How to create an incremental disk image


In the last tutorial we created a full backup image of drive C and we stored the image file in a local directory for easy access. In this tutorial I’ll take you through the steps required to incrementally append to your drive C full image using the backup image wizard. After completing these steps you will have created an incremental image and saved your options as an XML definition file for easy re-running.


XML definitions provide a convenient way to store your backup options. Using an XML definition you can schedule a backup, generate a VBScript file for complex scenarios or simply create a desktop shortcut for instant running of your backup by clicking the shortcut icon.    


What’s an incremental image?

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 disk that contain data that is different from the last backup you made. The advantage of this is that the resultant image file is both much smaller and much quicker to create than a full image. The only slight disadvantage is that when you restore your data, Reflect needs to access all the image files in the backup set to reconstruct the disk you want to restore. However, if the image files are stored in a local or network directory then this operation is automatic and completely transparent.


You may be wondering what the other backup type ‘differential’ is. A differential backup is similar to an incremental backup. However, rather than backing up the changes since the most recent backup, a differential backup will save changes made since the first/full backup.


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


In the last tutorial we stored our image file in a local directory so we can easily append an incremental image to this location.


OK, let’s begin…


  1. Start Reflect and take the option ‘Create a backup image…’ to start the backup wizard.


  2. Click ‘Next’ on the first introductory wizard page. On the second wizard page select ‘Incremental’ as the image type and click ‘Next’


  3. The next page allows you to choose the type of incremental image and the directory that contains the rest of the files in the backup set.

    For this example select ‘Append to the most recent image’ for the first option. The directory list should already display ‘D:\Drive C Images’ if you followed the last tutorial. If it doesn’t or if your full image is not in the selected directory then click the drop down box, select ‘Browse for folder’ and choose the directory where your full image is stored. Click ‘Next’ to continue.


  4. The final page shows a summary of your selections. The ‘Advanced’ button allows you to configure password and disk space management options. For this example we’ll just leave them as the defaulted values and click ‘Finish’.


  5. You now have the option to save this definition and / or run this incremental image now. Change the file name to ‘C Incremental Image’, leave both options checked and click ‘OK’.


That’s it! Your incremental backup will now start and you have saved the definition of this backup as ‘C Incremental Image.xml’.

To re-run this incremental backup simply select the XML definition and click the ‘Execute’ button.



You can also create a desktop shortcut to run the backup by clicking the shortcut icon. Simply click the ‘Create Desktop Shortcut’ button




In the next tutorial I’ll show you how to schedule both the full and incremental images to run automatically and look at how the disk space management options in Reflect stop your backup disk becoming full.