Moving or copying large chunks of data from one hard or network drive to the next can be frustratingly tiresome, even with top-notch hardware. And while many specialized file managers tend to be more comfortable, they often end up being even slower than the much-dreaded Windows Explorer. However, a third, much faster option can be found with the powerful command line tool Robocopy, which supports over 80 optional parameters to optimize all your copying needs. Here's how to copy and paste multiple items faster.

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Initially designed for Windows Vista as a reliable backup utility, Robocopy keeps all file permissions and attributes in check after copying and even tolerates network disconnects, resuming where it left off (thus the full name "Robust file copy"). Most importantly, it has since been enhanced to allow for multi-threaded copying, accelerating file transfers many times over. Obviously, the downside is having to deal with the command line interface, which can be fairly user-unfriendly. If you keep to our instructions however, this shouldn't give you any headaches.

How to copy files with Robocopy

You can summon the command line tool either by searching for "cmd" in the Windows search bar or by pressing the Windows-Button + R and typing "cmd" into the empty field. To use Robocopy, you will need to use the following syntax structure for the prompt:

robocopy [Source] [Destination] [File] /Parameter

Note that specifying the exact files you want to copy with [File] is optional, as Robocopy will simply copy all file contents of the source folder without it. However by default, this doesn't include any subdirectories, so make sure to also type the parameter "/e" at the end to add them to the process. Thus, a typical command to copy a whole folder and all its contents might look like this:

robocopy C:\Martin\copyfolder C:\Martin\pastefolder /e

If you just want to copy a specific file, you can specify this command further:

robocopy C:\Martin\copyfolder C:\Martin\pastefolder document.txt

Quick-Tip: You don't need to bother with typing the whole path in the command prompt. Just drag and drop folders/files directly into the command line interface to import their directory path.

This is where it gets interesting. If you want to use Robocopy to speed up file transfers significantly, you can add the parameter "/MT:[n]" at the end of the command line. This will instruct Robocopy to use multi-threaded copying algorithms, allowing your PC to process many files in parallel instead of just one at a time. By default, this number is 8, but you can set it as high as 128 if your CPU is up to the task. Here’s an example for that:

robocopy C:\Martin\copyfolder C:\Martin\pastefolder /e /mt:20

In using this little trick, you should be able note a significant increase in speed compared to the Windows Explorer. Obviously, this makes Robocopy particularly well-suited for moving large files quickly from A to B, such as system backups or movies.

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Beyond these fairly basic applications, there are also a great many more advanced uses that you can use Robocopy for, such as copying folders from another computer in the network:

robocopy \\Server-Name\Michael C:\Martin\pastefolder /e

Only copy files that are at least a certain number of days old:

robocopy C:\Martin\copyfolder C:\Martin\pastefolder /minage:15

Or create a perfect mirror image of any directory (includes purging files in the destination directory that aren't present in the source directory):  

robocopy C:\Martin\copyfolder C:\Martin\pastefolder /mir

For a full list of all parameters and functions, we recommend checking out Microsoft's detailed parameter list or example guide for Robocopy.