Screenshot of robocopyScreenshot of robocopy

Robocopy, short for “Robust File Copy”, is an essential command-line utility that has been a part of the Windows ecosystem since the Windows NT days. This tool, available since Windows NT 4.0 and a standard feature of Windows since Windows Vista, is something every IT professional and power user should be familiar with, given its versatility and robustness. Whether you’re new to Robocopy or looking for a deep dive into its features, this guide offers insights, tips, and a comprehensive overview.

Introduction to Robocopy

Robocopy isn’t just another file copy tool. Designed as a more capable replacement for the xcopy utility, it offers features especially useful for large-scale data migrations, backups, and more. Some standout features include the ability to copy files in restartable mode, skip NTFS junction points, preserve timestamps, and copy NTFS permissions. With Robocopy, you can copy all files, exclude specific files, and even generate an output log for auditing.

Why Robocopy?

Versatility: Robocopy can handle paths that exceed the 256-character limit, ensuring that long directory structures don’t hinder your tasks. This robust file copy tool is perfect for copying files and folders, even in low free space mode.

Efficiency: Robocopy can synchronize two directories, ensuring only the changes are copied, saving significant time and bandwidth. With its myriad of options, you can specify exactly what you want to copy.

Reliability: In the event of network interruptions or other issues, Robocopy will pause whenever a file copy would cause an error, ensuring data integrity. Once resolved, it will continue from where it left off.

Understanding Robocopy’s Syntax

Robocopy’s behavior is influenced by the environment and the options provided. By default, it copies entire directories, not just individual files. However, with the right filtering, single files can be targeted. The utility’s syntax can be broken down as follows:

ROBOCOPY Source_folder Destination_folder [File_to_copy] [Options]

For those looking for Robocopy examples, consider using the /LOG option to output to the log file, which can be invaluable for troubleshooting.

Advanced Features

  • Backup Mode: This mode allows Robocopy to access files without worrying about permissions. It is especially useful when copying files that might otherwise be inaccessible due to security restrictions.
  • Job Files: These are text files containing one option per line. They can be used to save and reuse specific Robocopy configurations, making repetitive tasks more manageable. When executing Robocopy with a job file, it streamlines the process.

Practical Applications

Robocopy isn’t just for IT professionals. Here are some everyday scenarios where Robocopy shines:

  • Data Migrations: Moving data from one server to another? Robocopy ensures data integrity, and nothing is missed. It’s especially useful in Windows Server environments.

  • Backups: Regular backups are a must, and Robocopy can be scripted to automate this process, ensuring your data is always safe. Whether you’re running Robocopy on Windows 10 or Windows Server 2019, it’s a reliable choice.

  • Folder Synchronization: Keeping two folders, or directory trees, in sync, especially over a network, can be a challenge. Robocopy simplifies this with its mirroring and synchronization options.

Tips and Tricks

  • Always test your Robocopy commands on a small set of data before scaling up. This ensures you’ve got the syntax right and prevents potential data loss.
  • Use the /LOG option to keep a record of the operations. This can be invaluable for troubleshooting and auditing. Reviewing the existing log can provide insights into previous operations.

Robocopy Syntax and Commands: 

Command Description Example
/S Copies subdirectories (excluding empty ones). ROBOCOPY C:source D:dest /S
/E Copies subdirectories (including empty ones). ROBOCOPY C:source D:dest /E
/MIR Mirrors a directory tree (equivalent to /E and /PURGE). ROBOCOPY C:source D:dest /MIR
/Z Copies files in restartable mode (useful for large files). ROBOCOPY C:source D:dest /Z
/ZB Uses restartable mode; if access denied, uses backup mode. ROBOCOPY C:source D:dest /ZB
/R:n Specifies the number of retries on failed copies. ROBOCOPY C:source D:dest /R:5
/W:n Specifies the wait time between retries (in seconds). ROBOCOPY C:source D:dest /W:5
/LOG:file Outputs status to LOG file. ROBOCOPY C:source D:dest /LOG:copylog.txt
/NP No progress – don’t display percentage copied. ROBOCOPY C:source D:dest /NP
/XD Excludes directories that match the specified names or paths. ROBOCOPY C:source D:dest /XD “C:sourcetemp”
/XF Excludes files that match the specified names or paths. ROBOCOPY C:source D:dest /XF “C:sourcetemp.txt”
/MT[:n] Creates multi-threaded copies with n threads (n is 1 to 128, default is 8). ROBOCOPY C:source D:dest /MT:16
/DCOPY:T Copies directory timestamps. ROBOCOPY C:source D:dest /DCOPY:T
/A+:[RASHCNET] Adds the specified attributes to copied files. ROBOCOPY C:source D:dest /A+:R
/A-:[RASHCNET] Removes the specified attributes from copied files. ROBOCOPY C:source D:dest /A-:H


Robocopy is a testament to the power of the command line. While it might seem daunting at first, with a bit of practice, it can become an indispensable tool in your IT toolkit. Whether you’re an IT professional managing large data centers or a power user looking to optimize your backup processes, Robocopy has something to offer.

FAQ – Robocopy

Q1: What is the basic syntax for using Robocopy?

A1: The basic syntax for Robocopy involves specifying the source directory and destination directory, followed by any file name or options you want to include. The structure looks like this: ROBOCOPY Source_directory Destination_directory [File_name] [Options]. This command line tool ensures you can copy all files or exclude specific ones based on your needs.

Q2: Can you provide some Robocopy examples?

A2: Certainly! If you want to copy a file named “document.txt” from a source folder to a destination directory, you’d use: ROBOCOPY C:source_folder C:destination_directory document.txt. To exclude certain files, you can use the /XF option, like ROBOCOPY C:source C:dest /XF exclude.txt. For a detailed log file of the operation, add the /LOG option.

Q3: How do I run a Robocopy job?

A3: A Robocopy job involves using the “job file” feature. Job files are text files containing Robocopy commands and options. To run a Robocopy job, you’d use the /JOB option followed by the job file name. For instance, ROBOCOPY /JOB:myjob.rcj. This is especially useful for repetitive tasks or batch file operations.

Q4: Are there any specific Robocopy commands I should know about?

A4: Robocopy offers a plethora of commands. Some essential ones include /MIR for mirroring directory trees, /Z for copying files in restartable mode, and /LOG to output to the log file. Depending on your needs, you can explore a long list of Robocopy commands to optimize your file transfer tasks.

Q5: How do I use Robocopy in Backup Mode?

A5: Backup Mode is activated using the /B option. In this mode, Robocopy can bypass file and folder permissions, allowing it to copy files it might otherwise not have access to. It’s especially useful when you want to copy files without being hindered by security restrictions.

Q6: What’s the difference between copying files and folders using Robocopy and other methods?

A6: Robocopy is designed for robust file copy operations. Unlike standard Windows copy methods, Robocopy provides advanced features like copying files in restartable mode, handling long directory structures, and more. It’s especially efficient when dealing with large files and folders.

Q7: How do I run Robocopy on Windows 10?

A7: Running Robocopy on Windows 10 is straightforward. Simply open the Command Prompt and enter your Robocopy command. Ensure you have the necessary permissions, especially if you’re copying system files or using the backup mode.

Q8: What is “Low Free Space Mode” in Robocopy?

A8: While “Low Free Space Mode” isn’t a direct term associated with Robocopy, the tool is designed to manage file transfers efficiently. If there’s limited free space in the destination directory, Robocopy ensures data is copied without running into space issues, making it a reliable choice even in constrained environments.

Q9: How can I generate an output log for my Robocopy operations?

A9: Using the /LOG option, you can direct Robocopy to generate an output log. For example, ROBOCOPY C:source C:destination /LOG:output.txt will create an “output.txt” log file detailing the entire operation.

Q10: Are there any specific Robocopy options I should be aware of?

A10: Robocopy provides a lot of options to customize your file copy operations. From excluding specific files with /XF to using the /MIR option for mirroring directories, the tool offers flexibility for various scenarios. Always refer to the official documentation or trusted sources for a comprehensive list of options.

exclude files in source and destination file and destination folder for copy options to copy the file to another file data using robocopy syntax in windows server 2008 source and destination directories in existing log file as source file

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