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Incremental and Differential Backup

AOMEI Post By AOMEI Updated January 15, 2024

AOMEI Backupper offers different backup types, including full, incremental, and differential backups.  When setting up a backup plan for the first time, a full backup is typically performed to ensure the complete backup of all data and systems. Performing incremental or differential backups is essential to optimize the backup process and save storage space. Here are some reasons why it is necessary to execute incremental or differential backups:

Backup efficiency: Full backups involve backing up the entire data set to the target storage device, whereas incremental and differential backups only back up the data that has changed or been added since the last backup. This means that only the modified portions are backed up, significantly reducing the time and resources required for the backup process. Especially when dealing with large data sets, performing a full backup can take a considerable amount of time, whereas incremental or differential backups can be completed much faster.

Storage space savings: Full backups consume a significant amount of storage space, particularly for frequently backed up large data sets. On the other hand, incremental and differential backups only require storage space for the changed portions. By utilizing incremental or differential backups, valuable storage resources can be conserved, extending the lifespan of the backup device.

Backup frequency and flexibility: Incremental and differential backups allow for more frequent backups to capture smaller changes in data. This provides more frequent backup points, enabling you to restore to earlier time points with finer granularity. Depending on the importance and rate of data changes, you can choose the frequency of incremental or differential backups as needed.

Run full, incremental, or differential backups in Windows 10 

AOMEI Backupper supports incremental and differential backups. It provides the flexibility to choose the most suitable backup method based on your specific needs, optimizing the backup process in terms of efficiency and storage utilization.

1. Manually run full, incremental, or differential backups

Once you have created a backup task, you will see this task listed in the Backup Management window. Hover your mouse pointer over this task, select the 3 lines icon and then click "Backup". You will see three options: Full Backup, Incremental Backup, and Differential Backup. The following paragraphs describe the differences among them and can help you select which backup method you need to use.

Home Incremental Differential

2. Create scheduled full, incremental, or differential backups

If you would like to create a scheduled full, differential, or incremental backup, you can simply check the steps to create a scheduled backup.

Schedule Backup Choose

In the "Backup Scheme" tab of the Schedule window, you can configure the differential, incremental or full backup as the backup method. As a result, the program will run a scheduled full, differential, or incremental backup.

Backup Method

Tips: For detailed backup steps, please refer to How to Do Incremental and Differential Backup.

What is Full, Incremental and Differential Backup?

Full Backup

A full backup takes a snapshot of all the data on the selected folders, partitions or hard disks at the time the backup is performed and saves it to an image file. A full backup is always the basis of any incremental and differential backup. A Full Backup can be used to restore all the files and folders from its image to the state when the image was created.

Once you have performed a Full backup, you can create Incremental and Differential backups. Incremental and Differential backups are much quicker to create than a Full backup of the same data and the images created are smaller.

Incremental Backup

An Incremental backup takes a snapshot only of the changed and newly added files based on the previous related backup, either a full or incremental backup, depending on what was last done. Data that have not changed will not be backed up. Thus, the time and image storage space required for incremental backups are both less than a full backup.

A Full Backup must exist as the start point of a series of incremental backups. A typical set would be in time sequence. All the image files in an incremental backup series share a sequential relationship and data can be recovered to the state when any Incremental Backup was done. If any one of the incremental image files in the sequence is damaged or missing, then subsequent image files will be invalid.

Differential Backup

A Differential Backup is always directly related to its originating Full Backup. It will back up all data added and changed since the Full backup was done. Therefore, compared to a full backup, the backup time and image file storage space required are both less. If one of the differential backup image files becomes damaged or lost, it will not affect others. All data can be returned to the state when the Differential Backup is done.

If many changes are made to the data between backups, then each Differential Backup will become progressively larger, because each one will contain more changes made since the last Full Backup was done. Compared to Incremental Backup, Differential Backup costs more time and requires more disk space but is more robust in terms of being able to restore when preceding differential backups are damaged or missing.

Differences among Full, Differential and Incremental Backup

The differences mainly lie in the backup source, backup time, image storage, and restore speed. Here is a table listing these items.

Differences Between Three Backup Types

How to restore an incremental or differential backup image

Before restoring an incremental or differential backup image, please make sure all image files (including all full, all incremental, and all differential backup images) are under the same location.

To restore an incremental or differential backup, you can just select the corresponding version of the incremental or differential backup image you would like to restore. As a result, it will be restored to the status when the incremental backup or differential backup was being created. For example, there is a full backup and incremental backups 1, 2, 3, 4. If you would like to restore to the status when you ran the incremental backup 3, you can just select the incremental backup 3 to restore. (There is no need to select the full backup or other incremental backup images.)

Tips: This also applies to the differential backup restore.

Incremental Backup Restore

Which to choose, Full, Differential, or Incremental Backup?

With the descriptions above, you might have found out that the method of "Full Backup + Incremental Backup" or "Full Backup + Differential Backup" would be more convenient than a single full backup. Therefore, after performing a full backup, you can choose whether to use an incremental or differential backup to deal with the changed and newly added data and files.

What's more, the use of "Full Backup +Incremental Backup" has been employed more frequently than other approaches as it only deals with the changed files since the last full/incremental backup. Therefore, if you need to back up data regularly, this method will be more efficient. The "Full Backup + Differential Backup" method is also a good solution. However, compared to the incremental backup option, it requires more time and storage space but is more resilient to the loss of a differential backup file in a series.


  • If any one of the incremental image files in the sequence is damaged or missing, the subsequent image files will be invalid.

  • A Full Backup must exist as the start point of a series of incremental backups or differential backups.

  • If you have not created any backup task and you want to create an incremental backup or a differential backup, then you need to create a new backup task first and AOMEI Backupper will run it as a full backup by default at the first time.


The combined use of full, incremental, and differential backups can provide you with flexibility, time efficiency and storage space efficiency. Full backups provide the most comprehensive data and system recovery, while incremental and differential backups can save time and storage space every time you back up. Depending on your needs and resource constraints, choosing the right backup strategy can help you balance backup speed, storage requirements and data recovery needs.


Q: When you set to perform a differential backup, but it prompts: The volume configuration has changed, so now is executing a full backup.

A:  Please run the backup task again to check if it will start to perform the differential backup. If you still get the same situation, please try to contact our AOMEI Support Team and attach the log folder under the installation directory of AOMEI Backupper to further analyze this issue.

Q: When you run an incremental/differential backup, does it actually run a full backup?

A:  If there is no full backup in the destination, or the full backup is damaged, it will first need to run a full backup.

Q: It shows Information code 4105/21: Not enough memory to process this command when you run an incremental backup.

A: If you are performing an incremental backup and there are too many incremental backup versions, please perform one full backup regularly, and then continue to do incremental backups based on the new full one.