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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Using ROBOCOPY to Backup Files instead of XCOPY or COPY

With my new 500GB hard drive, I have the need to backup or synchronize the important files on my computer. The copy, is for the simple purpose if the primary drive on the operating system goes down. I have had this happen before and it is very painful to recover the data from it. (Post coming soon on this)

I am not a fan of the shadow copy or backup utility provided in Windows Vista as it keeps more of a history of changes on the file system then simply perserving the current content of a disk system. In the past I had used Secure Copy 3.X by ScriptLogic to accomplish this. That version however does not work on Windows Vista 64-bit (x64), neither does their latest version 4.X based on my installation test yesterday. Based on the trouble of locating a tool, I started thinking about the age-old XCOPY utility and accidently stumbled upon ROBOCOPY which is included by default in the Windows Vista Operating system as a utility.

Those of us familiar with the copy, cp, or xcopy commands were not so robust and often choken when you needed to copy hundreds or thousands of files. Not to mention all the switches you needed to learn to make sure you did not clobber, included directories and so forth. That's where ROBOCOPY comes in.

With most resource kits including Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows 2003, a new version or upgrade of XCOPY.EXE or the traditional COPY.EXE was made available in the resource kit called ROBOCOPY. (ROBOCOPY.EXE). ROBOCOPY is supposed to stand for Windows Robust File Copy and is available via the Windows Command Line via a couple of simple commands.

The best part? With a simple command and just a single switch, you can synchronize directories on your computer with little or no effort. What does the command look like? Here is an example:

ROBOCOPY "C:\My Music" "B:\Backup\My Music" /MIR

The MIR switch stands for "Mirror a complete directory tree. That means that it not only copies the new files but deletes any files that are no longer there to manage a synchronized backup of a directory. And it is fast. For instance for the system to read and detect the 4600+ music files on my machine and complete the synchronization (already completed before) was less than a second worth of time.

With just a few simple commands added to a .bat or Batch file that you can make inside of notepad and save as a .bat file, you can create a pretty effective backup job that will synchronize you files. In my case, I setup the batch job inside of the scheduled task manager to run each evening to keep everything backed up properly.

One thing to watch out for, if you are copied directories where files such as NTUSER.DAT or other files might be locked and are relatively unimportant, use the the /R:0 switch to set the access denied retires to zero. That will keep your job moving quickly!

Best of luck with creating a quick and easy backup job on your personal or professional computer!

Here is the list of commands when just typing in "ROBOCOPY" into the command line:
ROBOCOPY :: Robust File Copy for Windows


Started : Sun Aug 19 17:34:35 2007

Simple Usage :: ROBOCOPY source destination /MIR

source :: Source Directory (drive:\path or \\server\share\path).
destination :: Destination Dir (drive:\path or \\server\share\path).
/MIR :: Mirror a complete directory tree.

For more usage information run ROBOCOPY /?

**** /MIR can DELETE files as well as copy them !

Here is the full list of commands when using help:
C:\Users\Ken>robocopy /?

ROBOCOPY :: Robust File Copy for Windows


Started : Sun Aug 19 17:11:55 2007

Usage :: ROBOCOPY source destination [file [file]...] [options]

source :: Source Directory (drive:\path or \\server\share\path).
destination :: Destination Dir (drive:\path or \\server\share\path).
file :: File(s) to copy (names/wildcards: default is "*.*").

:: Copy options :
/S :: copy Subdirectories, but not empty ones.
/E :: copy subdirectories, including Empty ones.
/LEV:n :: only copy the top n LEVels of the source directory tree.

/Z :: copy files in restartable mode.
/B :: copy files in Backup mode.
/ZB :: use restartable mode; if access denied use Backup mode.
/EFSRAW :: copy all encrypted files in EFS RAW mode.

/COPY:copyflag[s] :: what to COPY for files (default is /COPY:DAT).
(copyflags : D=Data, A=Attributes, T=Timestamps).
(S=Security=NTFS ACLs, O=Owner info, U=aUditing info).

/DCOPY:T :: COPY Directory Timestamps.

/SEC :: copy files with SECurity (equivalent to /COPY:DATS).
/COPYALL :: COPY ALL file info (equivalent to /COPY:DATSOU).
/NOCOPY :: COPY NO file info (useful with /PURGE).

/SECFIX :: FIX file SECurity on all files, even skipped files.
/TIMFIX :: FIX file TIMes on all files, even skipped files.

/PURGE :: delete dest files/dirs that no longer exist in source.
/MIR :: MIRror a directory tree (equivalent to /E plus /PURGE).

/MOV :: MOVe files (delete from source after copying).
/MOVE :: MOVE files AND dirs (delete from source after copying).

/A+:[RASHCNET] :: add the given Attributes to copied files.
/A-:[RASHCNET] :: remove the given Attributes from copied files.

/CREATE :: CREATE directory tree and zero-length files only.
/FAT :: create destination files using 8.3 FAT file names only.
/256 :: turn off very long path (> 256 characters) support.

/MON:n :: MONitor source; run again when more than n changes seen.
/MOT:m :: MOnitor source; run again in m minutes Time, if changed.

/RH:hhmm-hhmm :: Run Hours - times when new copies may be started.
/PF :: check run hours on a Per File (not per pass) basis.

/IPG:n :: Inter-Packet Gap (ms), to free bandwidth on slow lines.

:: File Selection Options :
/A :: copy only files with the Archive attribute set.
/M :: copy only files with the Archive attribute and reset it.
/IA:[RASHCNETO] :: Include only files with any of the given Attributes set.
/XA:[RASHCNETO] :: eXclude files with any of the given Attributes set.

/XF file [file]... :: eXclude Files matching given names/paths/wildcards.
/XD dirs [dirs]... :: eXclude Directories matching given names/paths.

/XC :: eXclude Changed files.
/XN :: eXclude Newer files.
/XO :: eXclude Older files.
/XX :: eXclude eXtra files and directories.
/XL :: eXclude Lonely files and directories.
/IS :: Include Same files.
/IT :: Include Tweaked files.

/MAX:n :: MAXimum file size - exclude files bigger than n bytes.
/MIN:n :: MINimum file size - exclude files smaller than n bytes.

/MAXAGE:n :: MAXimum file AGE - exclude files older than n days/date.
/MINAGE:n :: MINimum file AGE - exclude files newer than n days/date.
/MAXLAD:n :: MAXimum Last Access Date - exclude files unused since n.
/MINLAD:n :: MINimum Last Access Date - exclude files used since n.
(If n < 1900 then n = n days, else n = YYYYMMDD date).

/XJ :: eXclude Junction points. (normally included by default).

/FFT :: assume FAT File Times (2-second granularity).
/DST :: compensate for one-hour DST time differences.

/XJD :: eXclude Junction points for Directories.
/XJF :: eXclude Junction points for Files.

:: Retry Options :
/R:n :: number of Retries on failed copies: default 1 million.
/W:n :: Wait time between retries: default is 30 seconds.

/REG :: Save /R:n and /W:n in the Registry as default settings.

/TBD :: wait for sharenames To Be Defined (retry error 67).

:: Logging Options :
/L :: List only - don't copy, timestamp or delete any files.
/X :: report all eXtra files, not just those selected.
/V :: produce Verbose output, showing skipped files.
/TS :: include source file Time Stamps in the output.
/FP :: include Full Pathname of files in the output.
/BYTES :: Print sizes as bytes.

/NS :: No Size - don't log file sizes.
/NC :: No Class - don't log file classes.
/NFL :: No File List - don't log file names.
/NDL :: No Directory List - don't log directory names.

/NP :: No Progress - don't display % copied.
/ETA :: show Estimated Time of Arrival of copied files.

/LOG:file :: output status to LOG file (overwrite existing log).
/LOG+:file :: output status to LOG file (append to existing log).

/UNILOG:file :: output status to LOG file as UNICODE (overwrite existing
/UNILOG+:file :: output status to LOG file as UNICODE (append to existing

/TEE :: output to console window, as well as the log file.

/NJH :: No Job Header.
/NJS :: No Job Summary.

/UNICODE :: output status as UNICODE.

:: Job Options :
/JOB:jobname :: take parameters from the named JOB file.
/SAVE:jobname :: SAVE parameters to the named job file
/QUIT :: QUIT after processing command line (to view parameters).

/NOSD :: NO Source Directory is specified.
/NODD :: NO Destination Directory is specified.
/IF :: Include the following Files.


ROBOCOPY :: Robust File Copy for Windows


Started : Sun Aug 19 17:12:02 2007

Simple Usage :: ROBOCOPY source destination /MIR

source :: Source Directory (drive:\path or \\server\share\path).
destination :: Destination Dir (drive:\path or \\server\share\path).
/MIR :: Mirror a complete directory tree.

For more usage information run ROBOCOPY /?

**** /MIR can DELETE files as well as copy them !

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Brandon Bowman said...

I don't know how well it will work on Vista, but there is an official RoboCopy GUI for the non-CLI inclined,

James said...

As for me - I prefer secure copy to all these command line tools. It works much faster and you don't need to manage with all those complicated command line keys. This tool is perfect for server migrations - it keeps all security information intact while copying. And we also scheduled weekly project data backup with this secure copy. Works like clockwork!

Ken Hanscom said...

James, I too have used Secure Copy in the past and in fact tested our the most current version before moving foward with Robocopy.

What I did not mention in my original post is some testing I did on OSes other than Windows Vista. What I found was the SecureCopy was not only slower, but used up significantly more CPU and other resources than ROBOCOPY.

For that reason, along with the GUI that Brandon recommended (linked: over SecureCopy. Not to mention ROBOCOPY is free.