Xcopy vs Robocopy: Choosing the Perfect Copying Tool

Created by On July 23, 2023 |  Last Updated On January 28, 2024

Copying or moving data and files can be straightforward. You may have to use different tools, such as Xcopy and Robocopy, to copy your files or a group of files across a network. These applications are command prompt utilities for copying files, directories or subdirectories.

In this article, we will help you with Xcopy vs Robocopy, which will be better for your usage and be time-effective.

Functionality and Features

Xcopy (Extended Copy) is a command prompt command line used for copying an entire directory tree and is more or less an advanced version of the original copy command line.

Xcopy

Xcopy vs RoboCopy - XCopy Help
  • Xcopy can copy files, entire directories and subdirectories with a command.
  • It effectively excludes file copying based on the file extension or names.
  • It has a simple learning curve.
  • You can create a new directory by copying an existing directory’s files and other content.

Xcopy is available on Microsoft Windows, including Windows 10. IBM PC DOS, FreeDos and ReactOS

Robocopy

Xcopy vs RoboCopy - Robocopy Help
  • You can skip NTFS Junction Points, which are prone to copy failures due to infinite loops.
  • The timestamp recording allows you to resume copying a file from an interrupted process.
  • Multithreading makes the copy process faster.
  • Mirror function (/mir) is easier to target a source folder to sync it to another, through which if you delete data in the source folder, the same will happen to the mirrored folder.
  • You can specify what to do with duplicate files or the same names.

What is RoboCopy? What is RoboCopy? Robocopy is an excellent tool for people who want to develop a complicated copy-paste system of their specific data and suite in the context where they belong. Robocopy (also known as Robust File Copy) is the more enhanced version of Xcopy, and it has been substituted in newer Windows versions like Windows 10 or even 11.

Robocopy (RoboCopy.exe) is especially useful for those who prefer to avoid interrupting their file copying, as Robocopy can start a copying process from where it was initially interrupted.

If you’re curious about what the Robocopy command is, scroll down for more information. If you’re curious about what the Robocopy command is, scroll down for more details.

Pros and Cons of Xcopy and RoboCopy

What can we do about Robocopy vs Xcopy? While both of these tools can help you and serve the purpose of copying across a network on any computer device, the ways of doing so are different.

For many, Xcopy might be a slightly easier tool to use than Windows Robocopy. However, the advanced features of Robocopy can make it more attractive to users.

Let us look at some of the pros and cons of both Robocopy or Xcopy:

Pros of Xcopy Vs RoboCopy

Xcopy

  • Xcopy has a simple learning curve, and beginners can use it for computing. In essence, if you are running short on time and need help to work out a solution to copying and pasting, then Xcopy will be the best option.
  • In simple terms, Xcopy is the best for personal work on your computer. For more significant amounts of files, Xcopy will fail.

Robocopy

  • Robocopy is made with more advanced users in mind, with features that are on a much higher level as compared to Xcopy. However, Robocopy has a steeper learning curve and may be less effective for those looking for a quick copy-and-paste solution across a network. 
  • But if you want to transfer many files across a network, Robocopy will be a good choice.
  • In simple, Robocopy is suitable for big companies or institutions looking to secure their files by mirroring them and transferring them quickly on several networks of computers. Multithreading (the use of multiple CPU processors) is already an advantage over what one would get on using Xcopy.
  • The option of compression also can make transferring files easier as it slightly reduces the size of the data while moving.

Overall, Robocopy is suitable for copying files on a large scale without interruptions.

Cons of Xcopy Vs RoboCopy

Xcopy

  • Xcopy can encounter an error when the file path and name exceed 254 characters. In this case, Xcopy will fail with an “Insufficient Memory” error message due to trying to use all the available RAM on a computer.
  • Xcopy cannot copy open files because it does not support Window Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS).
  • Xcopy does not copy all the attributes of a file, such as a timestamp or security information.
  • If a file transfer fails, the user must manually start the Xcopy copying process, as Xcopy itself will not try.
  • Xcopy does not support the resuming of an interrupted copying process. Adding the /d switch to the syntax will allow it to restart and copy only files created or edited since the last copy.

In these cases, the usage of Xcopy can be limiting and may be suitable for use if a user is only transferring their files or working for a small group.

Robocopy

  • Robocopy has a steeper learning curve. The vast number of command prompt lines can be hard to remember, and you may need to take thorough notes of commands. While there was a GUI front-end of Robocopy called Robocopy GUI, it was deprecated. Therefore, it will best work on the command prompt, which can initially be confusing.
  • Robocopy can unintentionally delete files and may transfer some data that are not necessary to move to another drive.

While Robocopy can be the best solution for quick copying on a large scale, it could be more effective as a guide for those just starting the program. In such a case, Xcopy is a simple learning curve for those looking for quick copying. But Robocopy takes the cake otherwise due to its wide variety of features and overall functionality.

Exploring Xcopy and RoboCopy Commands in Detail:

File operations, from simple copying to intricate mirroring and exclusion tasks, are at the core of efficient data management. Understanding and mastering commands like Xcopy and RoboCopy can elevate your ability to handle diverse file-copying scenarios.

Let’s discuss comprehensive guides for each, unlocking their potential across various file management tasks.

01. Copying Files and Folders:

Xcopy Command:

Learn how to use Xcopy, explore Xcopy examples and Xcopy parameters for tailored file operations.

				
					xcopy source destination /s /e
				
			
  • /s: This option instructs Xcopy to copy directories and subdirectories except empty ones.
  • /e: With this flag, Xcopy copies directories and subdirectories, including empty ones.

RoboCopy Command:

				
					RoboCopy source destination /e
				
			
  • /e: RoboCopy’s equivalent of Xcopy’s/e copies subdirectories, including empty ones.

02 Mirroring with Timestamps:

Xcopy Command:

				
					Xcopy source destination /mir /d
				
			
  • /mir: Mirrors a directory tree, essentially combining /e and /purge.
  • /d: This flag copies files changed on or after the specified date.

RoboCopy Command:

				
					robocopy source destination /mir /ts
				
			
  • /mir: Mirrors a directory tree, similar to Xcopy’s/mir.
  • /ts: Copies files with the same timestamp only.

03 Copying Only New or Modified Files:

Xcopy Command:

				
					Xcopy source destination /d
				
			
  • /d: Copies files changed on or after the specified date.

RoboCopy Command:

				
					RoboCopy source destination /maxage:1
				
			
  • /maxage:1: Copies files changed within the last day.

04 Excluding Specific File Types:

Xcopy Command:

				
					Xcopy source destination /exclude:filelist.txt
				
			
  • /exclude:filelist.txt: Specifies a list of files containing strings.

RoboCopy Command:

				
					RoboCopy source destination /xf *.tmp
				
			
  • /xf *.tmp: Excludes files with the “.tmp” extension.

05 Logging and Monitoring:

Xcopy Command:

				
					Xcopy source destination /l /log:copylog.txt
				
			
  • /l: Displays a list of files to be copied (without copying).
  • /log:copylog.txt: Creates a log file with the copy operation details.

RoboCopy Command:

				
					RoboCopy source destination /log+:copylog.txt
				
			
  • /log+:copylog.txt: Appends output to an existing log file.

In essence, these commands offer diverse functionalities for specific copying tasks. Xcopy is known for its simplicity, while RoboCopy brings additional features and robustness. By understanding the nuances of each command, you can choose the one that best fits your data copying and migration needs.

As you explore these commands, consider the nature of your data, the scale of your migration, and the level of control you require. Whether you opt for the straightforwardness of Xcopy or the advanced capabilities of RoboCopy, having a clear understanding of their commands empowers you to navigate the complexities of data management with confidence.

Performance Comparison

One crucial aspect when evaluating tools like Xcopy and Robocopy is their performance in file transfers. Many users wonder, Is Robocopy faster than Windows copy? To address this, let’s explore more into the efficiency of these tools. Thanks to multithreading (/MT command line), the performance of Robocopy on the transfer of files on a large scale can be relatively quick.

Check out the performance of copy operation between RoboCopy and Xcopy done by flexense.com. The file copy operations were performed between two identical Crucial MX300 1TB SSD drives using the same data set containing 30,000 small and medium-sized files.

XCopy vs RoboCopy - Copy performance

As you can see above, Robocopy excels in Disk Transfer Rate, Disk Write Transfer, Disk Transfer IOPS, Disk Write IOPS, Disk Read IOPS, Disk average Write Request Size, Disk Average Write Request Time, CPU Usage, CPU usage system with the disk transfer rate. Robocopy can work even faster with a few command lines when given appropriately.

Xcopy performs slightly better on Disk Read Transfer but worse on other aspects than Robocopy. Although, if a user has a powerful computer and a good network, it can increase the copying speed.

Overall, comparisons between Xcopy and Robocopy show that Robocopy performs much better than Xcopy in most cases. However, the performance depends on the network setting and hardware.

Space Management

Generally speaking, when copying, Robocopy can copy all the attributes of a file, such as an audit, security and time stamp, and file owner info. It makes copying files more accessible and streamlined while allowing the user to resume the copy process if it gets interrupted from where they started.

The most apparent difference between Robocopy and Xcopy is how it handles storage management. In contrast, Xcopy will copy duplicates, and Robocopy will only copy the files needed to be transferred and leave the unchanged files alone. With/MON or /MOT commands, you can easily monitor whether there are changes to a file and only copy those that are unchanged.

The mirroring option is another feature only available in Robocopy, through which a duplicate folder will experience changes whenever the source (original) is changed directly; Xcopy has no such feature.

Use Cases and Recommendations

Xcopy

  • Personal File Management: If you need to manage individual files on a small scale, Xcopy is a reliable option. Copying files, directories, and subdirectories simplifies the process and makes it an ideal solution for backups, transferring files within a small network, and organising personal files.
  • Basic File Transfers: For simple file transfers with no detailed specifications, Xcopy is a reliable and speedy solution. Its straightforward design requires minimal learning, making it ideal for beginners. Xcopy’s user-friendly interface is perfect for those needing an essential copying tool without advanced functions.
  • Integration with Scripts: With Xcopy’s command-line interface, users can easily integrate file copy tasks into their batch files or scripting processes. This feature makes it ideal for those who require automation workflows and script integration.
  • Strengths of Xcopy:
    • Simple and user-friendly interface.
    • Minimal learning curve.
    • Quick and efficient for small-scale file transfers.
    • Suitable for personal file management and basic copying tasks.
    • Integration with scripts and automation workflows.

RoboCopy

Robocopy excels in data migration, mirroring, and error handling. What does Robocopy do? Simplify large-scale copying, ensuring efficiency and reliability.

  • Large-Scale Data Migration: Robocopy proves invaluable in handling extensive data migration tasks. Thanks to its multithreading capabilities, it can simultaneously transfer files, ensuring swift copying speeds and optimal performance. RoboCopy is especially beneficial when dealing with a substantial number of files or large file sizes.
  • Backup and Disaster Recovery: Robocopy ensures data safety. Its intelligent retries, error management, and ability to resume transfers make it a robust choice for backups and data synchronisation across storage devices.
  • Synchronisation and Mirroring: The roboCopy mirror feature can detect and maintain an identical copy in the source and destination directories efficiently; this makes RoboCopy an ideal solution when you need to keep duplicate copies across different locations or devices and remain synced.
  • Strengths of Robocopy:

    • Multithreading capabilities for faster and more efficient file transfers.
    • Optimal resource utilisation for improved performance.
    • Robust error handling and intelligent retries for backup and disaster recovery.
    • Synchronisation and mirroring functionality for maintaining identical copies of data.
    • Ideal for large-scale data migration and complex copying scenarios.

For Xcopy vs Robocopy, the user needs may be determined by the user using it and may vary depending on what sort of copying needs.

Choosing the Right Tool for the Job: Xcopy vs. Robocopy

Xcopy or Robocopy both make the best command line tools for data transfer in Windows based on your needs.

When to Choose Xcopy:

  • Simple file copying: If you need to quickly copy a few files or directories within the same drive or network share, Xcopy’s basic functionality is perfect.
  • Small-scale tasks: Xcopy excels at handling smaller data transfers, especially for personal use or within a small network.
  • Integration with scripts: Xcopy’s simple command-line interface makes integrating into batch files and scripts for automated data transfer tasks easy.
  • Limited network resources: If your network bandwidth or computing power is limited, Xcopy’s less resource-intensive nature might be preferable.

When to choose Robocopy:

  • Large-scale data transfers: Robocopy shines when dealing with large volumes of files, especially across network shares or different drives. Its multithreading capabilities significantly boost transfer speeds.
  • Complex data migration: Robocopy’s advanced features, like mirroring, error handling, and incremental copying, are ideal for complex data migration projects or disaster recovery scenarios.
  • Synchronisation and backups: Keeping everything in sync and backing up data becomes a breeze with Robocopy’s mirroring feature, ensuring consistent copies across locations. It’s an excellent choice for backups and maintaining identical versions.
  • Advanced filtering and customisation: When it comes to advanced filtering and customisation, Robocopy shines with precise options based on file attributes, dates, and more. 

General Considerations:

  • Learning curve: Considering the basics, Xcopy keeps it simple with an easy-to-use interface and minimal learning required. Conversely, Robocopy, with its advanced capabilities, might take more time to get used to.
  • Error handling: In handling errors, Robocopy stands out with robust mechanisms and automatic retries. Xcopy, on the other hand, is less forgiving and might need manual intervention for restarts.
  • Logging and reporting: Robocopy takes the lead for logging and reporting, providing detailed insights into transfer progress. Xcopy’s reports, while effective, could be more precise in comparison.

Conclusion

Xcopy and Robocopy have different features and usage, such as Robocopy featuring the mirroring option. In contrast, Xcopy has a simple-to-use interface and a quick option for transferring files across a directory.

While Robocopy wins for having much more advanced features than Xcopy and a better transfer rate, Robocopy has been utilised by most users worldwide as Windows has deprecated Xcopy.

However, the commands for Xcopy can still be vast, such as automatically making new directories and copying subdirectories, along with having a relatively fast speed for old computer users. Therefore, Xcopy may be the best term for those who need to be well-acquainted with Robocopy.

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