InformationI want to start with a very subjective, personal opinion: Macrium Reflect Free is the best available free imaging solution for Windows (download: Macrium Reflect Free).
That being said there are quite a many alternatives for those searching for a free, easy to use imaging solution to create regular backups of your Windows installation. I have tried most of them, been quite happy with some but never found anything that comes even close to Macrium Reflect Free. It is extremely easy to use even for newbies and does exactly what it is designed to do.
Macrium Reflect tutorial: Macrium Reflect - Backup Restore - Windows 10 Forums
When something happens, a system image allows you to restore Windows to state it had when the image was created. Windows 10 is quite robust and reliable, personally for instance I have had no need to restore a system image since I started playing around with first Windows 10 Technical Preview back in October 2014. However, a clever PC user never trusts that nothing happens. Creating a system image when all is well is like safety belt in a car; you don't use it because you know you will have an accident, you'll use it in case the unforeseen happens.
Macrium viBoot (Virtual Image Boot) allows you to use the system image of your physical computer as a Hyper-V virtual machine. It allows you to add files and even install software to your image, update and even upgrade it. After creating the image you might think that you would like to have Microsoft Office 2016 installed on the system image, although it was not installed when you created the image. Using any other imaging software you would need to install Office 2016 on your PC, then recreate the image, but with Macrium viBoot you can simply create a virtual machine of your image, install Office 2016 on that virtual machine, and then apply changes to the image.
Next time you restore the image Office 2016 is there, already installed, although it was not installed when the image was originally created.
TipMaybe the most practical use for viBoot virtual machine is to update and upgrade Windows in your Macrium system image.
In this tutorial I will take a Build 14316 image, create a vm of it, install some additional software and finally upgrade it to build 14352. This way although the image was created from build 14316, it will be 14352 when the image will be restored to a computer.
A quote from Macrium Software:
This tutorial will show you how to use Macrium viBoot. It was officially released on Friday 15th of July 2016 but as I have been using it for some time now when still a Technical Preview, I am able to help you with possible issues. Don't hesitate to post your questions in this thread. Notice that I have had no issues in using it, the user interface, menus and prompts are mostly self explanatory.Macrium viBoot is a new product that enables you to create and manage Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines from one or more Macrium Reflect image backups. Macrium viBoot is available free to users of all editions, including Macrium Reflect v6 Free.
Because Macrium viBoot requires Hyper-V feature being enabled it cannot be used in Windows 10 Home edition; Hyper-V is included in Pro, Education and Enterprise editions only.
NoteClick or tap screenshots in this tutorial to pop them out, click / tap again to enlarge.
1.1) Macrium viBoot requires Hyper-V being enabled and at least one external virtual switch being created for network connection. See this tutorial for enabling and setting up Hyper-V virtualization: Hyper-V virtualization - Setup and Use in Windows 10 - Windows 10 Forums
1.2) Download Macrium viBoot: http://www.macrium.com/viboot.aspx. Run the installer
1.3) Launch Macrium viBoot. Notice that when run first time, viBoot needs to install a virtual SCSI adapter. Select Always trust software from Paramount Software, click Install:1.4) Launch Macrium viBoot, click Options and change the Virtual Machine Repository location. By default it's set to be C:\ProgramData\Macrium\viBoot. Change it to a drive which has enough space to host your viBoot virtual machines:
InformationIMPORTANT: Please read before proceeding!
If selected repository has not enough space to mount an image as virtual machine, it will fail.
An example: You have made a system image with Macrium Reflect containing the system disk, with MBR or EFI system partitions and Windows system partition C:. This disk is a 256 GB HDD or SSD.
Most of this disk is free space, Windows and your installed software plus personal files taking up just 100 GB leaving over 150 free. Your Macrium system image is about 75 GB, however when you mount this image as a virtual machine the system sees it as a machine with a 256 GB disk.
To mount this image with Macrium viBoot you will need at least 256 GB free space in repository for the virtual machine plus of course some free space for it to function properly. It's the size of the imaged disk or disks that matter, the used space on that disk or the size of the Macrium Reflect system image being totally irrelevant.
An other example: You have 1 TB HDD which you have partitioned as 100 GB for Windows (drive C:), 250 GB for personal files (drive D:), and rest over 650 GB for games (drive E:). You will create a Macrium Rreflect system image containing MBR / EFI system partitions plus C: and D: drives.
In this case your viBoot repository would need over 350 GB free space to mount image as virtual machine, the combined size of system partitions and C: and D: drives, regardless if C: and D: were half empty, regardless if the size of the system image was only let's say 85 GB.
2.1) The user interface is divided to four main parts, from top menus & controls, Virtual Machines pane showing currently set up virtual machines, Mounted Images showing currently mounted Macrium Reflect images, and Log pane.
2.2) Select New Virtual Machine:2.6) Name the vm as you wish (#1), assign RAM (#2), specify the number of virtual processors (#3, I recommend accepting default value), and select an external virtual switch from drop down list (#4). Click Finish:
2.9) As with any image restored or imported to different hardware, in this case emulated Hyper-V hardware, Windows needs some time to make devices and drivers ready. Screenshot from a Swedish Windows 10 image on viBoot vm, you get the point:
2.10) In the future, as long as you want to keep this vm, you can run it from viBoot Manager or Hyper-V Manager. Macrium viBoot don't have to be running to run your viBoot virtual machines. When not in use viBoot sits nicely in Notification area, requiring only less than 3 MB RAM.
3.1) This example Macrium system image was created directly after a clean installation of Windows 10 Education Build 14316 and installation of some basic software.
Before using the image to restore this image to multiple computers, I want to install additional software to it and upgrade it to build 14352, the main reason I in first place used viBoot to make a vm from my image. In this way I don't have to install the same software every time the image will be restored to a computer, nor do I need to upgrade it.
I decided to install Office 2016 and PowerDirector 13 LE now to the viBoot virtual machine:
3.2) You can of course also add personal files and folders to the image. Simply copy the files and folders you want to add from host to virtual machine.
3.3) Even if you have no need to add any software or other content to your image, viBoot vm also allows you to regularly update the Windows in the image. In this example my system image was made from Windows 10 Education Build 14316, a few Insider builds ago:As the image in all other aspects is what I need and want to, it's easier and faster to upgrade the image than to install build 14352 (most current build when writing this) on a PC, customize it and install all software and finally create a new up to date image.
4.1) To apply changes to the image, shut down vm and right click it and select Backup in case you want to keep it in viBoot available for later use, or click Delete if you want to apply changes and then remove / unmount the image. Do not delete the vm using Hyper-V Manager!
4.2) Select Create a Differential backup (in paid for version you also use Incremental backups, see this article to learn the difference) to apply the changes you made to image (small file, fast process). Select Create a Full backup if you want to create a new image (takes a bit longer, file size bigger). If you were just checking things and have nothing to save, select Discard changes. Click OK:
4.3) The image file will be created, you will get a notification:
4.4) Installing some updates to my Windows 10 image it only took Macrium a minute and a half to make the differential image:You will get a few notifications on your desktop throughout the process. Below screenshots from creating a Full backup from one of my Windows 10 installs:
4.5) Macrium writes the new updated image to same folder where the original image is stored. If doing a full backup from viBoot vm, it's up to you if you want to keep both or delete the original one and keep just the updated image:TipThe viBoot vm will work without issues as long as you do not delete it. When shut down the virtual machines will naturally not use any of your host resources.
You can create a viBoot / Hyper-V vm as soon as you have made a Macrium system image, then update it constantly, install software, add personal files and folders, and finally when you need the image to be restored to a computer, apply changes and restore it.
This way you can always have an up to date image with all Windows Updates and Upgrades.
4.6) All done! You can use the updated image to restore Windows to any machine. All additional software is there, in this case Office 2016 and PowerDirector, and Windows was upgraded from build 14316 in original system image to build 14352:
That's it! Happy computing
I'm looking forward to trying this out sometime, with my Base image(the one I made after a clean install, after I installed any OEM drivers I needed, such as Black Silk keyboard for my Fn keys and a few programs I knew I always will use).