So my understanding of it is like this, there are two types of backups, and they are Image Backups and Data / User File backups...

  • Image Backups (System Backups / System State /Disaster Recovery Backups)
    • The Creation Process
      • Can be created with Clonezilla or ntfsclone or wbadmin with System State backup using a vhd of xvhd.
      • Then if the Data / User File Backups are included in it, they can be removed by mounting the Image Backup, and removing the Data / User Files from it to save on space (see this)
    • What it Includes / Excludes
      • Excludes the Data / User File Back
      • Includes installed programs and OS system files.
      • On Windows, you'll probably also want to remove any temp files from the image such as:
        • pagefile.sys
        • hiberfil.sys
        • swapfile.sys
    • When?
      • It's best to make this after you have the machine setup the way that you want with the programs already installed on it, and after updates are installed, you'll want to back it up again...this isn't always possible, but it's likely the best time to do this.
  • Data / User File Backups (User File Backups)
    • The Creation Process
      • Usually a full backup is created and then incrementals or differentials after that (and of course use a strategy like GFS)
    • When?
      • Run more frequently than image backups, these backups are scheduled and run when few people are using the system...
    • What it Includes / Excludes
      • Only includes the data /user files, and it does not include any of the system files and program files like the Image Backup.

Then when you need to do disaster recovery, you restore the Image Backup first, and then when it's been recovered you add back in the Data / User File Backups to the system.

Is my understanding of this correct? Is there anything I missed?

1 Answer 1


Depending on what backup solution you are using the terms are fairly Synonyms


Can also be a full backup with system state.

Incremental or Differential.

Depending on preference and space you can use either.

Incremental backup all changes from last Incremental backup

Differential backup add changes from last Full backup

For a DR situation you would first restore the whole server using the full backup and use the Incremental or Differential backups for the rest.

  • This can also be done with systemstate; but is there anyway to exclude the C:\Users directory from it?
    – leeand00
    Dec 14, 2016 at 17:32

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