Copying Data with XCopy

by Barry Dysert
(last updated September 15, 2014)

XCopy is a command-line utility that comes with Windows. It offers a great deal more functionality than the familiar COPY command, but of course the additional functionality makes XCopy a bit more difficult to use than COPY. This tip provides information on some of its more interesting features so that you can begin using it with very little learning curve.

XCopy provides an easy way to copy both files and directory trees. Its basic syntax is:

C:\> XCOPY source destination [switches]

The /E switch is very useful. It is used to copy directories and subdirectories. So, for example, if you had a directory named C:\Temp\Barry which contained files and subdirectories, you could duplicate Barry's tree structure (i.e., copying all its files and subdirectories) to C:\Temp2 with this command:

C:\> XCOPY C:\Temp\Barry C:\Temp2 /E

Another useful switch is /C, which tells XCopy it should continue copying even if errors occur.

If you're not quite sure what your XCopy command is going to copy, you can simply pretend to execute it, and instead of copying anything it will tell you what it would have copied. This is accomplished by the /L switch.

The /Z switch is very good to know about, especially if you're copying large files over a network. This switch means the copy is "restartable", meaning that if it is interrupted, it can be resumed from where it got cut off instead of having to start copying all over again. While you're at it, I suggest you add the /J switch for copying large files. This switch tells XCopy to use unbuffered I/O, which makes copying of large files goes faster.

There are several other switches to XCopy, mainly having to do with whether to suppress messages or confirmations, deal with files' attributes, and excluded files. A complete list of switches can be obtained by specifying /? on the command line:

C:\> XCOPY /?

 This tip (13226) applies to Windows 7 and 8.

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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