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Start Using XCOPY to Speed up Transferring Files

Jeff is a PC user who likes to run a clean machine and save money in the process.


The Need for Speed

People are copying, storing, backing up, and sharing more and more media files than ever. While it's important to have fast CPU’s, lots of RAM, and plenty of storage on a drive with good speed (if not a Solid State Drive), one of the easiest and best ways to save time transferring files is by using a simple cmd line tool called XCOPY.

Even if you're not familiar or comfortable with using the cmd line interface, XCOPY is one of the easiest commands to learn and use. Why Use XCOPY? Because in Windows, that pretty little graphic display you see that shows you files are being transferred is actually eating up processor speed and slowing the file transfer down! By exactly how much you ask? Glad you asked, Read on and I’ll show you.

Timing Is Everything

Let's say I want to copy my music files from my local HD to my external drive. I open up both windows, select my music file, hit the CTRL keys + C (Copy), and then in my External USB Window hit the CTRL + V keys (Paste). Note: I personally always copy and paste to ensure files don't get placed in the wrong directory, and that they were copied and not moved.

Windows 7 is estimating this transfer will take an hour or so. (Pic above). For the sake of this article, I (painfully) let this run and it actually took 20 minutes. Now, let's try to use XCOPY to copy these files and see how long it takes.


Example 1

First, I’ll get to my command prompt by using the search box in Windows 7 (Desktop --> Windows Icon bottom left corner --> where it says "Search programs and files" and type CMD.) If you are running Windows Vista do the same, if you are running Windows XP go to start, run, and type CMD.


The black screen that appears is the cmd prompt. Now I will Type XCOPY C:\music H:\music /s /e.

I was able to copy my files in ten minutes. Here's a quick breakdown of the syntax:

First, always start with XCOPY. Next, you type the source, in my case the C drive and the folder “photos”. Then second you enter the destination. My external drive is H and the folder I want to copy the contents of photos into is also creatively named photos. The s “copy all directories and subdirectories even if empty” and e ”copy all subdirectories even if empty” tags are necessary. Without them, you will see individual files were copied (from the main directory) but not the subdirectories.

Generally speaking, if you are copying an entire directory from one drive to another, the /s and /e tags will usually do the trick. Tip: after your transfer is done you should always check the folder size on both drives to make sure they are the same (right-click the folder and select properties).

Example 2

In this example, I'll copy the contents of my spreadsheet folder into a network share. The syntax is the same, XCOPY C:\spreadsheets “S:\user share” /s /e

You may have noticed I used quotes this time, this is because of the space between user and share, the cmd line will not recognize this drive without them.


Since you're copying files and not moving them your risk is limited, but before you try copying any wedding photos or baby pictures I would run a test or two first to get the hang of XCOPY. With just a little bit of effort, you can speed up your file transfers and maybe even show off to your friends a bit.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2012 Jeff Boettner


Ginni on May 04, 2018:

"We have the same problem with a lot of DSC modules, before using the setup.exe, you have to copy/paste the binaries in a local folder.

And for the disk space, I don't know if a dsc resource already exists?'s better to use an alternative tool of it like G.S Richcopy 360 Enterprise because i already used robocopy and find some issues in it.

catherinelee9909 on October 05, 2017:

Does it provide multi threaded file transfer feature? Because its crucial if you want to speed up your file transfer rate. If the answer is "yes" then well and good if not then I would not consider is as fast. I would rather recommend GS Richcopy 360 which provides 100% multi threaded fie transfer, the level of threading is quite extensive. Its a premium quality software on which I rely for most of my backups and transfers. Give it a try, maybe it can help you! Have a good day, thanks!

Colns Anksh on June 25, 2017:

Not everyone is comfortable using command line, just like me. After searching a lot I found that GS Richcopy 360 works best among all the software that I have used. Its simple to use, provides all features that one would need and many extra features too! Try it, hope it helps!

Jeff Boettner (author) from Tampa, FL on August 03, 2013:

Thanks JC, yeah results seem to vary with teracopy for me as well. I've been using robocopy or xcopy lately. Thanks for stopping by, -- J

JC on July 28, 2013:

teracopy was significantly slower for me

kschang from San Francisco, CA, USA on May 13, 2012:

Good tip. For those who are command-line allergic, Teracopy may be of some assistance: