Ghost Windows for Free with Macrium Reflect (A Visual Guide)

Macrium icon
Macrium icon

A few years ago I wrote an article on Ghosting Windows XP for Free with DriveImage XML. It’s proven to be one of the most popular articles on Back in 2007 I also wrote a complementary article on Ghosting Windows for Free using Open-Source Tools. I suppose you could say that finding free ways to “ghost” Windows is an obsession of mine.

One bit of criticism levied at these aforementioned methods is that they both require a fair amount of upfront work. A restoration using DriveImage XML requires the creation of a boot disc such as BartPE. Using open-source tools like ntfsclone requires mucking around with the command line – an intimidating process for a newbie. Yes, I said “mucking.”

Isn’t there an easier way? One that requires far less prep time with an easy learning curve? The answer is a resounding YES!

Enter Macrium Reflect FREE Edition. While the free version is the little brother to the commercial version, it still packs a mighty punch. Feast your eyes on a feature comparison as of 17 October 2008.

Macrium - Feature List


To successfully image and restore your system using Macrium Reflect, you will need the following:

  • Windows XP or Vista (32 or 64-bit) – required to install the free version of Macrium Reflect, of course.
  • CD or DVD burner – You need a place to store your backup image. Macrium allows you to burn it directly to CDs or DVDs.
  • Spare Hard Disk or Partition (Optional) – Instead of storing the backup image on optical media, you may choose to simply store it on a spare partition or hard disk.

Before we begin, allow me to remind you to BACK UP YOUR DATA! Working with disk imaging is a volatile process, and you should always have backups of your critical files. Burn everything to CDs or DVDs. Buy a spare hard disk, or maybe take a look at available online storage. Do whatever it takes to keep your data safe.

Ready? Let’s get started!

The Process

Here’s an outline of the entire process:

  1. Install Macrium Reflect FREE Edition
  2. Configure Your System
  3. Create the Disk Image
  4. Verify the Disk Image
  5. Create the Rescue CD
  6. Restore the Disk Image
  7. Final Thoughts

1. Install Macrium Reflect FREE Edition

This is the easiest step. Download and install the executable ( link). The installer will automatically detect whether you are running a 32-bit or a 64-bit operating system. Curiously, the installation process requires Internet access to validate the automatically generated serial number. After the installation is complete, launch Macrium Reflect.

2. Configure Your System

At this point you should configure your operating system to the way you like it. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make sure Windows has the latest security patches and drivers.
  • Scan for viruses and other malware.
  • Run a Defrag.
  • Remove any unnecessary applications.

Ideally, I like to create a couple different disk images. I prefer to have one image of a freshly installed state, and another image that includes all my main applications.

3. Create the Disk Image

Now we’re getting to the fun part. One quick note here: I used VMware for the purpose of convenient screenshots, but the process is no different than if it were a real machine. I also tested the process on a spare computer, and it worked flawlessly for me.

To get started, launch Macrium Reflect, select the disk that you wish to image, and from the Backup menu, choose Create Image.

Macrium - Choose your partition

(Alternative – you could also open My Computer, right-click on the chosen disk, and select Create an Image of this partition…)

Right-click the drive

The Create Backup Wizard will spawn:

Macrium - Create Backup Wizard

At this point you need to choose where you would like to store the disk image. Options include:

  • On a spare partition or hard disk
  • On a network share – Note: make sure your network share is using WORKGROUP as the Workgroup name.
  • On blank CDs or DVDs
Macrium - Choose where to store image

I suggest you also take a look at the Advanced Settings. Here you can choose the amount of compression and also set a maximum file size (for splitting purposes).

Macrium - Advanced Compression

When you are done with the Backup Wizard, take a last glance over your settings….

Macrium - End of Backup Wizard

Enter a name for the backup definition, and away we go!

Macrium - Backup started

It took me only 3 minutes to image my tiny VMware disk, so your mileage will vary. Go make a cup of coffee.

Macrium - Backup finished

Now that your backup is complete, let’s talk about how to restore it. Please continue to the next page.

53 thoughts on “Ghost Windows for Free with Macrium Reflect (A Visual Guide)

  1. RE: Ghost Windows for Free with Macrium Reflect (A Visual Guide)

    You should try Snapshot.

    The program is very fast, much smaller (only 250 KB) and has more options than Macrium Reflect Pro! You can even restore from a DOS boot disk, since the program can run in DOS.
    However, it is up to the user to create a repair restore disk, since this option is not built in. It is a micro TrueImage competitor.

  2. George – Drive Snapshot looks really nice, but it’s only a 30-day trial. From their site:

    The Trial ware version has a built-in time limit of approx. 30 days, after which it won’t backup any longer.

    Still, if one doesn’t mind shelling out EUR 39, it looks like a capable program. I’ll stick to free software, personally.

    Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. I have tried using macrium, but I cannot get it to work.

    I have created a rescue.iso cd and it runs, but when I get to the step where the Restore Wizard says “Choose Partition(s) to overwrite with the image data, the screen is blank and there is nothing to select…
    When press the Next> button

    I get the following message with an OK button.

    0.000B selected but 14.647GB required. Select multiple partitions by holding down the ‘ctrl’ key whilst clicking.

    I am using Windows XP pro with Service pack 2. The hard drive is 30GB and I have partitioned it in 2 with C: 15GB and D: 14.9GB

    The image of the C has been backed up on D. And the Rescue.iso CD seems to work.

    What am I doing wrong?


    1. Macrium Reflect is powerful and satisfactory.
      I have cloned 5 PC variants with success.
      “0.000B selected but 14.647GB required. Select multiple partitions by holding down the ‘ctrl’ key whilst clicking.”
      Might be because wrong image file being selected
      as in the restore window you do not see the actual file names but number, date and time.
      Varify these file details by opening image directory in Windows

      I alsofaced a problem of not finding any image in harddisk (may be RAID type)


  4. Hi!
    Great article! I’m looking for a free solution for create WinXP images and it seems I’ve found it 😉 But I have some questions, and forgive me if they’re basic:
    * can I use a image of a machine on another machine, with different hardware?
    * what happens with the computer name? When I do a restore, the computer name on the second PC becames the same as the first PC? Does Macrium runs Sysprep?


  5. Is there a way to boot the recovery before windows startup, having the files on the original hard drive to boot from? Creating a bootup disk is a little burdensome sometimes.

  6. Sorry I wanted to clarify, a similar feature that Acronis True Image Home has:

    Acronis Startup Recovery Manager
    Boot your computer after a failure to start the recovery process simply by selecting the F11 key, even if your operating system has failed.

    Or is there a way to boot it off a USB drive?

    Finally, would it create a full image of a drive that has ext3 partitions and ntfs partitions together? (Linux and Windows dual boot)

  7. Tanner – the paid version of Macrium Reflect offers the option to simply add an item to the Windows boot menu. The free version cannot do this, but booting the Linux rescue disc literally takes only seconds. It’s an easy process.

    Yes, Macrium Reflect can select one or more partitions during the backup process.

  8. This is exactly what I was wanting when I went searching for system recovery software suitable for those PC challenged members of our family. It lets me build a PC for the in-laws and never have to worry about the dreaded long distance support. Make an initial backup once when we install it in their home, and when the inevitable happens, simply walk them through booting from the rescue CD and restoring the original setup. So easy to use the tutorial is barely needed. Thanks for the hands on review!

    1. I followed the steps including image verification and everything work fine but when I ran the rescue CD and inserted the DVD with the disk image I did not see any files to select under the drive letter for my device. It is as if I never inserted a disk. I could see files on the hard drive but I am trying to created an image that can be restored from the CD.

      The image was copied on two DVDs, so I made sure to insert the second disc first but still no luck.

      Any suggestions? Much appreciated. Thanks.

  9. I know this is about different software, but anybody know why DriveImage XML gives error at end of backup that “it cannot parse filenames”? Used to work fine, now gives this error every time. Googled and can’t find any info.

  10. Can you completely image the boot drive that the system is currently booted from using Macrium Reflect?

    Here’s way I ask. I installed and ran the Macrium Reflect Recovery program using the BartPE system disk option but when I ran the recovery program, it only offers a restore option, no menu option is shown to create an image.

    So how do I create a complete image of a Windows XP boot drive if Macrium Reflect is installed and I need to run off the same drive I want to image?

    Also, I have a couple of Windows 2000 Pro machines which Macrium Reflect apparently does not run on. If there were an create image option in the Macrium Reflect Rescue Recovery program, I assume then I would be able to have Macrium Reflect image a Windows 2000 boot drive while booted off of Bartpe even though I could not actually install and run Macrium Reflect on those computers.

  11. After some research, I was able to answer my last question:

    Macrium Reflect uses a Microsoft service called Volume Shadow copy Service (VSS) to enable disk images to be created and files to be backed up when in use.

    What is VSS? VSS is a copy-on-write driver that intercepts disk writes before they actually happen. The current contents of the disk are written to a shadow copy buffer before the write takes place. This enables a disk image to represent an exact point in time and not be affected by disk write activity during image creation.

    There is some well written tutorials for Macrium Reflect here:,category,Tutorials.aspx

    I’ve tested the program by imaging my computer’s C drive while booted and running Windows XP off the same drive. No errors were reported. I appreciated the verify image feature the program offers even in the free edition.

  12. Brian
    Am I right in drawing the conclusion that Macrium-reflect is a backup/restore program and NOT a “clone to a new HD” program?

    I say this as I did follow your article and produced an image of my working O/S partition (C drive). No problem. I stored that image in a partition of a second HD which is connected to my computer via USB. Macrium could see it.

    Now when I restored it; I wanted to put it to another partition in the 2nd HD (the one on USB – which is new); thus effectively “cloning” my working O/S to a different HD which, I thought, could be used in another computer.

    But no, Macrium would not allow my image to be restored to anywhere EXCEPT my original C drive. It would not even see any other partition in my 2nd HD.

    Now I must be out of my mind to allow a “TEST” to overwrite my ONLY working O/S drive. Surely there must be some other way? to give me an “insurance policy”?

    Would anyone here be able to teach me something on this? THANKS.

  13. Hi there, very nice article! I don’t have a lot of experience with Ghost or similar software, but this seems to do the job very nicely. Can you tell me if, using the Restore Disk, it is possible to restore an image from a USB external drive, for example, or do we have to burn the image to DVDs?

    Thanks a lot.

  14. Hi Brian,
    I followed your excellent tutorial and created an image of the C drive and also a Bart PE disk with Macrium plug-in. The image is in an USB external drive. When I boot from Bart PE disk and start the Macrium to restore, Macrium does not see/recognize the external drive . Am I missing something or is there any additional step that I need to take for Macrium to recognize the external drive ?
    Thanks in advance.

  15. Brian, you are mistaken. You can restore your image to *any* location. Select your ‘C’ drive in the restore wizard and click ‘Next’. You then get to choose the restore location, which can be any partition on your PC.

    Note: The restore location must be at least the same size as the partition you are restoring.

    Hope this helps

    Nick – Macrium Software

  16. Nick – Appreciate your input, but I don’t think that response was supposed to be directed to me. 🙂

    S G Kris – Can you see the external drive at all from the Bart PE disc, or is it specific to Macrium?

  17. I think the post from Nick – Macrium Software (on 2009 02 10) may be the answer to my question (not being able to restore to a partition that I CHOOSE). I’ll try again.

    I have still got the image of course. And I have also got myself a new HDD. Will use it on that. See how it goes. Many Thanks,

  18. Hi Brian and Nick,
    The issue of non-recognition of external USB drive was with Macrium only. Later on when I tried to make a fresh image I got an error message saying ‘unable to unlock C:\’. I performed a thorough check-disk and reinstalled Macrium (as suggested in the Macrium forum) and everything worked perfect. I can create an image and Macrium does recognize external drive.
    You people are so kind and helpful. Thanks a lot.

  19. Thanks for the info. Used your procedure on my home
    PC with no problems. I have 2 questions.

    1 – My Home PC runs Horizon DataSys “Rollback RX Pro”. This is
    a system tracker that keeps snapshots of my PC somewhere in the MBR.
    Will Macrium be able to restore this ?

    2 – My work PC has Checkpoint Pointsec ( disk encryption )
    running on it. Can Macrium handle this ? I’ve heard of some
    imaging/backup software being unable to copy the special key
    that Pointsec uses to “unlock” the encryption.


  20. Is there anyway to use Macrium Reflect to backup from a LiveCD because I want to image a drive in as clean as possible a state (only drivers, windows updates and 1 or 2 applications) which doesn’t include Macrium Reflect installation? I tried using the DriveimageXML liveCD technique but unfortunately BartPE doesn’t like my Windows CD

  21. Thank you for the clear walkthrough. It helped me a lot. Anyway, now I’m less stressed to give the sys backup a try.

  22. Hi i and installed VMWare in my PC now i want to restore a previously taken backup image(By Macrium Reflect) into this virtual machine.but while starting this restoration process its giving an error saying “Out of Memory” can any one suggest that what is the prblem?

  23. Hello. I made a backup of my C drive and chose to have the image broken up into 4 gig segments and saved to a different drive on my system. Later I burned the 4 segments on to 4 DVD’s. The rescue cd loads fine but when I insert the last DVD,,, or any DVD at that it can’t see the image file. Will this work or should I have chose to burn the backup image to DVD in the first place ?


  24. Hi Brian, as a user of Drive Image XML for several years, I decided to give this a try, and am glad I did.
    First, Macrium is much faster, it imaged my 250gb drive (partitioned into a C & D drive) in about half the time of Drive Image (about 45 minutes).
    I chose to make the Linux rescue CD, and booted from that and it detected my ext Maxtor One Touch mini right away, and it is on a USB hub, not connected directly to the pc.

    I ran the verify utility and even tho it took longer than the actual back up, it is great to have a way to check the integrity of the image file, not something you can do in Drive Image.

    Even tho I trust the program, I have yet to work up the nerve to try an actual restore. I have only had to restore from back ups in the past when the drive has died and I had to replace it, but fortunately I had good backups (altho I once had a bad batch of cd-r’s that Acronis couldn’t verify).

    Anyway, great programs.

    P.S. Have you done any kind of review of firewalls? I know that you have reviewed several anti virus programs. Just wondering what you think in that area.
    Dana J

  25. Thanks Brian.
    I’ve been looking around for an alternative to ghost for a while now. I’ve tried acronis and drive image xml, they are slow compared to ghost. This sounds ideal.

    Also, as a bit of a hint to the other posters, try making a ‘Ultimate Boot CD for Windows’, UBCD4W. This is like a barts PE disk but better.I have not had a single PC that it hasn’t found the SATA or NIC. Also you can plug in and install external USB drives after it has started.

    (Brain, I like the way you volunteered to be Macriums entire support team just for posting this….:)

  26. I am testing Macrium free version for two weeks on my new Lenovo (wiped out Seagate HD) and OEM XP Pro, but I can’t restore the image. Creating BartPE bootable was a bit confusing but it worked; creating the image was ok, I did it short version and the whole HD (instructions are confusing, not sure if the short version images all the system, my files and all programs). Now when I try to boot with BartPE, it doesn’t boot, getting an error 070030 blah blah blah saying that or I have I virus or some drivers are the issue. I checked the zeroed HD with Seatools and it’s ok. I need to find another free imaging software that would work, because clearly Macrium free version is useless. Any suggestions of other imading freeware that doesn’t use BartPE?

  27. Thank you Brian for your reply. I would give Macrium another try if I would be able to make BartPE work. Or if use Linux boot CD, it will give errors also?

  28. I burned Linux boot CD and I was able to boot right away (not like BartPE which never worked). Unfortunately when I tried to load the image, Macrium won’t find it, whatever I tried, using the first or the last disk image, “Intelligent Sector copy” or “Exact copy” image.

  29. Thanks for the great tutorial on Reflect.

    My question: is there a way to put the backup files on a DVD along with the boot portion, so that I can boot from the same disk with the backup data?

    After backup up a system with one optical drive, how can I do the restore if I boot from one disk when the backup files are on a separate disk? What I would like is a single disk restore like manufacturers have.

  30. I didnot use Macrium Reflect before, but would like to try by following the tutorial sometime later.

    My question is:
    If I choose Linux Boot CD, will Macrium Reflect be able to read the image file from a external USB disk rather than from the CD Driver?


  31. Depois da Formatação, instalei todos os programas e atualizações, daí fiz uma imagem do meu HD e salvei numa pasta na Unidade “C”, daí criei meu DVD Recovery para Linux, habilitei na bios para dar boot pelo DVD, e restaurei minha imagem, porem a imagem não veio como era antes no estado original..

    OBS: Quando eu terminei de criar a imagem, eu deletei alguns programas e pastas para ver se realmente restaurava para o estado original que tinha deixado, mais para minha surpresa nao veio os arquivos que tinha deletado, ainda bem que os arquivos era só para testes mesmo!!..

  32. Sorry staff had put the text in Portuguese (Brazil), because I live in Brazil, translated the text into English for you to understand.

    After formatting, I installed all the programs and updates, then did an image of my HD and saved in a folder on drive “C”, then created my DVD Recovery for Linux, enabled in the BIOS to boot from a DVD, and restored my image, put the image did not come as it was before the original state ..

    Note: When I finished creating the image, I deleted some programs and folders to see if it restored to its original state which left more to my surprise did not come the files I had deleted, even though the files were only for testing same! ..

  33. I was using Macrium for a while, but finally switched to Paragon Backup & Recovery Free Edition (, I decided towards Paragon as its new version includes complete range of backup and recovery options:

    • differential backup (it’s very useful for this kind of peace of software)
    • Built-in ability to create a rescue CD or bootable USB Flash drive
    • Linux/DOS bootable recovery environments
    • Automatic data exclusion
    • Backup to a network
    • Hot backup
    • Enough featured for the home user but not overwhelming

    Also, Macrium has one major bug that I couldn’t face it with – it cannot restore an image from a larger hard disk to a smaller one, even if your backed up data is less than that of your destination disk’s capacity.

  34. i have tryed using this program to clone my drive but i think i might me doing something wrong or i have the wrong version. I was watching on how to clone a harddrive and this program came up along with clonezilla. What i want to do is make a bootable copy of my current drive to a bigger faster on but every time i install the new cloned hard drive my pc says that is has no OS and please boot. After the cloning process do i need to also make a boot cd? Or do i just have the wrong version and have to shell out the cash to do what i want to do? Please help all i want to do is upgrade to a bigger drive for all my stuff because im slowly running out of room. ps i already got a bigger drive and an incloser for it so what am i doing worong? or am i missing a step or just need to get the paid version?

  35. @steven: Did you do steps #5 and #6 in “The Process” list shown at the top of this post, or did you just try to boot the image you created in step #3?

    I just did my first backup with Reflect today: 191GB from my PC over to a disk connected to my MacBook. It took 6 hours and 15 minutes…for a comparison, 180GB to the same disk using Windoze Backup took 9:45.

    So far this looks like a nice product. I like being able to browse into the image file. The notes Macrium have on copying to new hardware look good also.

    Been waiting for a freebie Ghost replacement for years and, while this is the closest I’ve seen, looks like the wait continues for a one step solution.

  36. Macriums forum only allows paid members to post, guess it cuts down on the 50 questions or something.

    I just started testing the free version along with paragon’s free version to see which I will end up going with primarily.

    For free one really can’t complain too much. Too bad there weren’t a few more options available in free like incrementals but again for free can’t complain.

    Don’t know if anyone can answer this for me or not, since I can’t ask in their form(I don’t have paid version).

    I have win7 premium and the way the pc came it has 1 500gb drive. But it appears in macrium as:

    disk1 x
    1 system active 100mb x
    2 compaq(c:) primary x
    3 factory_image(d:) primary x

    I am guessing the 3 factory_image(d:) is for restoring the pc back to original status.

    I am wondering what the usual suggestion for imaging a setup like this would be?

    Should I only be concerned with 2 compaq(c:) and the 1 system 100mb or just compaq(c:)?
    Should I back up each individually to their own image files?
    Or should I back up all of these into one image file?

    Same with restoring if I backup all 3 into one image file is it possible to restore all 3 contained in the 1 image file?

    Just want to make sure I understand this and get a handle on it first. I’ve used other backup imaging in the past but didn’t have all these options, and/or there was only 1 partition to choose from which made it much easier.

  37. I recently compared the time to make a backup image with Macrium Reflect Free Edition to Drive Snapshot and Acronis drive image. Drive Snapshot was much faster than Acronis. Macrium made a drive image in HALF the time of Drive Snapshot. It doesn’t have quite as many features though. However, I didn’t need the other features. Speed was the most important factor.

    Hope this helps.

  38. Hi Brian and Nick,

    I have two issues, as follows:

    #1: Running MR 30-day eval (V4.2.2098)on WinXP and using Western Digital 1TB external HD to store images. Imaging works fine as does the verify image process. I have also checked that the Restore CD (Linux-based) works and does see the images on the external HD. However, when attempting to Browse an image (from the Restore Tasks submenu), after correctly locating and enabling the image in the Backup Selection screen, the program identifies a non-existent Drive Letter (letter “H” whereas the external HD is letter “G”). Consequently, when clicking OK on the Backup Selection screen, the error message displayed is: “The system cannot find the path specified.” How can This be corrected?

    #2: Running MR free edition on Lenovo X61 laptop running Vista Basic Home edition, and as above, using the Western Digital 1TB external HD to store images. The imaging operation works fine as does the Verify and Browse image operations (contrary to issue #1 above). However, the Linux-based Restore CD, although it mounts properly, does NOT recognize the external HD where the image is located. Of course, the Windows PE option for the Restore CD, specifically for Vista and providing a greater range of support, is NOT available in the MR free edition. Is there any work-around to get the Restore CD to recognize the external HD?

    Many thanks… you guys are awesome!

  39. Hi Brian,

    Many thanks for the information about this macrium reflect product… I found the version on to be freeware and not to require purchase after 30 days (maybe they’ve changed it).
    Anyway – I have one question…

    Let’s say I have two hard drives, one master and one slave and that I install this macrium reflect on the master drive and use it to copy the ‘C drive’ image – in entirety (100%, not compressed) and that I store this ‘C drive image’ then on the slave drive. So that if I happen to be unlucky (again) and find a virus has srewed up everything on the master drive one day – at least I will have this ‘back up’. All well and good, but – will this ‘C drive image’ be sufficient to boot on its own from the slave drive? Probably not – I’d probably have a copy of the ‘C drive’ but in a certain condition which would not work without the original program (macrium reflect) installed and running in an os already in order to then restore the original image? But if (as I have suffered) the master becomes so corrupted that it either doesn’t boot or the files are all screwed – I’d not really have much benefit anyway of having the ‘C drive image’…? I’d not be able to access it.
    I did think that the only sure and secure way of (using XP only by the way) of ensuring an easy return to the os – would be to actually install the os twice on the pc, once on the master and then to disconnect that and then one for the slave, then disconnect the slave and reconnect the master again – thereby leaving the ‘available os’ on the slave just in case I’d ever need it.
    I have a spare, small (20Gb) slave hard drive exactly for this purpose and my plan was to use this macrium reflect software to give me the clone of my XP os – so that I always have the back up. But on first study, it appears I’d be no better off using macrium reflect because if I can’t access the program – I can’t get it to restore the os ! Kind of a catch 22…
    Or maybe I have missed something?

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