How to Backup Files before Reformatting in Windows 11/10/8/7

An important means of data protection is to back up files before formatting or other major operations. This post will show you 2 effective ways to do it in Windows 7/8/10/11, either by built-in tool or a free file backup software.


by Delia Updated on October 18, 2022

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Do you need to backup files before reformatting?

We all have some important files that we can't afford to lose, so we back them up, especially before performing operations with a high risk of data loss. 

For example, you may want to save files before formatting a hard drive, USB flash drive, SD card, or an external hard drive, thus you can easily retrieve the desired data after formatting.

In some other cases, you may also need to format an entire computer. For instance, when Windows 10 breaks down and you can't simply fix it, the most powerful method at that point may be resetting the system. But this process may result in the loss of some data, so you need to backup files before formatting Windows.

There are also some operations that theoretically do not erase any data, but are still risky, so we better back up important files before the operation just in case, e.g. backup Windows 7 before upgrade to Windows 10.

backup before reformatting

How to backup files before formatting

Before we start, we may want to figure out what kind of storage needs reformatting. To be specific, formatting removable device and formatting hard drive with system installed require different backup strategies.

To backup files before formatting hard drive, laptop, PC, or computer, your need to backup the entire machine with disk backup or system backup operating; To save files before formatting removable devices such as memory card or portable hard drive that has no system installed, file backup or partition backup is enough.

As for the specific methods, in Windows, you have 2 different ways to go. If you only want to use Windows native apps, then you can try Backup and Restore, introduced by Microsoft since Windows 7. But if you want to customise your backups further or want to avoid possible errors to improve efficiency, then consider using more powerful free backup tool.

Backup files before reformatting via built-in tool

Insert a destination backup storage if necessary. You can also backup files to OneDrive or network drive with this tool. In Windows 7 and Windows 10, click Start > Control Panel > System and Security to open Backup and Restore. In Windows 8/8.1, type "recovery" in search box and select Windows 7 File Recovery to start backup utility.

Take backup files before formatting in Windows 7 for example:

Set up backup

1. In Backup and Restore, click on Set up backup. As you can see, we can backup system and create a rescue media as well.

2. Choose where to save the backups. We can save it on network drive.

3. Choose what to backup.

4. Review backup settings, save settings and run backup. Schedule backup is available.

To restore file backup later, type recovery in search box or click Select another backup to restore files from as the screenshot shows.

Tips: Windows Backup and Restore tool cannot encrypt and compress backup image. In that way, file’s security and device storage are matters to concern. Free backup software AOMEI Backupper Standard takes care of those disadvantages. Let’s learn more.

Backup before reformatting computer with freeware

AOMEI Backupper earns good reputation because of its powerful features and concise interface. In regard to backup, it offers system backup, disk backup, partition backup, and file backup. All of them support backing up to external drive, USB stick, network drive, or NAS. Incremental backup, compression, image splitting, and email notification are also supportable. Free download it to have a try.

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

To backup files before reformatting with AOMEI Backupper:

Step 1. Install and open AOMEI Backupper Standard. Select File Backup in Backup tab. Optionally, you can choose System Backup to back up Windows OS, or choose Disk Backup to back up the entire hard drive.

File Backup

Step 2. Click Add File or Add Folder to add the files from the partition we need to reformat.

Add Folders Files

Step 3. We can select another location as the destination path here, and then click Start Backup.

Select Destination

To better protect your data, many users choose to backup files to the cloud, so that even if there is any problem with your local disk, you can still access your files in the cloud without any data loss. When you you sign up for an AOMEI account, it will give you 1TB of free storage space for 15 days.

Signup Or Login

If you need to restore file backup in the future, open AOMEI Backuper and go to Restore tab.


  • Backup Options: encrypt, compress or split backup images by clicking this option. If you want to encrypt backups, you need to upgrade to AOMEI Backupper Professional.
  • Schedule Backup: this option is for regular backup (daily, weekly, and monthly).
  • Backup Scheme: you can choose the backup method (full backup, incremental and differential backup) and enable automatic backup cleanup here. Some features are available in higher editions.


To sum up, AOMEI Backupper can help backup files before reformatting. It saves times when it avoids some potential backup risk, like backup files fails. AOMEI Backupper could be helpful when we try to clone disk to another hard drive, create bootable rescue media in particular when our computer fails to boot. In short, it is handy and all-around backup software and it is worth trying.

If you want to protect unlimited computers within your company, you can pick AOMEI Backupper Technician. With the inbuilt AOMEI Image Deploy tool, you are also allowed to deploy/restore system image file on server-side computer to multiple client-side computers over network.

Delia · Editor
Delia owns extensive experience in writing technology-related blog posts, and has been a part of AOMEI since 2020 to provide expertise in data security and disaster recovery. She works with Windows operating systems, SQL databases, and virtualization platforms such as VMware and Hyper-V, specializing in troubleshooting and advising on data protection and migration.