One of the first applications that many people install on their freshly built computer, and which the rest have never heard of, is TeraCopy. TeraCopy can replace the standard Windows file copying action with itself, doing the same operations not only more efficiently but also with a few added features that Windows could have used for a while now.
Among other helpful features, TeraCopy uses its own buffers to handle the intermediate step while copying files, and is somewhat more aggressive with them than Windows is by default. This means that on systems that are under some load or slow to respond you will get faster copying speeds. For example if the remote drive is on a shared network drive that is being accessed by other users, or on a USB.
Secondly it does not instantly grab focus of Explorer windows after the copy has started like Windows will do when operating over slow links. This might seem incidental, but if you are dealing with slow network copies as part of your daily routine, it can rapidly become another irritation when windows jump forward as you are attempting to focus on something.
Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, TeraCopy is better equipped to handle dealing with drives that are becoming less reliable. With an option to always test a file after it has finished copying by reading it back and comparing it against the source. When a drive begins to fail, it is almost always by corrupting data as it is being written and almost never during the process of reading back good data. If you are writing a backup, writing to a remote location or writing a file that is simply important, it might help to have a built-in extra check so you don’t have to remember to manually verify the copied file.
On the subject of advanced copying technology, one additional tool that comes with Windows that many people are unaware of is xcopy. In functionality it’s very similar to TeraCopy in that it allows you to safely copy large amounts of files very quickly by making heavy use of system memory, though unlike TeraCopy it is not a graphical tool and instead it’s something you trigger with power shell. Generally as follows.
Xcopy is very useful for making a system backup. In fact this is largely what it was originally designed for, since without the /E and /K flags it won’t build the entire directory structure and any files it writes will automatically be set to read only permissions so they can’t be modified.
One additional thing about xcopy that it’s important to be aware of is that you need to specify the entire path in both the source and the target. It does support using wildcards like ‘*’ to indicate every directory and file inside a directory, but it helps to have the target and source specified completely, including the slash at the end for targeting a directory to be copied into. I’ve had strange behavior by failing to do this, so I recommend erring on the side of caution.
Incidentally the help flag for getting xcopy’s manual page is ‘/?’.