Much of the information below was found on the elinux.org 'RPi Easy SD Card Setup' page
You can use Windows to copy (i.e. drag and drop) all the NOOBS files direct to a 'brand new' SD card = no 'burn' required ! However the only operating system (OS) embedded within NOOBS is Raspbian (Jessie), which is held as a compressed file (root.tar.xz) so can't be (easily) modified on the PC
You will only need to format the SDHC card for NOOBS if, in Properties, the File system is shown as anything other than FAT32 (such as RAW) or if the card has already been used in a Pi (as it will contain 'invisible' Ext2/3/4 partitions using up most of the space). Even then, the Windows (drive letter right click) Format usually does the job
The advantage of NOOBS is that you can choose which Pi Operating System to use when you first boot-up the Pi
The disadvantage of NOOBS is that if you select anything other than the Raspbian system (from the full NOOBS), the Pi must have a 'live' connection to the Internet since it has to download whatever other system you choose (the cut-down version of NOOBS doesn't include any system, so all have to be downloaded)
Given that Jessie Lite is about 300MB (and Jessie 'full' is over 1Gb), don't expect any of these downloads to be 'quick'
How to re-format the SD card.
If your SD card shows up in My Computer with the annoying 'Secure Digital' logo, or with Properties 'File system' = RAW (or as FAT32 but less than 100Mb in size) you will need to reformat it
If you are going to use the Win32 Disk Imager to 'write' an .img to the card, in my experience, formatting isn't really necessary, even on as 'RAW' or incorrect sized card = and 99 times out of a hundred the Windows 'right click on drive letter' Format does the job
After writing an .img to SD card, Windows is rather bad at 'spotting' the SD card partitions have changed, no matter if you started with an unformatted RAW or full formatted FAT32 card. So the fact that Windows can't 'see' the Jessie FAT32 partition doesn't mean the .img write failed. I usually wait a few minutes before 'closing' Win32 Disk Imager and then a few more before 'opening' My Computer (and checking the SD card 'properties'). This seems to increase the chances of the Jessie FAT32 partition opening OK (rather than Windows reporting File system = RAW and insisting the card be re-formatted before use). If I do get the 'RAW' report, ejecting the SD card and re-inserting it a few minutes later is sometimes successful, as is moving the SD card reader from one USB socket to another. If all else fails, you will just have to reformat and start again. Usually the Windows format 'tool' will 'do the job', but check the drive capacity after the format (if it only shows 40Mb or so, it failed and you will have to use the SD Associations formatter
To 'guarantee' a full FAT32 format, you need the SD Associations SD card formatter for Windows.
Needless to say, I had problems installing this latest version (4.0) on Windows XP = so I had to go and find v3.1 (which you can download from me by right clicking and using 'Save link as' from here).
NB. If the SD Associations formatter install fails with an "Error applying transforms. Verify that the specified transform paths are valid" message, go find the .mst transform file (it will be in the same \temp. folder as the .msi installer) and delete it before double clicking the .msi.
Launch the SD card formatter tool and, in the OPTIONS menu, make sure "FORMAT SIZE ADJUSTMENT" is set to ON. Then make sure the real SD card Drive letter is shown (and not your USB connected "back up" drive :-) ) before Clicking "Format".
It's the size that's fooling Windows, so don't let if fool the SD Associations formatter as well :-)
Finally note that whilst most ancient laptops will cope OK with SD and SDHC cards of 32Gb (or less), SDXC cards of 64Gb (or more) will need the exFAT driver. This is a real pain for Windows XP users as Microsoft has removed the required exFAT update from it's download web site
Burning a Raspbian image (.img)
Raspbian has to be 'burned' (or 'flashed') to the SD card. To do this, use the recommended Win32 Disk Imager utility from Source Forge. On PC's with 'clever' Operating Systems (Vista and above) you will have to make sure to install and 'Run As' administrator.
Some computers - especially older laptops with a built-in SD card reader 'slot' - will require a SD driver update first. Alternatively, just use any cheap USB SDHC card 'dongle'
It seems almost anything can 'upset' the burn, which always shows as 'complete' but generates a card that Windows is unable to see (Windows should always show the FAT32 'boot' partition).
Plug in the SD card, check it's Properties, File system = FAT32. Exit properties, Close the My Computer, Windows Explorer window (so nothing Windows is 'looking at' the SD card) Launch the Win32 Disk Imager utility. WARNING. By default, Win32 Disk Imager selects the first 'removable drive' it sees ! If that happens to be a USB connected back-up drive, writing an .img to it will DESTROY the partitioning data and you will NEVER get you back-up back ! Check VERY CAREFULLY in the top right-hand corner of the Win32 Disk Imager window pull down list for the DRIVE LETTER it's going to 'burn'. Do the 'burn'. Whilst burning, don't touch anything When it says 'complete', wait a few minutes Close the utility, then eject the card. Re-insert the SD card, wait a minute or so, then try opening it from My Computer
Windows can be very 'picky' with Pi imaged SD cards. Sometimes it will 'recognise' the card if you 'eject' and re-insert it a few times, other times it will say 'needs formatting' whatever you do. The card 'Class' (4, 10) and size (8Gb, 16Gb, 32Gb) seem to have no effect on their chances of being 'seen'. Further, cards once 'seen' OK can suddenly 'disappear' (in Properties, they revert to Size = 0 and File system = RAW) with Windows reporting that the card 'needs formatting'
Why does a 'Good' card suddenly 'disappear' ? Well that's because Win-doze CHECKS each any every drive each and every time you 'open' an Explorer Window (this is so it can 'lock up' waiting for a mapped network drive that's 'gone to sleep' and so it can locate an 'autorun' virus on a USB memory stick and run that at System security level without telling you)
Command line alternative
Sometimes you just can't get a 'good' FAT32 burn with Win32 Disk Imager = it says 'complete' but Windows keeps saying the card 'needs formatting'. More often than not, the SDHC card is perfectly good and the Pi will 'boot up' as normal.
However if you actually need to access the FAT32 partition of Jessie to make changes to the config. files before moving the SDHC to the Pi, you can try the flashnul command line tool
Unpack the tool to somewhere 'obvious' (like c:\flashnul). Move the Pi distro .img to the same folder .. then open a DOS Box (command prompt) = on Vista and above, cmd.exe must be "Run as Administrator", then 'cd' to the folder. C:\flashnul\flashnul.exe U: -L 2016-05-27-raspbian-jessie-lite.img Where U: is the SD drive / USB SD card dongle. Flashnul will give you a device summary and a caution message = make sure to you have selected the correct device (drive letter), then type 'yes' and press enter. NOTE. If you get an 'access denied' error, check you don't have a Windows Explorer window open for the device. If that fails, try ejecting and re-plugging in the SD card.
Next page :- Backing up your Pi