If you’re using Macrium Reflect as your backup and imaging solution, be aware that it comes with an excellent tool that can update, upgrade and maintain your image backups. It’s called Macrium viBoot, and it’s worth getting to know.
As a keen and avid Windows Insider, I’ve had my share of Windows upgrades fail for various reasons. Fortunately, most of the time the upgrade works. But because I often work on older, slower laptops I am not very fond of the time required. Nor am I terribly fond of waiting while the upgrade process consumes massive system resources. Luckily, Macrium viBoot makes this all dead easy. In fact, upgrading my laptop only takes 10 to 15 minutes.
Hyper-V Is Mandatory, Not Optional for viBoot
First, a word of warning: viBoot requires Hyper-V. If you haven’t set Hyper-V up yet, do so now. In addition, if your Macrium Reflect image is made from a GPT partitioned UEFI machine, it must be from a 64 bit Windows because viBoot creates GPT machines as so called Generation 2 virtual machines which requires a 64 bit OS. An image from an MBR partitioned BIOS machine can be either 32 or 64 bit. Those are viBoot’s requirements in a nutshell: Macrium Reflect (any edition, including free), Hyper-V and, in case of GPT / UEFI machine, Macrium Reflect image must be from a 64 bit Windows installation.
When you install Reflect, viBoot gets installed, too. You can find it in Start > M > Macrium viBoot.
For this example case I have Windows 10 Insider Preview build 17627 running on a laptop. Windows 10 is working perfectly and all my software has been installed. I have changed my Insider settings, switching to the Slow Ring. This allows me to decide when and how to upgrade, and prevents my laptop from downloading UUP upgrade files and upgrading without my permission or assent. Having created a system image with Reflect, I want to upgrade it now to the latest build, Fast Ring Skip Ahead build 17639. Skip Ahead means it’s already a preview build for version 1809 (RS5), scheduled for release to the general public in the final calendar quarter of 2018.
To get an ISO image for this build I’ll use the UUPDump Miniserver and the UUPtoISO tool. This video is from an earlier post that shows how to use them:
With those tasks completed and a build 17639 ISO ready, I’ll launch viBoot. Its toolbar couldn’t be simpler:
If this is the first time viBoot is launched, you must change the location of the VM repository folder. Macrium viBoot creates so-called Dynamically Expanding temporary virtual hard disks. These must have enough space to expand to their full size, even if only a fraction of that space will be consumed. In my case, the image I want to upgrade requires at least 932 GB of free space. That’s because Windows sees the laptop’s 1 TB HDD as a 931.5 GB disk. When it’s mounted in viBoot that virtual hard disk must be able to extend to its full size:
My only disk with that much free space is an external USB 3 disk which is OK, virtual machines have no issues running from external disks. I create a folder on that disk, and label it as Macrium viBoot , then change the repository to use that folder. To do this, click Options in the viBoot Toolbar, disable logging (the repository folder can’t be changed when logs are open), browse to your preferred folder, select it and click OK to save those settings. Re-open Options, re-enable logging, and finally, click OK:
Done. Now we can create a virtual machine. Select New in the Toolbar, click Next to bypass the Welcome screen, click Add, then browse to and select the preferred Macrium image. In my case I selected the build 17627 image I want to upgrade. Click Next to proceed:
Name the VM as you like, choose the amount of RAM to be assigned to it, let the system select how many virtual processors will be assigned, and select which virtual switch (if any) to use, and click Finish:
Notice that I selected not to connect any virtual switches. I have two reasons for this. First, the process I want to perform — a simple upgrade from an ISO image — does not require a network connection. Second, I recently changed the NETBIOS / PC names for my two laptops. The HP one I am using now to upgrade the image from another laptop has now the same PC name that the Asus laptop where the image originated from had earlier, when the Macrium image was created. This might cause issues, because Windows networking does not like two machines on the same workgroup or in the same domain to have the same NETBIOS name.
Because of this, I recommend always when launching a viBoot VM to do it first without a network connection. Then, you can change the PC name for the viBoot VM, restart it and only then connect it to a virtual switch / network. Doing it this way, you will sidestep all possible issues caused by two machines having the same NetBIOS name.
That’s it! The VM will be created:
This VM will be fully integrated into Hyper-V. It even shows up in Hyper-V Manager:
Macrium viBoot will launch the new virtual machine as a Hyper-V VM when it’s ready (this takes a minute or two). Sign in to Windows, and you’ll see it is an exact copy of the machine image was made from:
The rest is easy. In the VM Connection window, simply select File > Settings, and add a new DVD drive:
Browse to and select your preferred ISO image to be used as virtual DVD. For this example, I now choose my image for Build 17639:
Click OK to save settings. Run setup.exe from the root of the ISO / virtual DVD, and you can upgrade Windows as usual:
Let the upgrade on the viBoot VM run at its own pace. You can continue using your PC, browse the Interwebs or whatever. This VM upgrade will take some time, just like any normal upgrade, and requires a few restarts along the way.
When the upgrade is finally done, shut down the viBoot VM. Select VM in viBoot Manager, and click Backup:
Select Incremental (not available in Macrium Reflect / viBoot Free), Differential or Full backup:
In my case I saw no reason to create another full backup, because the only changes were for the upgrade. That’s why I selected Incremental backup. Macrium viBoot starts the process:
That’s it! The incremental image was created in a just over four short minutes:
The Macrium Reflect system image was upgraded from build 17627 to build 17693. It takes about 15 minutes to restore that image to my Asus laptop, upgrading with no hassle, and no risk. If that upgrade had failed, I would have simply troubleshot it on the viBoot VM, instead of using my real physical computer to tackle such issues.
If you want to simply discard changes made to a viBoot VM, or when you are ready and have saved changes to the image and no longer need that VM, simply delete it:
Here’s my subjective, personal opinion: Macrium viBoot is an extremely useful, excellent tool. I’d rather use Macrium viBoot for a hassle-free upgrade as described in this post than use the Windows Update method on a physical computer. In this way, I assume no risk. The upgrade completes in the background without disturbing my normal computing. And when it’s done, I simply restore the upgraded Macrium Reflect image. I also use viBoot to test new software. I install it first on a viBoot VM. If it works and looks usable, I delete the viBoot VM and install the software onto a real, physical computer. Great stuff!
Here’s some additional reading:
- Read more about viBoot: https://www.macrium.com/viboot
- My viBoot tutorial on TenForums.com: https://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/52676-macrium-viboot-create-virtual-machine-using-macrium-image.html
Author: Kari Finn
A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.