Most of us are familiar with VMware and such snapshot functionality. It's extremely useful for taking a snapshot of an entire operating system with accompanying user files at given points in time in order to step back to these at a later date when making various changes, etc.

I would like to take a survey of various software that performs the same or similar functionality on Windows when not being run as a VM.

What snapshot options exist outside of the virtual machine realm?

  • Are you interested in backup software that supports versioning? For example, Crashplan has a local mode option, where it continuously runs in the background and backs up any changes to the watched areas. Then you can review all the versions and select which one you want to restore.
    – cybernard
    Mar 26 '16 at 2:54
  • I'm primarily looking towards something that takes snapshots at user controlled and or automatic intervals. Perhaps like Acronis True Image or Acronis Backup. I'm not yet familiar enough with those to know if they are indeed the answer, but I am going to be exploring them further here today to see if they line up with my goals.
    – ylluminate
    Mar 30 '16 at 14:24

Outside a VM, the closest option is Disk cloning – which is best done using a Live-CD (or bootable USB-Stick) to make sure you'll get a consistent clone. There are several Linux distributions specialized on this (don't worry: they don't care what OS is installed on the disks – and you clone the disks, not the OS ;)

  • System RescueCD is probably the best known option here. Like almost all of those Live systems, it uses PartImage for disk cloning. And apart from this, it offers a bunch of additional tools, as the name suggests – like TestDisk and PhotoRec to recover lost data.
  • Clonezilla also offers a Live system with their cloner on board.

There are several more Live distributions covering this task – but the job is done usually by one of the two cloning solutions mentioned above. And of course, after doing the reverse (restoring the clone), your system is in exactly the state as it was when you created the clone – which can be compared to "restoring a snapshot of a VM". The main difference however is: No "live cloning" – i.e. the system you want to clone must be shut-down, the disks unmounted.

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