Backup Hard Drive before Formatting in Windows 10/8/7

You may want to format your hard drive and reinstall Windows when it is running slow. Be sure to backup hard drive before formatting.


by Delia Updated on October 18, 2022

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It is necessary to create a backup of your hard drive

If your current Windows PC has some glitches, or it is in more serious issues, you may consider reformatting your computer hard drive and reinstall Windows. Doing so will fix all the software problems. 

However, as you know, reformatting a computer will delete all the data on your hard drive, so you should backup hard drive before formatting. A backup of your hard drive allows you to restore your system, or partial files from the backup. Therefore, after a clean installation or factory reset, you can restore partial files that you need from the backup.

Backup Hard Drive before Formatting

Backup data before formatting in Windows 10/8/7

To backup your computer hard drive, first you can use Windows built-in backup and recovery tool if it is functional. To open Windows backup, you can type “backup” in the search box, and then select “Backup and Restore” in Windows 7, or "backup settings" > "Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7)" in Windows 10 or 11. Within the Backup and Restore screen, click “Set up backup” and then follow the Set up backup wizard to backup before hard drive format.

Backup and Restore

In Windows 8, there is also a backup feature called Windows 7 File Recovery that allows you to create entire hard drive backup like that is in Windows 7, which is unnoticed by the majority of users. To get to it, you can search for “backup” or “file history” and then select the File History. Within the File History feature screen, click the "Windows 7 File Recovery" button on the bottom left.

File History

Then it will bring you a screen like Windows 7 Backup and Restore. You can create backups like in Windows 7 by clicking the “Set up backup” to get started.

Win7 File Recovery

Besides, you can also use WBadmin command to backup entire hard drive.

No matter what Windows version you use, be aware that Windows backup only works with NTFS partitions. Also, you need to manually select the non-system partitions if your system disk has multiple partitions.

If you want to directly backup disk or one of partitions on the disk are formatted with FAT32, you need to use third-party free backup software. I'll introduce you such software in the following.


Directly backup disk before formatting with free backup software

It's a little complicated to backup hard drive before formatting with Backup and Restore or Windows 7 File History. To directly backup disk, you could consider using AOMEI Backupper Standard. It's a free backup software for Windows 7/8/10/11 and supports backing up system, disks, partitions, and files to any other locations. Thus, you can restore it to its original state when something unexpected happens. 

In addition, you can enjoy the following advantages of this software:

Backup disk automatically: It supports daily, weekly, monthly schedule backup, so you can choose to backup the disk with one of them.
Backup only changed files on the disk: By default, this software supports incremental backup, which backup only changes since last backup.
Other useful tools: It allows you to create bootable media with CD or USB disk, so you can boot your PC from the bootable media to backup hard drive even when system crashes.

Then, please download this software and install it on your computer. For server users, try AOMEI Backupper Server.

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

1. Open AOMEI Backupper Standard, click “Backup” and “Disk Backup”.

Disk Backup

2. Click "Add Disk" and select the hard drive that needs backing up.

Add Disk

3. Click the folder-shapped button to select a destination location where you want to save the backup file. If you want to backup to external hard drive, just make sure it is well connected and recognizable in Windows File Explorer.

Select Destination

4. Click “Start Backup” to backup hard drive before formatting. 

Start Backup

This only backup data currently on  the disk, not including changes made later. To keep all changes made later, you need to set Schedule Backup and image SSD automatically. You can choose among Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Event trigger, and USB Plug in. The last two premium features are available on the professional version.

Schedule Backup

By default this software will create one full backup and 6 incremental backup if you set a scheduled backup task. This may result in backup disk full issue in the long run, thus it's suggested to enable Backup Scheme and delete backup file automatically. You have 3 options, By quantity,  By time, By daily/weekly/monthly. You need to upgrade now (5% off for one computer) before using it. 

Enable Automatic Backup Cleanup

And the incremental backup has high requirement for recovery while differential backup is much easier. For differences between them, learn my previous article: Incremental or Differential Backup.

Besides, you still can enable email notification after the task finished. Comment, split, compress the backup image, or select a backup mode, etc. 

AOMEI Email SMS Notification Settings

After the backup is done, you can restore image to get your computer back quickly if something bad happens. If you only want to restore files from backup, you can use its Explore Image to create a virtual partition. For dissimilar hardware restore, try Universal Restore feature on the professional version.

Besides Disk Backup, you can also clone your hard drive to SSD or another hard drive with Disk Clone feature in AOMEI Backupper. After cloning, you can directly use it on your computer without restoring image first.


You can backup hard drive before formatting in Windows 7/8/10/11 whether you use built-in tools or third-party backup software - AOMEI Backupper Standard. The previous is a little complicated, you need to select non-system partitions manually. And it's limited to NTFS partition.

Thus, it's suggested to backup disk directly with AOMEI Backupper. It allows you to schedule backup disk daily, weekly, monthly and backup only changed files instead of full copy. And more, it is able to deploy image to multiple computers if you use the image deploy tool in the technician or techplus edition.

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.