13474: Difference between File Backups and Disk/Partition Images

A file backup is a copy of files. A disk or partition image is a snapshot of the drive

This article applies to:

  • All Acronis backup products


A backup is a copy of selected files, folders or information stored on disks.

When you back up files and folders, only the data and folder tree are compressed and stored.

Disk/partition backups are different from file and folder backups. Acronis product stores a sector-by-sector snapshot of the disk. This includes the operating system, registry, drivers, software applications data files, and system areas hidden from the user. This procedure is called "creating a disk image," and the resulting backup is often called a disk/partition image.

By default Acronis product stores only the hard disk parts that contain data (for supported file systems).

Furthermore, Acronis product does not back up swap file information. It will not back up pagefile.sys under Windows XP and later and it will not back up hiberfil.sys (a file that keeps RAM contents when the computer goes into hibernation). This reduces image size and speeds up image creation and recovery.

However, you can still use the Back up sector-by-sector option that lets you include all of the sectors of a hard disk in an image.

A partition image includes all files and folders (including hidden and system files), boot record, and FAT (file allocation table). It also includes files in the root directory and the zero track of the hard disk with the master boot record (MBR).

A disk image includes images of all disk partitions and the zero track with the master boot record (MBR). By default, files in all Acronis True Image Home backups have a ".tib" extension. This extension should not be changed.

It is important to note that you can recover files and folders from both file backups and from disk/partition images. To do so, mount the image as a virtual disk or use Acronis Backup Explorer to select the files and/or folders you need to recover from the disk/partition backup.

More information

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