Updated by Tina Sieber on December 26, 2016.
The Windows file copy dialog is okay — but just okay. It isn’t the fastest when copying a large number of files. Moreover, in Windows 7 and earlier, it will stop the entire process if you have to deal with file conflicts or other errors. However, there are faster ways to copy files that will deal with file conflicts more intelligently.
The traditional Windows file copy dialog’s worst problem is the way it stops and waits for input when it detects a problem, preventing you from leaving the process alone to finish on its own. Luckily, Microsoft improved this with Windows 8. If you’re not using Windows 8 or 10 yet, you can get this feature on Windows 7 or even older versions of Windows.
Use Keyboard and Mouse Shortcuts
Most users are going to do most of their file-copying from within the Windows File Explorer. For a small file or a handful of small files, File Explorer’s default file-copying experience is just fine. Using TeraCopy won’t speed up the process of copying a Word document to a different folder — but these tricks will.
These are the important shortcuts you’ll need to know:
- Ctrl+C: Copy the selected files.
- Ctrl+X: Cut the selected files.
- Ctrl+V: Paste the copied or cut files in the current folder.
You can also right-click on a file or group of selected files, hold the mouse button down, drag it to a different location, then release the right mouse button. This right-click drag-and-drop will open a special menu that allows you to easily choose whether you want to copy or move the files.
Left-click drag-and-drop will generally just move files, not give you an option to copy them. This trick allows you to copy files with a drag and drop.
Upgrade to Windows 8 or 10
Third-party file copiers like TeraCopy, mentioned below, aren’t necessary for most people on Windows 8 or 10. Windows 8 has added a new file copy dialog to Windows Explorer — since known as File Explorer.
Not only does this file-copy dialog copy files faster than Windows 7’s, it combines multiple file copy operations in a single window and allows you to pause individual file-copy operations. This new dialog even deals with conflicts intelligently, continuing the operation rather than pausing and waiting for your input.
Windows 8 is controversial, but the file-copy experience is one dramatically improved feature for desktop users. If you’re using Windows 8 or 10, you don’t really need to install a third-party file-copying tool.
But, let’s face it, if you’re still using Windows 7 — or even Windows XP — you don’t have to upgrade your operating system just to get a better, faster, and more robust file-copying dialog.
We recommend TeraCopy, which uses an algorithm to speed up the copying of files, allows for pausing and resuming of file transfers, and incorporates a more robust system for dealing with errors. If file conflicts occur, you can see them all and deal with them at any time during the process. TeraCopy doesn’t pause and wait for input as Windows Explorer does on Windows 7.
Best of all, TeraCopy has shell integration, so it can seamlessly integrate with Windows Explorer — whenever you copy or move files, you’ll see the TeraCopy dialog instead of the dialog integrated into Windows. If you don’t like this, you can also activate TeraCopy from the right-click menu in Windows Explorer when you need it and leave the shell integration disabled.
Note that the shell integration is off by default. To enable it, open TeraCopy, click the Menu button, select Preferences, and enable the Use TeraCopy as default file handler checkbox.
Use the Robocopy Command in a Batch Script
Starting with Windows Vista, Windows includes a command-line tool known as Robocopy, or “Robust File Copy.” This command should copy files faster than Windows 7’s graphical file copy dialog. If you’re an average user, you’ll probably want to stick with the graphical options — but command-line tools can be very flexible.
You can run the Robocopy command from a command prompt, but you could also write a batch script that uses the Robocopy command. This is particularly useful if you need to perform the same file-copying command over and over. Instead of clicking around in Windows Explorer, you’d just need to double-click the batch file to run it.
You could even set up your batch script to run as a scheduled task, so it could function as a sort of do-it-yourself automated backup solution.
For more information on using Robocopy, read the Robocopy documentation on Microsoft’s website — it will give you a list of the many command-line options this tool supports.
Now that you’re equipped with keyboard shortcuts, discovered new File Explorer tricks, and know of a third party tool, you’ll copy files faster than ever before.
Have you found another file-copying utility that’s faster than TeraCopy, or do you have any other tips to share? Leave a comment below!