v5: How to create Incremental and differential disk images

In this tutorial you will learn about the following:

  • understanding incremental and differential backups
  • how to perform incremental and differential backups
  • alternative methods for creating incremental and differential backups


About incremental and differential images

The term ‘incremental’ in the context of data backup is not unique to Macrium Reflect.In fact this term has been used for years by many different backup software vendors.

When Reflect creates an incremental image it only backs up the parts of your diskthat contain data that is different from the last backup you made. The advantage of this is that the resultant image file is both muchsmaller and much quicker to create than a full image. The only slight disadvantage is that when you restore your data, Reflect needs toaccess all the image files in the backup set to reconstruct the disk you want to restore. However, if the image files are stored in alocal or network directory then this operation is automatic and completely transparent.

A differential backup is similar to an incremental backup. However, rather thanbacking up the changes since the most recent backup, a differential backup will save changes made since the first/full backup.


How to create an incremental / differential image

Note: For this tutorial creating a differential or an incremental backup is exactlythe same! Both would save changes since the full backup as this is the only backup made so far.

In the tutorial 'Create a disk image' we stored our image file on the 'D drive'so we can easily append an incremental image to this location.


1. To initiate an incremental or differential backup,select the 'Backup Definitions Files' tab as shown below

2. In this instance, there is one saved XML definitions file called'MyBackup.xml' which in this case contains the configuration required to back up the 'C drive'. Right click on MyBackup.xml and select 'Run Now'

You are now presented with a number of options. If you select 'Full', 'Incremental' or 'Differential' that particular backup will be executed automatically following the click. However, if you are unsure as to which you want to run, click 'Prompt...'

The prompt dialog gives all the necessary information required to remind you what each type of backup is.

3. Select 'Incremental Image' and click Finish

Note: If a differential image was required simply select the 'Differential image' option instead.

The incremental image has now been completed.To close the dialog, click OK and then click Close

Alternative methods for creating incremental and differential backups

By creating a desktop shortcut for the backup definition file

  1. Select the backup definition file as previously outlined earlier in this article.
  2. Click the Create Desktop Shortcut button on the Backup Definition File View toolbar.
  3. Select the type of desktop shortcut to be created.
  4. Click OK.

By using the Other Actions... link on a selected image or backup file.
  1. Select the Restore tab.
  2. Select either Image Restore or File and Folder Restore tab.  This will present a list of image or file and folder backup files.
  3. Select the file that you want to create an incremental or differential from.
  4. Select the Other Actions... link, resulting in the context menu being displayed:
  5. From this menu select to either create an incremental or differential backup.

Video Tutorial

 A Youtube tutorial showing the steps that have been covered above is available below:


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Posted 2 Jun 2011 by jon.dittman@macrium.com