Copy vs. Xcopy vs. Robocopy | What Is the Difference Between Them

Brithny updated on Sep 26, 2022 to Knowledge Center

Transferring the files in Windows is a basic need that can be accomplished using different command line tools. Some of these are copied XCopy, and Robocopy commands line tools. However, even professional Windows users face issues when it comes to finding the best applications of these command lines along with their use cases. 

Let us understand all about copy vs. Xcopy vs. Robocopy. Starting with the quick definitions of copy, Xcopy, and Robocopy, it becomes easy to go through their availabilities and examples. It is easy to understand the differences between the three with a quick comparison table. Starting with the copy command first.

What Is Copy

Copy command is one of the popular commands used daily by multiple users. With a self-explanatory name, it copies data from one location to another. Let us know all details about copy command. 

Definition

It is the basic command to copy files from one location to another. It is available in different operating systems and doesn't only make copies but can be used to combine multiple files into one file. The destination is the directory which then refers to the current working directory. 

copy command definition

It can be used in text mode or binary mode. In text mode, the copy command stops at the "EOF" character, while in the binary mode, the files are accumulated completely and ignore the "EOF" characters. 

It is easy to copy files to different devices. For example, the "copy file con" output the file to the screen console, "copy con file" considers the text typed into the console and puts it in "FILE". 

Availability of Copy Command

It is available in text mode and binary mode in the following ways:

Text mode: The command for text mode is copy /a doc1.txt + doc2.txt doc3.txt and copy / a *.txt doc3. txt.

text mode

Binary mode: The command for binary mode is copy /b image1.jpg + image2. jpg image3. jpg.

binary mode

Copy command options

Some of the standard copy command options are:

  • It is supported by Tim Paterson's SCP 86-DOS as a "copy" command.
  • It has been available since version 1 in IBM PC DOS/ MS-DOS.
  • It is known as "cp" in the Unix command.
  • In CP/M, the copy command is "PIP".
  • In Stratus OpenVOS, it is familiar with the "copy_file" command.

What Is Xcopy

This Xcopy command helps create files with the specific archive attribute set irrespective of its location in the source file. It is widely used in operating systems like ReactDOS, FreeDOS, Microsoft Windows, IBM OS/2, MS-DOS, and IBM PC DOS.

Definition

This command is used to copy multiple files or complete directory trees from one directory to another. It is further used for copying files through different networks. "Xcopy" stands for extended copy and is created as a highly functional file copying feature like the "copy" command in different operating systems. It first appeared in DOS 3.2 and is now used in IBM PC DOS, MS-DOS, IBM OS/2, Microsoft Windows, FreeDOS, ReactDOS, etc.

xcopy definition

Availability of Xcopy command

Xcopy command is available in:

  • In Windows 10, Xcopy is in the Desktop operating system and Microsoft Windows Server.
  • The DR DOS 6.0 and Datalight ROM-DOS have the "XCOPY" command, and its FreeDOS version is licensed under GPL.
  • "Xcopy" has a Wine compatible version, licensed under the LGPL.

Xcopy command options

Some of the Xcopy command options are:

It creates a new directory by copying the existing directory contents. It includes different subdirectories or files in the hidden attributes and empty directories. It is Xcopy e:\existing e : \newcopy /e /i /h.

newcopy

Using Xcopy when pathnames have spaces. It is Xcopy "D: \Documents and Settings\MY.USERNAME\My Documents\ *" "E:\MYBACKUP\My Documents\" /D/E/C/Y.

my documents

It can be used to copy entire data in the mapped network drive in the network restartable mode while ignoring the possible errors. It is Xcopy *.* z : \Netmirror /E /V /C /F /H /Y /Z 1>out.txt 2>err.txt.

netmirror

It copies a single file from a directory or file without prompt. It is cmd /c echo F | Xcopy "c:\directory 1\myfile" " c:\directory 2\myfile".

directory

What Is Robocopy

Also called "Robust File Copy", Robocopy is the file copy or command-line directory for Microsoft Windows. Let us know more about Robocopy in detail.

Definition

Robocopy replaces the Xcopy with advanced options. It was first released as the Windows NT 4.0 Resource Kit part. Currently, it is part of the Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista. It has notable capabilities above and beyond the built-in Windows copy and Xcopy commands.

robocopy definition

It can tolerate network interruptions and helps resume copy. Further, it is easy to choose the option to skip NTFS junction points causing copying failures due to infinite loops. Further, it can preserve original timestamps and copy file data or attributes precisely.

Robocopy examples

Some of the Robocopy examples are:

1. Copying the directory content. It is Robocopy "C : \Directory A" "C " \Directory B" /E.

directory a

2. Copying all the information in the directory recursively. It is Robocopy C:\A C:\B /COPYALL /E /R : 0 /DCOPY : T.

dcopy

3. Mirroring files from A to B while destroying the files in B which are absent in A. It is Robocopy C:\A \\backupserver\B /MIR /Z.

backup server

Copy vs. Xcopy vs. Robocopy| What Are the Differences

After learning in detail about copy, Xcopy, and Robocopy, it comes down to understanding their key differences. Let us do a quick copy vs. Xcopy vs. Robocopy based on different features.

Name External or Internal Command type Data type
Copy It is part of the internal command. It is the basic command. It can copy one or more files.
Xcopy It is an external command. It is the extended copy command. It can copy the group of files to and from directories.
Robocopy It is an external command. It is the advanced Xcopy command. It can copy multiple files across a network.

Bonus Tip: Copy/Backup Files with Robocopy Alternative

The above three command lines are all file copying methods, occupying large space, so you can choose a better method - backup.

Sometimes backup is better because the backup is to "copy" files to a specified location by creating an image. Files are compressed, taking up less space and faster than direct copying. Therefore, you can select the backup method to "copy" or "transfer" files. 

Common backup methods include Windows File History, backup software, or cloud backup(Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.). If you are looking for a simple and convenient backup method, EaseUS Todo Backup is a great choice, which can make flexible backup types, file backup, disk backup, system backup, and even external HDD backup. Even your files can be backed up to NAS, EaseUS cloud, and so on.

If an important file is accidentally deleted and there is no backup, don't worry. You can use the data recovery software to restore the deleted file.

Final Verdict

Hence, it is easy for beginners and professionals to understand the command line directories, i.e., copy, Xcopy, and Robocopy. Starting with the definitions, the "copy" command is used for copying files or data, and "Xcopy" is used to copy multiple files or complete directory trees from one directory to another, etc. Finally, "Robocopy" replaces "Xcopy" with various options.

After going through the availabilities, examples, and different commands for copy, Xcopy, and Robocopy, it is easy to differentiate between these three command lines. Based on the other features, it is easy to understand their fundamental differences, and professionals can find the best command based on their immediate needs. When it comes to copy vs. Xcopy vs. Robocopy, it is all about individual features and user requirements.

Was This Page Helpful?