How to Really Speed up File Copying in Windows

Have you ever tried copying a bunch of files to another drive and been frustrated by how slow the process was? This can be especially noticeable with USB flash drives. One way to make copying go much faster is to copy one large file instead of many small ones. So use this trick – put all your files in a single archive (zip) file and copy that. But don’t use the Windows zip function to create the archive. It’s much too slow. Use a free program like 7-Zip, which is much faster.

Once they are copied, you can unzip the files on the new location if you wish. However, for many purposes  you can leave the files archived and access them when necessary with Windows Explorer or the 7-Zip file manager.

To illustrate how much time you save this way, here are some numbers that I got when I copied a 316 MB folder with 12, 904 files to a USB flash drive:

  • To copy the files the standard way took just under 22 minutes
  • To copy a single archived file (145 MB) – 1 minute, 32 seconds to create the archive and 33 seconds to copy.

Naturally, these numbers are specific to my setup with a fast Windows 7 computer and a particular USB 2.0 configuration but they give an idea of the time that can be saved.

Copying files over a network has its own set of problems with slowness. There are numerous posts in Microsoft Technet forums and there is a summary at this link,

If your copying involves multiple gigabytes, consider one of the free programs discussed at Gizmo’s Best Free File Copy Utility

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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Comments

by ASAD19945 on 14. November 2013 - 17:50  (112224)

NICE

by tsuyoshiyasuda88 on 3. June 2013 - 17:44  (108244)

Hey guyz!!!
The fastest way to speed up your copy is by using ExtremeCopy. Download Here!http://www.easersoft.com/ Free and easy to use! I've been using it for 5 years now!!!

by r0h1t on 20. July 2012 - 19:07  (96452)

This may well be covered elsewhere on the site, but I would recommend installing Teracopy. Once installed, it takes over any copy/move operations performed on your system so you don't need to run any special commands to invoke it.

Using Teracopy to copy files will give you a significant speed boost, especially when copying several small files, without the need to compress them first. As far as I can tell, Teracopy "reads ahead" from the source file(s) into buffers while data is being copied to the target, so that it has more data to offer by the time one chunk has been copied over. It may well be compressing data too, but that is internal to the tool and we don't really know.

Try it, you'll never uninstall it :)

by Konrad (not verified) on 25. July 2012 - 15:41  (96655)

Teracopy can't handle big jobs with thousands of files spanning many GB. In my case, this was trying to migrate a document imaging solution about 500GB in size to another server. Because of the way it works, it chewed up all the available RAM and then crashed. The only real robust file copy program to handle big jobs is Microsoft's robocopy.

by Kiwi Kid (not verified) on 14. August 2012 - 7:41  (97683)

Robocopy? ROBOCOPY??? That's so close to Robocop that I'm gobsmacked that Microsoft hasn't been taken to court for a) plagiarism and/or b) trademark/copyright infringement.

by MidnightCowboy on 21. July 2012 - 5:38  (96459)

Teracopy is included in the review here:

http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-file-copy-utility.htm

Using the site search for program names will bring up the relevant pages.

by v.laurie on 20. July 2012 - 13:43  (96445)

As several of the comments have noted, it isn't really necessary to compress the files. The big saving in time comes from the difference between copying many smaller files and copying one large file.

by SamG (not verified) on 20. July 2012 - 12:58  (96443)

Thanks for the idea! Have put up with the slow transfer of files to a usb2 portable hard drive (7200rpm) from an older Toshiba laptop. The laptop has a medium fast Pentium 4, 2.4g processor and I installed a gig of memory and a usb2 pcimia card. The card will not allow transfer it freezes Wins XP. So the only option is using the laptop's usb1 ports. It also has FIREWIRE? USELESS. Also, does anyone have a solution to moving files quickly to MS Skydrive besides paying for a faster internet service? Using Verizon's cheapest dsl here.

by Adam Skinner (not verified) on 20. July 2012 - 10:37  (96437)

Unfortunately, video files (the most common large file type) do not suffer compression well.

by PaulMcDonald (not verified) on 20. July 2012 - 8:55  (96435)

Hi Vince,

I would be scared to do this as I would worry what would happen if such a large zip file became corrupted then I would lose everything.

I don't know a lot about zip files though so perhaps I am talking nonsense?

Is there a compression type that is less likely to become corrupt e.g. .zip or .7z or .rar or some other format?

Thanks for all your good work.

Paul

by up (not verified) on 20. July 2012 - 11:23  (96439)

What about not deleting the files after archiving them? :)

There is also the setting "test archived files after finishing". It will take some time though.

by PaulMcDonald (not verified) on 20. July 2012 - 12:34  (96441)

Hello and thank you.

I accept your argument but the whole point of archives or backups is that they are a safe dependable copy if the original files are lost / stolen / deleted :-)

I didn't know there was a test archive function. That is a good idea thanks :-)

I manually backup my files so I think it will still be quicker creating an archive, copying it across and verifying it.

Thanks again,

Paul

by ZoNi (not verified) on 20. July 2012 - 8:44  (96434)

One more advice to make it even faster: when creating an archive (with 7-zip or another program), use "Store" in Compression level - that will not compress files, but will make one ZIP/7Z file even faster.

Screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/D3va6.png

by up (not verified) on 20. July 2012 - 10:57  (96438)

+1

I had just the the same thoughts after reading the article! Using any file archiver to create a solid file without any compression saves lot of time!

Makes a big difference if the task is to only move small files and not to compress them.

by Anonymousxx (not verified) on 19. July 2012 - 16:01  (96400)

You never mentioned how much time it tool to compress the files and gow much time it took to unzip the files. Lets say we are dealing with 2gb of separated files, i think its still the same considering the time it takes to compress and unzip.

by v.laurie on 19. July 2012 - 16:42  (96404)

@Anonymousxx: I guess you missed the prominent example of the time to compress that is given in the article. Also, as the article says, very often unzipping isn't necessary. You are right that would add to the time. In the example given, unzipping would have added about 7 minutes. The total time of zipping, copying, and unzipping is still only half of the time to copy the files individually.

As I say in the article, if you have many GB of files, take a look at some of Gizmo's file copying recommendations.

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