 10 or Windows 8 computer. If you plan to restore the backup to an older version of Windows, go with Windows PE 3.1.
  3. Click OK.
  4. Click Next.
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Optionally Update the Rescue Media Drivers

Screenshot of the Macrium Reflect drivers selection screen

Drivers are needed in order to properly detect your hard drive and any other hardware necessary for restoring the backup.

You might need to click Update Driver on any of the devices in the list in order to get the most up-to-date driver, but if all the checkmarks are already green like you see above, click Next.

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Configure the Rescue Media Image

Screenshot of the Macrium Reflect Windows PE image settings screen

This screen is for choosing the specifics for how Macrium Reflect should build the recovery media. Feel free to accept the defaults and click Next.

If you know that you need to change one of these settings, go ahead and do it. For example, if your drive is encrypted with BitLocker, enable that option so that you can unlock the encrypted drive. Or, if the architecture option is set to 64-bit when you know your computer is 32-bit, change that setting.

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Download the Necessary Windows PE Software

Screenshot showing the Windows PE image download options in Macrium Reflect in Windows 10

Now it's time to download the required information for making the rescue disc.

  1. Click Download on the rescue media file size prompt.
    1. If you already have the Windows PE components downloaded, click Browse and locate them. Most users will not, so please click Download when asked.
  2. Wait for the software to download. It might take a while considering that it's probably several hundred megabytes.
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Burn Rescue Media to a Disc

Screenshot of the burn Rescue Media screen in Macrium Reflect in Windows 10

The last step is to put the software on a disc or flash drive so that when the time comes, you can boot from the disc or boot from the flash drive to restore the backup.

  1. Put a check in the boxes you see on this screen to a) make sure that you can find any and all hard drives while using Rescue Media (in case one of them has your backup in it), and to b) allow you to boot from the disc only after you press a key.
  2. Insert a disc into your optical disc drive, or a flash drive into a USB port if you want to boot to a flash drive.
  3. Pick the disc drive you want to use for the burning, or the flash drive that should be used to store the program.
  4. Click Finish.

The program is done burning to the disc or copying to the flash drive when you see the "Copying WinPE files" message disappear and replaced with a "successfully created" prompt. Click OK, and then you can exit Macrium Reflect.