Macrium Reflect and Ease Todo Backup are two great alternatives to Microsoft’s deprecated backup solutions: System Image and File History.
Microsoft recently made it known that built-in backup solutions in Windows 10 will be removed in an unknown future revision of Windows 10. That means users need to start considering alternative options for their backup needs from now on. For years, we here at groovyPost have recommended CrashPlan as a backup solution, but it appears that CrashPlan for Home Users is also shutting down. Luckily, there are a lot of choices both free and paid on the market.
I’ve placed my bets on two well known third party offerings: Macrium Reflect and EaseUS ToDo Backup. Both are available in free versions with even more options than what Microsoft has offered over the years. This article shows you how to download and set them up.
How to Use Free Third-Party Alternatives to System Image for Backup in Windows 10 – Macrium Reflect and EaseUS ToDo
If you depend on Microsoft’s System Image, File History, or Backup and Restore tools, you need to reconsider, since Microsoft will be removing them in a future Windows 10 release. You can keep using them for now, but you need a contingency plan when the time comes. I have decided to move to Macrium Reflect, personally because I’ve read such good reviews about it. EaseUS ToDo Backup is another option that works just as well. Because I’m a cheapskate, I’ve decided to work with the free versions.
Macrium Reflect – Installation
Let’s start off with Macrium Reflect (Free). Macrium provides a small click to run the installer, but I chose the offline installer, which required finding the download agent; this downloads the full installer at around 800 MBs. Included are a collection of preinstallation environment tools based on Microsoft’s Windows Image deployment solutions.
Setup was quick and easy but needed a restart to complete changes made to the system.
The Macrium Reflect interface is a bit more jam-packed than what you would normally find in Windows 10. But this a powerful alternative offering a range of options for creating and managing backups. Macrium integrates heavily with Windows—examples include support for attaching and browsing backups; boot image backups in Hyper-V; generating PowerShell scripts to automate backups; creating batch files and of course, scheduling backups. You can also find handy options such as cloning and standard file and folder backup.
For this article, we are going to focus on image backups. Similar to the System Image backup feature in Windows 10 and previous versions, this lets you create a replica of your current installation state. You can be granular with your backups by choosing only the partitions you want to save as part of your image.
To create your first image, click the menu Create an image of the partition(s) required to backup and restore Windows.
Under Destination, click the Browse button, then point to your external drive where you want to store the backup, create a new folder, select it then click OK. Click Next to Continue.
This phase of the wizard lets you create a Backup plan if you want. It’s optional, but lets you choose different methods of backups which include full, incremental and differential. For now, I am going to choose a schedule just to make things simple. I recommend you review the retention rules to save on disk space. Users can retain a number of backups using any method; this can quickly eat up disk space over time, so I will reduce the amount for each to about two. Click Next to Continue.
Review the image summary to ensure you chose the right options. If you maintain a dual boot configuration, make sure each partition is checked as part of your backup. Click Finish to begin the backup.
Click OK to start the backup immediately.
As with all image backups, it will take some time, so, sit back and relax as your image is saved. Click Close after your image is created.
Restoring Your Macrium Image
There are multiple ways to restore a backup. You can start the restore process from within a running installation of Windows 10 with Macrium already installed. But in most cases, restoring an image would take place after booting into a recovery environment similar to System Image in Windows 10.
Create Rescue Media
One important task you should complete after creating your image is to create rescue media, which will facilitate the restoration of the image. This is perfect for scenarios where your computer won’t boot or you installed a new empty hard disk. Click the Other Tasks menu then click Create Rescue Media.
This will start the create bootable rescue media wizard. Remember, as we mentioned earlier, Macrium downloads a full installer at around 800 MBs. This is where the preinstallation environment tools based on Microsoft’s Windows Image deployment solutions are used. Macrium adds its own recovery tools to facilitate the restoration of the image when you boot from it. Click Next.
You can add drivers in advance for hardware that might not be supported by the restored image. Click the Update Driver button to do so then point to the source. This can minimize the chances of Windows 10 not booting on new hardware; especially if you are changing motherboards.
Depending on the architecture of your Windows 10 image, you can choose either a 32 or 64-bit recovery image. For this particular case, I am restoring a 64 bit Windows 10 installation, so I will choose that. Click Next to begin the creation.
Bootable media can be prepared using a blank DVD or USB drive or you can create a bootable ISO image instead. Choose your desired method, then click Finish.
Restore Image – Macrium Reflect
Configure your computer to boot from the installation media on the target computer. Attach your external drive where the image is stored, then power it on.
Under the Restore tab in Macrium, click the menu, Browse for an image or backup file to restore.
Browse to the image file, select it then click Open.
Click Select a disk to restore to… then click the selected image that appears. Click Next to begin the restoration.
After the image is successfully restored, click File > Exit to reboot.
That’s pretty much all that’s involved in preparing a system image of your Windows 10 installation using Macrium Reflect. Macrium feels a little complex and overwhelming at first, but once you familiarize yourself with it, you should feel comfortable using it in no time. If you still want something a bit more user-friendly, then check out EaseUS Todo Backup Free.
How to Use EaseUS Todo Backup Free
EaseUS Todo Backup Free provides similar backup options. I appreciated its simplicity in a number of areas: easy to find and download, simple setup wizard and quick installation. While EaseUS Todo Backup doesn’t offer quite as many features and functionality as those found in Macrium Reflect, I find it sufficient for basic backup and recovery.
After completing the installation, launch EaseUS Todo Backup; you will be prompted to step up to the Home version offering additional features. To be frank, I don’t need some of the features offered like Outlook email backup, email notifications, and scheduled-based backups. EaseUS Todo Backup does include cloning, which lets you transfer your installation to a new hard disk or SSD, or a new computer.
EaseUS Todo Backup also includes file and folder-based backup. For our particular needs, we want to perform a system backup, which creates an image of your Windows 10 installation. To begin, click the System Backup button. Browse to where you want the image stored (external drive). Create a new folder then label it, select it then click OK.
EaseUS Todo Backup also includes retention options, which let users manage how much space is used by backups. Click the Image Reserve Strategy menu, then choose your options for when you want backups to be created and how they are preserved and deleted.
Click Proceed to begin the backup. According to EaseUS Todo, backups with the free version are a little slower, but I don’t think it’s much of a deterrent. Using a USB 3.0 external drive, the backup of a 68 GB partition completed in about 10 minutes. So, the time will vary depending on the size of your installation. Sit back, relax, and give it some time to complete.
Create an Emergency Disk
After your backup is created, proceed to create a rescue disc, which you can use to restore your image. Just like Macrium, EaseUS Todo’s rescue media is based on Microsoft’s Windows Imaging Format. When you boot from it, you will notice it uses the same Windows 10 pre-boot environment to load its own recovery application.
Click the Tools menu, then click Create Emergency Disk. The Emergency disk wizard offers several options, which include creating an emergency disk based on WinPE or Linux. Boot media can also be in the form of a USB thumb drive, DVD/CD or ISO image.
Restore Image – EaseUS Todo
When you are ready to restore an image, configure your computer to boot from the installation media. Make sure your external drive is connected and powered on. I noticed that if you connect after booting into the recovery environment, EaseUS doesn’t detect the drive.
Once booted into the recovery environment for EaseUS Todo, click the Browse to Recover button.
Browse the folder on your external drive containing the system backup image file, click OK.
Choose the local drive where you would like to have the image restored then click Proceed. When the restoration is complete, close the EaseUS recover application. Your Windows 10 installation should be up and running.
That’s a look at two solid options for users who want to migrate from Windows 10’s System Image. Of course, they work differently, but you will appreciate some of the benefits included in both such as cloning, easier migration from one system to another, and automated and granular options for backup.
Macrium is the more powerful of the two, featuring a lot more options, some of which are a bit too advanced for the average user. But if you want to grow with your backup solution, it’s there if you need it. EaseUS Todo Backup is bare bones, but something about that makes it feel lighter and more approachable. At the same time, it could be a little more intelligent, but what do you expect? Whichever solution you decide on, you won’t regret it.