By Lily / Last update October 19, 2021

What are 3 types of backups?

Nowadays, there are 3 backup types, including Full Backup, Differential Backup, Incremental Backup. Full Backup is the most basic backup type, which will backup all the files & folders, partition, disks. However, it’s time-consuming and requires much backup space. So, new backup types are proposed, namely Differential Backup VS Incremental Backup.

Differential backup: It refers to the backup of the changed or new-added data since the last full backup.

Incremental backup: Only back up the changed or newly added data since the last backup which may be a full backup or an incremental backup.

As you can see from above, Incremental Backup and Differential Backup both backup ONLY newly changed or added data, which brings you new questions - incremental vs differential, which one is better? How to choose an appropriate backup type? 

Just relax and keep reading, the following article will show you the answer.

Differences between Incremental Backup and Differential Backup

Below, I’ll show you the advantages and disadvantages of different backup types in 3 aspects, including backup speed, storage space required and restoration speed. You'll understand more about incremental vs differential backup, and therefore choose the one that works best for you.

Backup speed: it displays how fast a backup is

In general, the incremental backup is faster than differential backup. Here is an example for you and it shows the principle of 2 new backup types.

Supposing you create a daily incremental backup on Sunday with AOMEI Backupper. After you click Start Backup, it will create a full backup automatically, then create an incremental backup for the rest of schedule task. The Monday’s backup will contain the changed data since Sunday and the Tuesday’s backup will only keep the changes since Monday. However, Differential Backup will the backup the changes since Sunday forever.

In this example, you can see that the incremental schedule task will backup less data while the differential backup will backup more data. So, incremental vs differential, incremental backup takes less time to backup and wins this round.

Storage space required: it indicates how much space used to save image files

From above example, you can clearly see that differential task backup more data than incremental, so it requires more space to store its image files than incremental backup. And the longer the schedule backup lasts, the greater the difference in backup size.

Restoration speed: it shows how fast a recovery is

No matter what backup type you want to restore, you have to choose a full backup. So, if want to restore from differential backup, you need to add both the first full backup image file and the latest differential backup image file into the restoration list. And restoring from incremental backup requires not only the first full backup image file but also all the later incremental backup image files in the restoration list.

Therefore, using differential backup to restore your system is much faster, because incremental backup requires more operation steps. In addition, the incremental backup has a key disadvantage, if any of the backup in the schedule task is missing, the restore will fail.

All the above are based on the premise that we want to restore everything that we have backed up. If we only want to restore recent data, incremental backup is the best choice. There is a table which compares the three kinds of backups in a general situation.

  Full Backup Differential Backup Incremental Backup
Backup Speed Slowest Moderate Fastest
Storage Space Most Moderate Least
Restoration Speed Fastest Moderate Slowest

Note: The backup speed and the storage space required may be different in a specific situation. For example, if the new-added or changed files contain more data than the original ones, incremental backup and differential backup are both slower than the first full backup.

Besides, after the first full backup, if there are only new files included and are not any original file bearing data deletion, then, differential backup and incremental backup will cost the same amount of time.

Create an incremental or differential backup with AOMEI Backupper

To sum up, incremental backup and differential backup are generally better than full backup, but they still have their own advantages and disadvantages. Incremantal vs differential, which one to choose depends on the situation and also your personal preference, and AOMEI Backupper can play as a good assistant to do them both.

Here are detailed steps to create an incremental or differential backup:

1. Download AOMEI Backupper Professional, install and launch it.

Download Free Trial Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
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2. Click File Backup under the Backup tab. To backup system, disk or partition, click the corresponding function in the following picture.

File Backup

3. Click Add File or Add Folder and select the files or folders you want to backup.

Add File or Folder

4. Click where the arrow points and select a backup device. You can backup files to external hard drive, internal hard drive, USB drive, network drive, etc.

Add Destination Path

5. Click Schedule > Backup Scheme, select Incremental Backup or Differential Backup under the Backup Methods tab and hit OK to exit this window.

Incremental Backup or Differential Backup

Notes:

  • If you want to backup on a regular basis, you can set daily backup, weekly backup, event-trigger backup, etc in the Schedule.

  • If you want to backup from or to USB drive, you can use “USB plug in” feature, which will backup data automatically when USB is connected.

  • For every user who creates a schedule backup, it’s necessary to delete backup files when backup disk is full in Windows 7/8/10/11. Because the longer your schedule backup is, the less space your internal disk will have.

Step 6. Click Start Backup if there is no problem.

View Video Guide:

Wrapping things up

When it comes to incremental backup vs differential backup, here are 2 most important questions. The first question is what is the difference between them and the second one is which one is better. And you can find answers to both questions in the above content.

After that, you can create a differential backup or incremental backup with AOMEI Backuppper Professional. This software is easy-to-use and users can understand all the steps easily. And it offers you extra useful features, daily backup, USB plug in, backup scheme, etc.

The only limitation is that this version can only backup files, system, disk, partition on several computers. If you need to protect and recover unlimited PCs, you could consider using AOMEI Backupper Tech or TechPlus.