Something that is introduced as "The fastest disk imaging software" is definitely worth a review here at Ghacks especially if a free version of the software is provided for everyone. I honestly have never heard of Macrium Reflect before when I spotted the entry in the Delicious hotlist. A quick research showed that it was most likely due to the articles published at Lifehacker and Download Squad that once again (unintentionally of course) pushed an application in Delicious after publication.
Macrium Reflect is a disk imaging software for Windows XP, Windows Server and Windows Vista that's available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. It can backup partitions or full hard disks even when Windows is running which is definitely a nice to have feature. The backups can be stored on another hard drive, network drive or optical drive which is probably not the best choice if the size of the data is bigger than ten Gigabytes.
The backup can be compressed to save space which will in turn increase the time it takes to create the backup. The user has the choice between no, medium or high compression with medium being the default value. Two additional options are noteworthy: The option to choose between an intelligent sector copy which will not copy the Windows Pagefile and Hibernation file or an exact copy of the selected hard disk or partition.
The second option is to set a maximum file size which can be set to automatic or user defined. The automatic file size will use the file system of the partition to determine the size. The full edition has a few features that the free does not have, especially incremental backups are worth to be mentioned.
It's also worth to note that the computer has to be restarted before the first backup can be started. I tried it without restarting and received an error message but it worked fine after the first restart. A backup of my Windows partition with 38 Gigabyte of data did not take longer than 18 minutes to create which is definitely fast, not sure if it's the fastest software though. The size on the hard disk was 29.4 Gigabytes.
Another important step is the creation of a rescue disk to be able to recover the backups when it's necessary to do that. The last feature that deserves to be mentioned is the option to browse the images in Windows Explorer as if they were normal partitions. Great if you want to pick a file or folder from the image.