As a Commercial product I'd go for Acronis over the freebies - you can also selectively backup DATA as well as Images - and it handles ANY file system such as LINUX File systems or the new Ms file system due to replace NTFS and is currently incorporated into the Storage Spaces concept if you use those (better than RAID especially as you can use HDD's of DIFFERENT capacities whereas RAID expects the HDD's to be of the same size).
Incremental backups are a great idea too (some people might call these Differential backups) - but the idea is to backup data that's CHANGED since the last backup was taken.
Imaging is all very well and good - but you shouldn't forget your DATA as well - especially if you have large music collections which you ripped from 100's of CD's and stuff possibly got long ago from iTunes or whatever - or even stuff got from torrents. Re-creating all those again - even if possible - could take WEEKS !!. Don't forget also precious photos, scans of important documents, work documents, tax calculations, emails etc.
I don't like the PE approach either - unnecessarily complicated - and with Macrium you have to use some 3rd party solution to get the wretched thing to boot from a USB.
The other thing about Acronis is that you CAN do it from within Windows as well - and it doesn't rely on the somewhat "flakey" VSS (Volume shadowing system) which fails if you don't have about as much space on the HDD you are imaging to the amount needed for the backup.
This is the first time I heard someone say the Macrium WinPE approach is complicated. It's the simplest solution you can find. Even creating the bootable USB is so simple within the Macrium program itself. I too have Acronis 2014 Pro but I thought that was a complete waste of money when I started using the free Macrium. It creates my image in less than 3 mins. My data are separate and isolated on separate drive. The good thing about bootable USB is you can restore your PC even when your pc won't boot up.
But I guess it depends how we do our backups. Acronis is indeed very good with the incremental backup. But it is useless for me because my data is not on the same drive as thr OS.
I use Acronis TI 2014. I backup 3 drives.
C: is my 250GB boot SSD.
D: is some programs and data
E: is all data
I initially set it up to backup all 3 disks as a single image. I then realized things on D: and E: changed a lot less than C: so I split it into 3 separate backups. I backup C: more often than D: and E: now.
Having said all that, I don't like the Acronis interface at all though, neither the installed version or the bootable version. It's especially bad when trying to restore. It's sometimes difficult to figure out exactly what and how to restore an image. I've always managed to get it to work eventually but it should be very easy to do a restore, but it isn't.
I'm going to look into some of the other software mentioned here with an eye to useability, especially on the restore end.
I agree with Greg, it's nice to have native image capability. I need to play around with the older System Image on Win8 and Win10, then see what Recovery Drive and File History offer in the newest backup iterations from MS.
Control Panel -> File History -> System Image Backup (lower left corner)
Control Panel -> File History (turn on and advanced settings)
Control Panel -> Recovery -> Create a Recovery Drive.
Brink probably has tutorials on these over on EightForums. I haven't had the chance to use any of them since I upgraded to Win8. Now I'm playing with Win10! I might backup my system some day using these methods
I don't follow this -- your DATA really SHOULD NOT be on the same drive as the OS !!! I think many people on these boards say this "Ad Nauseam". So the "Uselessness" or otherwise of Acronis incremental backups seems that you haven't understood how to create these.
Creating a WINPE based backup needs some downloads and of course it really isn't of much use if you also have LINUX machines to backup or other file systems other than the base Windows FAT32 or NTFS.
What about taking an image of the OEM recovery partition with free macrium -- Acronis has no problems with ANY type of partition. What about backing up data from Ms's STORAGE SPACES system with the new file system ReFs.
Don't get me wrong. Macrium is fine for a lot of people and ANY backup is far far better than none - but IMO if you regard your USER data as even more valuable than your computers then spending around 45 USD on a good ROBUST product IMO is a No Brainer.
I usually do my OS backups from a bootable USB device - but if I'm taking a DATA backup either full or incremental there's no problem doing this at night from within Windows itself -- and if you are backing up say 8 TB of data you'll see the problem of using the Ms VSS system which is why I dscarded Macrium in the first place.
But again USE ANY SYSTEM that works for you -- ANY backup is better than NONE. Check also that the restore works too --many times you read of people backing up stuff OK but then when they try and restore it it fails.
Ideally you should have MORE THAN 1 BACKUP - I don't think Macrium (or at least the Free version) allows parallel backups to multiple devices.
As for Windows Native imaging -- well I wouldn't rely on it -- it's usually a dog and probably won't work if you need a "Bare metal restore". That said though ANY backup is BETTER THAN NONE.
8TB of data???? Is it pure data? Or are you including photos, MP3s and videos (media files) as data? All my media files are also on separate hard drives attached to NAS externally. My definition of data is anything you open up with office including PDFs. Or anything that is work or business related. Those are included in my RAID setup. My music and videos are on separate hard drive and photos on another drive. I don't backup my videos and MP3s. I don't really care losing them. As for my photos, I burn backups on BDs every year labelled with month and year so I can easily find any photos if I need to dig anything up.
Here's how I file my photos. At the end of each year I burn them on discs. Last year (2013) it took 2 bluray discs (45GB) to burn all my photos.
Different folks. Different strokes. As long as we do backups like you said.
Quite a couple of years ago I was using Acronis. At one point in time a newer version could not handle RAID,0 and partitions on a RAID0-set. Acronis detected two or three partitions, where as there were many more. The 'old/previous' version still detected all partitions. I contacted support and obviously they wanted to figure out the 'why'. Sent them all kinds of things, screenshots, systeminfo, etc.
Endless (chat) contacts, they even sent some tailormade builts that I should try, and they also sent me some other application of what they are selling. Acronis Disk Director or something.
All of that I tried - running from bootable CD-ROM.
It took days. One way or the other, in the end the Acronis software managed to damage a partition and all data was gone!
I then decided to leave Acronis and switched to Paragon Hard Disk Manager Suite that costs the same, but has a lot more to offer in the area of Partitioning and Optimization, Data Wiping Features, Data Copy. Just do a side-by-side comparision...
Anyway, image files are created without any problems.