How to schedule your images

In part three of our series on working with Macrium Reflect, we look at scheduling full and incremental images as part of a regular backup cycle.


In the last two tutorials we created full and incremental backup images of drive C. We also saved the options we used as XML backup definition files. In this tutorial I’ll take you through the steps required to schedule these disk images in a backup cycle so that they run automatically. I’ll also show you how to utilize the disk space management options in Reflect so you never have to worry about running out of storage space your backup drive.


What’s a backup cycle?

A good backup cycle is essential to optimize use of available storage space and to protect your computer from sudden failure as well as giving you the ability to recover historical data.


Example 1

A standard incremental back up routine could follow a seven-day cycle, starting on a Monday at 18.00.


  • The specified partition or disk would be fully imaged on Monday evening.

  • On Tuesday evening at 18.00 a scheduled task would run and backup any sectors on disk changed since the previous day’s backup.

  • The same procedure would then follow for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings.

  • At the beginning of the next week, the preceding Monday's image will be deleted along with all the increments (which are now invalid) and a new full image added to the destination directory.

  • The cycle is then repeated.


This example is quickest to execute from Tuesday to Sunday and uses less storage on these day’s as only changes since the previous day are saved. There is however, an increased exposure on Tuesday, as at that point only one day’s backup can be restored. If you need to go back to the previous Friday, for example, then unfortunately this isn’t possible.


Example 2

Example 1 could be modified not to delete the previous full image but to delete the full image from the Monday before that. Therefore this would keep a minimum of 7 Days of data and a maximum of 14 Days (or 30 and 60 days for a thirty-day-cycle).


The obvious disadvantage of this method is that double the amount of disk storage is required. But, if the storage is available, then this is a more comprehensive solution.


We can use the previously created backup definition files for both the full and incremental images of drive C and implement the 7-day-cycle example above


OK, let’s begin by scheduling the full image to run on Mondays…


  1. Start Reflect, click the ‘XML Definitions’ tab, select the ‘C Full Image’ XML file and then click the ‘Schedule’ button.


  2. The first wizard page shows the program, parameters and scheduled task name. Note that the program is ‘reflect.exe’ with your XML file name as a parameter. Leave the task name as defaulted and click ‘Next’.


  3. The next page allows you to choose the frequency of your backup task, select ‘Weekly’ and click ‘Next’.


  4. Select ‘Monday’ on the next page, enter a time that you want you task to run and click ‘Next’.


  5. The final page shows a summary of your selections. Click ‘Finish’ to create your scheduled task.


  6. Repeat this process for your incremental backup XML file, select ‘Weekly’ as the frequency again but this time select ‘Tuesday’, ‘Wednesday’, ‘Thursday’ and ‘Friday’ as the days to run.


That’s it! Your full and incremental backup images of drive C are now scheduled to run. If you click on the ‘Scheduled Backups’ tab you can see the schedules you’ve just created.



Note: Reflect actually uses the standard Windows task scheduler to run backup tasks.


Managing Disk Space

These backups will now continuously run every weekday of every week. However, the drive that hosts your backup directory will soon run out of disk space. Fortunately we can automatically purge old backups to make room for the latest. We’ll delete all full backup image files in the backup directory older than 14 days.

Here’s how…

  1. First Click the ‘XML Definition Files’ tab, then select the ‘C Full Image.xml’ file and finally click the ‘Edit’ button.


  2. Step through the Wizard to the final page and click the ‘Advanced’ button. In the ‘Advanced Settings’ dialog select the ‘Disk Space Management’ tree node. In the property dialog select ‘Enable…’, enter 14 in the edit box and click ‘OK’.


  3. Finally Click ‘Finish’ on the wizard page.

We are done! Drive C is now automatically protected and you have retained a maximum of 14 days history.




  • The purge works by deleting backup files in the destination directory of the backup task. It is therefore important that you organize different backup types into their own directory structure if your purge requirements are different. E.g. you may want to keep 14 days history for images of drive C and 30 days history for drive E.

  • The current backup set (the one you are creating or incrementing) is never purged.  

  • The above example assumes that you want to retain a maximum of 2 weeks history. When a full backup is deleted, any linked incremental or differentials are also deleted. Therefore, the minimum number of day’s history kept is the purge number of days less the backup cycle period. So for a weekly cycle involving keeping at least two full backups you should set the purge days to 21. This will retain 3 full backups (and incrementals) for some of the time, reducing this to 2 when a purge is successful.

  • All file deletions are logged in the log window. Click the ‘Log’ tab and select dates in the calendar tree to display relevant logs.


If you are unfamiliar with backup routines then this has probably appeared quite a lengthy topic. However, the operations in Reflect have been nothing more than a few clicks. Once it is set up you don’t need to do anything else to keep your PC protected.


In the next tutorial we’ll look at some of the things you can do with VBScript. This is an advanced topic, but you don’t need to know anything about VBScript to get started. So if you wondering, “But how do I do this….” Then read on.