Incremental vs Differential Backup: Which Is Better?

This article shows the differences between incremental and differential backup and helps users to decide which backup type should choose. More details are below.


By Lily Updated on September 15, 2023

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What are 3 types of backups?

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

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

Differential 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.

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 - differential backup vs incremental backup, 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 and differential backup: 3 aspects

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 backup and differential backup, and therefore choose the one that works best for you.

Backup speed: it displays how fast a backup is

In general, 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 first, and then create an incremental backup for the rest of the scheduled 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 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 backup, 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 the above example, you can clearly see that a differential task backs up more data than incremental, so it requires more space to store its image files than an incremental backup. And the longer the scheduled 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 image file. So, if you 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 backups in the scheduled 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.

Quick view

There is a table which compares the three kinds of backups in a general situation.


Full Backup

Differential Backup

Incremental Backup

Backup Speed




Storage Space




Restoration Speed




✾ Note:

The backup speed and the storage space required may be different in a specific situation.

  • 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.
  • After the first full backup, if there are only new files included and no original files deleted, 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. Whether to choose incremantal or differential backup depends on the situation and also your personal preference, and AOMEI Backupper can play as a good assistant to do them both.

📂 Backup Types

It allows you to backup Windows OS, internal/external hard drives, selected partitions and individual files and folders. You can also backup Outlook emails as you want.

✅ Backup Methods

It fully supports full/incremental/differential backup. After the first full backup, you can choose to backup only the changed data with incremental or differential backup.

📍 Backup Locations

You are allowed to backup to various locations, including local disk, external drive, pen drive, NAS and cloud storage (e.g.: backup Windows 11 to Google Drive).

⏰ Automatic Backup

You can backup your PC automatically based on the specified schedule mode, such as Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Event triggers and USB plug in.

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

1. Download AOMEI Backupper Professional, install and launch it. For Server users, you can turn to AOMEI Backupper Server.

Download Free Trial Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

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 and set daily/weekly/event-trigger backup, etc. 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.

Schedule Settings

The scheduled backup will run in the way of incremental backup by default. You can click Backup Scheme and change it to differential backup.

Incremental Backup or Differential Backup

6. Click Start Backup if there is no problem.


  • For every user who creates a scheduled 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 backup device will have.

  • If you create a backup task without enabling Schedule Backup, you can run incremental or differential backup manually by clicking Home > find the backup task > click BackupIncremental Backup or Differential Backup.

Home Incremental Differential

  • To save disk space and prevent data loss due to disk damage, you can backup your files to AOMEI Cloud. Compared with other cloud drives, it is cheaper and has more storage space. After you sign up for an AOMEI account, it gives you 1TB of free storage space for 15 days.


View Video Guide:

Wrapping things up

When it comes to incremental 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.

Lily · Editor
Lily Green joined AOMEI in 2018 and has since become a professional in the areas of data protection and data transfer. She is committed to helping users protect their precious computer data and troubleshoot Windows system errors. She consistently stays vigilant about the latest trends in technology, guaranteeing that the given information aligned with the ongoing advancements in the field.