When Copying Files, Don't Forget These Three Tips

Copying files ought to be simple. After all, even the earliest versions of MS-DOS contained XCopy.exe, right? But XCopy – any many other file-copy utilities – miss a few important points in a modern networked environment.

  • Many file copy utilities don’t preserve permissions on files, which should be a no-brainer these days. Preserving permissions isn’t always easy, though. When you copy files to a server that doesn’t have the exact same accounts – such as local user accounts, or accounts from a different domain, even some commercial copying tools will fail. A good tool will report the problem and let you do something about it, by producing detailed logs or offering user-remapping.
  • Maintenance windows are a fact of life in a modern IT environment, but most tools just want to run interactively. A really good file-copy tool will be more of a file migration tool, able to schedule copying in batches during defined maintenance windows or some other schedule.
  • Annoying files – locked files, files with broken ownership attributes, and so on – can make a file copy bomb. Find yourself a tool that can recover, log the failure, and move on. Or, better yet, tools that can apply administrator overrides, take ownership, and even retry locked files until they’re available.


As with everything in IT it’s all about having the right tools. Even a PowerShell script can wind up causing you a ton of manual effort – avoid that with a file migration or copying tool that’s designed for the real world. You can take a look at my video, Migrating Files: The Limitations of Using PowerShell, to see what I mean.