Powerful Windows Utilities – XXCOPY

Based on the popularity of Windows, many people today ignore the power of the command line. While the graphical interface makes handling tasks more user friendly, the command line really allows you a great deal of flexibility. With a simple (and free) additional tool called XXCOPY, you can easily back up files and folders, clone your hard drive, and so forth. For system administrators, XXCOPY provides maximum flexibility for the purpose of copying files between systems, “replicating” data, and more.

DOS and Windows have long included the XCOPY utility as a simple but useful tool to copy data, make backups, and so forth. For the most part, XCOPY will meet your basic file copying needs. However, a great freeware utility from a company called Pixelab greatly extends the power of XCOPY and takes things to a whole new level. XXCOPY doesn’t stop at just copying multiple files — it provides more than 200 advanced features for even the most seasoned user. For those in a corporate environment, XXCOPY Pro takes the single PC features of the freeware version and extends them to include networked systems. Whether you’re looking for an easy way to backup files, clone a hard drive, or synchronize files between servers, XXCOPY has something to offer.

XXCOPY is a command-line program that works on nearly every Windows platform, including Windows XP, 2000, NT, ME, 98, and 95. A 16-bit version is also included for use with Windows 3.1 that supports 8.3 filenames only. The program installation is a breeze — just run install.bat. The program will be installed to your Windows\Systems32 (or WINNT\System32) directory by default — this will make it available from anywhere in the command line environment.

At the most basic level, XXCOPY is nothing more than a tool to copy files from one location to another using the command line. The syntax of the command is also very simple. Almost every command that you issue will include these three basic elements:


All you’re telling XXCOPY is that you want files moved from one location to another. For example, if I wanted to copy a folder called ‘worddocs’ from my C drive to a not-yet-created new folder called ‘backupdocs’ on my D drive, the command to issue would be:

xxcopy c:\worddocs\ d:\backupdocs\

Going a step further, XXCOPY has over 200 possible switches that allow a high degree of customization. For example, you could specify that you only want to copy files that were created within the last three days, or those that are larger, smaller, or within a certain size range. My personal favorite is the switch that will search for all files specified, and copy them into a single flattened directory.

The table below outlines some of the more common switches. To keep things clear, you should get in the habit of specifying the switch after the destination, but this isn’t required. You should also note that switches can be combined to make the tool even more powerful.

  • /H: Also copies system or hidden files
  • /Ho: Only copies system or hidden files
  • /R: Allows read-only files to be overwritten or deleted
  • /BN: Back up only new files
  • /DA:: When is specified, this copies files that were changed on or after that date
  • /DB#: When ‘n’ is specified, this copies files that were changed on or before ‘n’ days ago
  • /SZ:-: When ‘n’ is specified, this copies files whose size (in bytes) in greater than ‘n’
  • /SZ:-: When ‘n’ is specified, this copies files whose size (in bytes) in less than ‘n’
  • /S: Copies directories and subdirectories, except empty ones
  • /E: Copies directories and subdirectories, including empty ones
  • /SX: Flattens subdirectories, and includes path information in the new file names
  • /PB: Shows a progress bar for the copy
  • /X: Can be used to exclude files during when copying
  • /K: Keeps file attributes the same as in the source directory
  • /U: Updates files already found in the destination folder
  • /SG: Gathers files from subdirectories into a single directory
  • /CLONE: Duplicates an entire directory or volume incrementally
  • /BU: Standard backup
  • /BI: Incremental backup

Since going through every single switch here would be impossible, it’s worth noting that running XXCOPY /? provides a listing of the most common switches and their purpose. For a complete listing of all switches, use /HELP.

To get a feel for the power of this tool, let’s take a look at a few examples. Imagine that you were interested in backing up your entire ‘my documents’ folder (including subdirectories) from your C drive to a folder called ‘mydocsbackup’ your D drive. The command to issue would be:

xxcopy “c:\my documents” d:\mydocsbackup\ /S/H

Notice the quotes around the source path above. You must add quotes in cases where a directory (or file) name contains a space. In this case, the contents of My Documents, including hidden files and subdirectories, will be copied to a folder on the D drive called ‘mydocsbackup’.

Let’s go a step further. Suppose you wanted to find all of the PDF documents on your system and back them up to a single directory on a different drive or partition. This can easily be accomplished using the /SX switch, along with a wildcard. I’m also including the /PB switch — this will add a progress bar to let us know how the copy operation is coming along.

xxcopy c:\*.pdf d:\pdfs\ /SX/PB

This command gives us a slightly different result. While it copies all of the .pdf files found on drive C into the D:\pdfs directory, it also renames the files to tell us where they came from. For example, if a file named work.pdf was originally in your C:\documents\test\ folder, it would now be named:


Notice that the former path is specified in the new filename. Since all .doc files on C were copied to the same single directory, it’s possible that two files with the same name might exist — this feature helps to circumvent possible problems with duplicate file names. If you want to avoid the possibility of files being renamed, you could always just use the /S switch, in which case the folder structure would also be copied along with the .doc files.

XXCOPY also allows you to easily copy files that were added or changed within a certain date range. For example, if you wanted to copy all of the jpeg files on your C drive that were created or changed between March 18 and March 21, 2002, issue the following:

xxcopy c:\*.jpg d:\jpegs\ /DA:2002-03-18 /DB:2002-03-21 /S

Incremental Backups

But what if you just want to do simple backups regularly? That’s easy, too. For example, let’s say that you wanted to back up all data in your C:\My Documents to a folder called ‘backup’ on drive D. The first time you do this, you should issue the command:

xxcopy “c:\my documents” d:\backup\ /BU /X*.tmp

This command will back up the entire contents of your ‘My Documents’ folder to the ‘backup’ folder on your D drive. Notice the /X switch — this tells XXCOPY to exclude any files that end in .tmp.

XXCOPY really gets useful when you want to do additional backups. Since the majority of your data was backed up the first time, there is no need to re-copy things that haven’t changed. This is where an incremental backup comes in. If you were to issue the same command, but use the /BI switch instead of /BU, only files that were different than those already in the destination folder would be copied — a quick and easy way to back up your new or changed files.

XXCOPY for Disk Cloning

Probably the most popular use of XXCOPY is as an inexpensive and simple disk-cloning tool. Using XXCOPY, you can easily clone your primary hard drive onto a second drive. Reasons for doing this include the purchase of a new drive, or simply as an emergency spare should your primary drive fail. One note before going any further — the cloned drive can only be made bootable for Windows 95/98/ME. XXCOPY cannot recreate a bootable disk for Windows NT/2000/XP systems.

There are a few steps involved when creating a cloned disk. To begin, you’ll need to attach the new hard disk to the system. I’ll assume that your current disk is one large partition, drive C. You’ll also need to create a partition on the new disk and format it prior to initiating the cloning process.

Once the new disk has been formatted (I’ll assume it’s drive D), reboot into Windows and issue the following command:

xxcopy c:\ d:\ /CLONE

This switch will copy the contents of the C drive over to the new D drive. Note that some files may not be copied due to file access contention problems. To make things simple, your best option is to close all programs that may be running prior to issuing the command. If some files have been missed, simply issue the command again, and it will copy missing files as if an incremental backup were being done. Don’t worry if you notice that the file WIN386.SWP hasn’t been copied — this is the virtual memory swap file, and it doesn’t need to be copied. The cloning process will transfer anywhere between 2-15 GB of data per hour, depending on the speed of your hard drives.

Once the clone operation has completed, a few steps remain. The first is removing the old drive and replacing it with the new one. This may involve changing the drive from a slave to a master, so you may need to change the jumper pins on the back of the drive. After this is completed, boot the machine using your system floppy disk. You’ll need to go into FDISK and mark the new drive as Active in order for it to be bootable. The last step is writing the Master Boot Record (MBR) to the disk, since XXCOPY will not copy this from the old disk. From the command line, simply issue the command:


After this is done, simply remove the floppy and boot to Windows — welcome to your newly cloned system!

XXCOPY can be downloaded from http://www.xxcopy.com/

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of 2000Trainers.com. He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.