Understanding Robocopy

by Barry Dysert
(last updated September 21, 2017)

Robocopy (a made-up program name meaning Robust File Copy) is a command-line utility that comes with Windows. When you're doing a lot of file management, you need something more powerful than what is provided through Windows Explorer or File Explorer. Robocopy is one alternative. It does require some typing instead of clicking, but its increased set of functionality more than offsets any inconvenience this may cause.

One of the first things you should know is that Robocopy is designed to work with directories more so than with individual files (although it can still deal with both). Another thing to be aware of is the multitude of options (or switches) that can be used to augment Robocopy's behavior.

The basic syntax for a Robocopy command is:

Robocopy source destination [file [file]...] [options]

Since it was designed to deal with directories, both the source and destination parameters are specified as "drive:\path" or "\\server\share\path". The file parameters are literal file names, and you can use the "?" and "*" wildcards if needed. The optional options parameter consists of switches that you can specify to augment Robocopy's behavior. For example, if you want Robocopy to execute in restartable mode you would specify the /Z switch.

The power of Robocopy lies in knowing the options and how to use them. See other Tips on Robocopy for some examples of specific actions that are common among Robocopy users. To see what all options are available and what they do, type "Robocopy /?" at a command prompt, and begin to experiment.

 This tip (13186) applies to Windows 7, 8, and 10.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 30 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer.  He is currently a senior software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. ...

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