Macrium Reflect 4.2 review

Price when reviewed

You may not have heard of Macrium Reflect. In a market dominated by giants such as Norton and Acronis, Macrium’s shareware roots mean it certainly lacks the polish and range of features offered by its rivals. But take a chance, invest a little time and you’ll find a surprisingly powerful piece of backup software.

Many of the features common to glossier software are present, but perhaps not in a form you will recognise. Basic backups are pretty much as expected, with the choice of full, differential or incremental methods. Choose to back up files and folders, or full partitions and drives; and specific file types can be excluded or included as required.

Three levels of compression can be applied – Macrium’s claims of using the fastest available compression method were supported by very rapid backups throughout our testing. File sizes can be set and the backup split if necessary, while password protection can utilise 128, 192 or 256-bit AES encryption for impressive security.

The differences from the big guns become evident at this point, as the backup set is then saved as an industry-standard XML Backup Definition file. Right-click on it and select the option to generate a VBScript file: this allows the usual tick-box application of advanced options such as logging, auto-shutdown, email integration and automated task execution upon start or completion of the backup.

There’s an option to automatically handle Vista’s annoying UAC interruptions (if you haven’t already disabled UAC), and a full schedule can be set with the usual daily, weekly and monthly options. But the best part is that if you know VBScript, you can edit the raw file yourself, adding in pretty much any tasks or tweaks you can think of. The combined backup set and VBScript options can be run from within Macrium Reflect, but the utility can also generate MS-DOS batch files, as well as desktop shortcuts, for individual backup tasks.

Restoration is simple enough, and you can browse your backups by mounting the complete original file structure of the set as a new disk within Explorer (Reflect does this for you with one click). At the moment you need Reflect installed, but Macrium plans to release a Windows plugin later in the year to allow browsing without the software. When you’re done, just choose to “detach” the backup and the disk disappears from Explorer.

it_photo_5679As well as the now obligatory boot menu option, a recovery CD/DVD or ISO image can be burned, and – in one of Macrium’s best features – three choices are available. The disc can boot your PC into Microsoft’s Windows PE (pre-installation environment) 2.0, which requires 500MB of memory and is intended for Vista users. But our experiences have shown that XP users may have difficulty getting this up and running, so Reflect also supports the less intensive BartPE and even a Linux-based environment, all of which can perform your basic restore functions without the need to boot into the OS.

It’s this flexibility that marks Reflect out from the crowd and should give it significant appeal for those who like a bit more control over their backup software. It can’t match the A-Listed Acronis True Image 11 with its more novice-friendly interface and vast range of additional features, but if you just want a streamlined, uncluttered and efficient backup utility, look no further than Macrium Reflect 4.2.

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