How to Copy Files without Booting Windows (Step by Step)

This article illustrates a simple way on how to copy files on hard disk without booting Windows. It plays an important role in rescuing files when Windows won’t start.


By Delia Updated on October 18, 2022

Share this: instagram reddit

Case: I want to copying files without booting Windows


Hello. I’m looking for a way to copy files without Windows Explorer, maybe without Windows operating system. My Dell PC almost died and I built a new one. I don’t think I can boot the Dell PC correctly. But I need all personal files on the Data drive. Is there an approach where I can access the drive and get my files? Thanks.

Copy Files without Booting Windows

As stated above, rescuing files from a problematic computer may be the most common reason for copying without Windows. After all, system errors, disk failures, operator errors and the like can cause a computer fails to boot properly, and if you still have some important data stored on that hard drive, you will have to migrate them without Windows.

Besides, some users may also want to do this to reduce external interruptions and increase the efficiency of copying data. Whatever your reason is, it is more important to find out how to copy files without the Windows environment.

How to copy files without booting Windows 11/10/8/7 easily

There are many ways available in this situation. Finding the simplest one could save your time and effort. Here I'll introduce two ways in detail.

Way 1. Easiest way to copy any data on hard disk without Windows

AOMEI Backupper Standard, the best free backup software for Windows 11/10/8/7, comes to help. With it, all you need is a USB flash drive which is used as the bootable media. Then, you can copy files to another place like external storage, NAS or network share in Windows Pre-install Environment (WinPE).

In short, it will copy files in two parts. The first one is creating a bootable USB drive and the second one is copying files with the bootable media. Let’s take a closer look.

Before you start, free download and install AOMEI Backupper Standard on your computer. Then follow the steps below.

Tip: If you could not boot the Windows correctly, please install this software on another Windows-based computer to create bootable media.

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

1. Connect a USB flash drive (or CD/DVD disc) to the computer, better greater than 14GB. Run AOMEI Backupper and go "Tools" > "Create Bootable Media".

Create Bootable Media

Note: Alternatively, you could choose "Recovery Environment" under “Tools” to enable the boot option of AOMEI Backupper recovery environment. Thus you can perform backup/restore from boot even without bootable media. This feature is available in AOMEI Backupper Professional.

2. It is suggested to choose the option “Windows PE - Create bootable disc based on Windows PE” and click Next.

Windows Bootable Disc

Notice: AOMEI Backupper will detect if you need to install Windows AIK or not (mostly you need to install this toolkit if you are running Windows XP or Vista). If you do, please install it first.

3. On the “Select Bootable Media” page, select “USB Boot Device” option (Please select “Burn to CD/DVD if you’ve prepared a CD/DVD disc). Click Next and then the operation will start. Wait for it completes and click “Finish” at last.

Select USB Device

Now, disconnect the bootable media and shut down your PC. Reconnect the bootable media to the target PC where you’ll do the copy task. Power on and enter BIOS to change the boot order. To enter BIOS boot menu, usually you need to keep pressing Del or F2 key once powered on. Or, you can follow the on-screen prompts and get there.

4. Set the bootable media you just created as the first boot device and press F10 to save the changes.

Boot Menu

5. You’re almost done. Soon you’ll see a loaded AOMEI Backupper Standard again. Click “Backup” and then click “File Backup”. 

File Backup

6. Click “Add Folder” or "Add File" to select the folders/files you want to copy.

Add Folders Files

7. Select a destination path to which you want to copy files. It could be external storage (need to connect it in advance), NAS, or network share.

Select Destination Path

8. Finally, click “Start Backup” to execute this task. Wait for it completes, close the program, and shut down the computer.

◐ If you have an AOMEI account, you are able to backup files to AOMEI Cloud. It offers you 1TB free storage for 15 days after you sign up for an AOMEI account.
◐ To use the files in the backup image, you need to perform file restore first.

Way 2. Transfer files without operating system via CMD

If you have an Installation Disc, Recovery Drive, or Repair CD that contains the recovery environment, you can insert them to access advanced options in WinRE. If you don't have any, you can try a small trick: Power on the computer, when the logo appears, press the power button to shut it down, and then power it on. Repeat this operation and after 3 failed start-ups, you should be able to launch recovery environment.

Additionally, connect your storage device (such as USB flash drive) as well. Then, follow this method to do file copying without Windows:

1. Go to “Repair your computer” or “Advanced Options” to open "Command Prompt".

Advanced Options

2. Type "notepad.exe" in the Command Prompt and press Enter.

3. In Notepad, click “File” and then “Open" or "Save as” to get into the mini File Explorer where you could access the files you need.


Select "All Files" as the file type, then you can view everything on the computer.

All Files

4. Right-click the data you want and copy them to the connected device (you can use the "Copy & Paste" or "Send to" feature).

This method has the advantage of not requiring any third-party tools, but it is more suitable for copying non-system files. 

Foster a habit of backup to protect data

As you can see it is quite troublesome to get files back when the computer fails to boot. Thus, building a good habit of backup could help you escape from those troubles.

Aforementioned backup software, AOMEI Backupper Standard, is able to create file backup, system backup, disk backup on a regular basis. It supports daily, weekly, and monthly backup. The incremental and differential backup types would help you save disk space. All you need to do is to create a backup task at the first time, and then others will be taken care of by this software. Therefore, keep it installed after copying files without Windows to back up your world.

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.