I have a windows machine that I am backing up by files instead of as an image. Am I correct that I can then restore that windows install to a blank HD or a reformatted drive and it will contain everything including the mbr, etc? I have read everything I can find, but I’m still a little unclear if the file backup for windows will restore everything (including the partitions, or do you have to use the image system to do that?
The file backup will not restore full Windows install. You would need to use the image backup to do a bare-metal restore.
Or, install Windows on a new machine, physical or virtual, then restore your files to it. But it will not be a clone of what you backed up.
File backup is meant more for backing up and restoring user-generated files, not full operating systems.