Copy Files and Folders in Windows CMD with Copy and Xcopy

Copy Files and Folders in Windows CMD with Copy and Xcopy

In this tutorial, we will learn how to copy files and folders in the Windows Command prompt.

We are going to look at two cmd commands: Copy and Xcopy.

Note that the copy command has some limitations compared to the xcopy. For example, to copy directories or hidden files, you have to use the xcopy command.

Copy Command

On Windows, we can use the copy command to copy one or more files from one location to another:

copy C:\data\sales.doc C:\backup

The preceding command will copy sales.doc from C:\data\ to C:\backup.

Use the /y switch to overwrite duplicate files without confirmation:

copy /y C:\data\sales.doc C:\backup

We can also save a file to a different name. For example, the following command saves file1.txt as file2.txt in the same directory:

copy file1.txt file2.txt

You can also use wildcards to copy multiple files:

copy /y C:\data\* C:\backup
copy /y C:\data\*.doc C:\backup

The first command copies all files in the C:\data\ directory to C:\backup. The second command copies all files with a .doc extension to the C:\backup.

windows copy command

We can also combine several files into one:

copy file1+file2 file3
copy error* C:\backup\report.txt

In the first line, file1 and file2 are combined to make one file named file3. In the second line, all files whose names start with "error" are copied to the C:\backup, as a single file called report.txt.

You can get a list of all available options with the copy /? command.

Xcopy Command

The xcopy command offers more features. For example, with xcopy, we can copy directories and subdirectories, as well as hidden files.

Command Options

/YPrompt before overwriting an existing file.
/HCopy hidden files/system files.
/SCopy directories and subdirectories. Empty directories are not included by default (use /e for that).
/EInclude empty directories.
/ICreate the destination folder if it does not exist. Use this option when you want to copy the parent folder itself.
/TCopy directory tree without files. Empty directories are not included by default. Use /e option to include empty folders.
/PPrompt for confirmation before creating each file.
/QQuiet mode.
/excludeSpecify a text file that contains a list of files to exclude. See the examples.
/ZResume mode. Use this option when copying files over a network.
/D:m-d-yCopies files changed on or after the specified date.

Examples of Using the Xcopy Command

Copy sales.doc from the current directory to C:\backup:

xcopy sales.doc C:\backup

Copy C:\data\accounts (all files including subdirectories) to C:\backup:

xcopy /s /e /h /i /y C:\data\accounts C:\backup\accounts
xcopy command

In the following example (without /I switch), the contents of the folder are copied but not the folder itself:

xcopy /s /e /h /y C:\data\accounts C:\backup\

Copy the directory structure of C:\OneDrive to the backup directory:

xcopy /s /e /t /y C:\OneDrive C:\backup\

You can use wildcard characters to match patterns. The following command copies all files with a .jpg extension:

xcopy /s /h /y C:\data\*.jpg C:\backup

Using for loop to copy multiple files:

for %i in (sales.doc, products.doc) do xcopy /y %i C:\backup

Excluding files with xcopy

With the /exclude, we can provide a text file that contains items we want to exclude.

xcopy /s /e /h /y /exclude:C:\Users\user1\files-to-exclude.txt C:\data\ C:\backup\

The files-to-exclude.txt may look like the following:


In this example, we exclude items with the .doc extension and files whose name starts with sales.

You can get a list of all available options with the xcopy /? command.