Macrium Reflect Free Edition

A simple, but powerful, solution to cloning and imaging

Disk imaging and cloning is a practice that has saved many an IT support technician and home enthusiast.There are countless times we’ve build a PC for a friend or relation only to have to come back to it several months later to find that ‘fiddling’ has rendered it unbootable and useless. In these cases an image of the PC before we handed it over to them was a wise move and cut down on wasted build time. Likewise, a new SSD to replace the aging and slow hard drive can be easily cloned across, once you’ve manually sorted the size difference.

We had a similar situation recently, where an SSD from a previous machine was upgraded and the old unit earmarked to become the main system drive of another PC. It’s an easy enough setup, but the task of finding the right cloning software was more difficult than we first anticipated. Thankfully someone recalled using Macrium Reflect, the Free Edition, with some success, so naturally we took a look.

Macrium Reflect

Macrium Reflect Free is a clever and well laid out GUI front-end to the built-in Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service. This makes it a faster alternative to most other third-party cloning and imaging programs, and as a result of utilising the Windows services it also means that the compression of imaging can be reduced up to 40%.

As the title suggests the program is free, but is limited to imaging, cloning, accessing created images, scheduling backups and creating Linux and Windows PE bootable media. For most purposes, including the situation in which we needed it, this covered everything satisfactorily. What’s more, it has a rather tiny install footprint and is exceptionally quick in its operation.

Thankfully we didn’t need to create a bootable media device. Cloning the volumes on a hard drive to a SSD simply required us to hook up the SSD via a SATA-to-USB cable, give it some power and run Reflect. Both the drives were recognised and it was a simple one-click solution to opt for cloning the main drive and selecting a destination. The entire cloning process took less than half an hour, and several minutes later we had the old drive out and the new SSD in.

Features At A Glance

  • Free
  • Support for UEFI, GPT and RAID
  • Uses Volume Shadow Copy Service
  • Very easy to use


Cloning software we’ve used in the past never really did the job; all of them copied the system volume information across, but there was usually some issue regarding the boot procedure, which often became fouled up somewhere. We’ve also suffered random disk failures, unloaded drivers and unexplainable system slow-downs. So, as you can imagine, we were prepared for the worst.

Nothing of the sort happened, though. The SSD booted, Windows sprang into life and everything was as it should be. Even the system partition remained hidden when we opened Explorer, which came as a surprise. Alongside that, a Windows update that occurred during the cloning process finalised itself and reported a successful install. In short, we were fairly impressed. So the next time you’re called upon to clone or image a PC, consider Macrium Reflect Free Edition. It may help you out considerably.

Reflect Free has an easy on the eyes GUI, and it’s remarkably quick too

Macrium have done a sterling job with Reflect Free

Clone or image?

A long time ago, I used Acronis True Image to back up my hard drive. I no longer go this route since when I needed to restore my computer, the backups were corrupted. Now for two desktops and two laptop computers, I simply buy an extra SSD drive, clone to it, then restart with the clone to verify it works (yes, I must boot to the BIOS and select the new drive). I then unplug the original drive and save it for any disasters. For the laptop, I use an M.2 to USB-C adapter that’s cheap.

Not only is cloning faster than making a compressed backup, but backup programs slow down the computers. I now have a new Dell laptop with Windows 11. Could you consider reviewing a few cloning programs so I can pick a good one.

—Dave Shaff

THE DOCTOR RESPONDS: Thankfully, the Doc can meet your requirements while extolling the virtues of image-based backups in a single answer. Any good backup program will offer an option to verify drive images—including True Image, which can be configured to automatically validate images once made (the equivalent of booting from your SSD clone).

Some imaging tools, most notably the Doc’s favorite Macrium Reflect Home ($ for a four-PC license or $ to cover just one PC, www.macrium. com/products/home), can also be instructed to lower their CPU usage to make the backup process less intrusive on your day-to-day computing. Macrium users will find this option under ‘Other Tasks > Edit Defaults and Settings > Advanced Settings > Priority’, for example. Remember, your PC only slows down while the backup is being taken, which is true for drive cloning too.

The benefit of imagebased backup over cloning is that it supports incremental and differential backups. Once you have a full backup, subsequent ones are much quicker to make—and that includes drive cloning. Macrium Reflect Home supports both types, as does the freebie Hasleo Backup Suite (

The Doc recommends storing at least two copies of a backup in separate locations, so rather than invest in more SSD drives, why not combine the two methods? Both Macrium Reflect and our new freebie of choice support disk cloning as well as imaging.

This means you can enjoy the best of both worlds in one package—have regular image-based backups made automatically to a centralized backup location to provide a recent backup, then periodically clone your PCs to the dedicated SSDs you bought for redundancy.

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