XCOPY vs ROBOCOPY: Which do you like? If you’re a command line jockey, both Windows tools have their place. Here’s how I decide when to use which one.

Note: If you’re looking for a comparison of Robocopy and the third-party freemium tool Xxcopy, see this post.

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Home network projects for a budding sysadmin

A very good question came in as a comment to my earlier post, the benefits of practicing IT at home. What do I mean by putting some Windows 7 machines on a domain? It’s one of several good home network projects.

I mean standing up a server with centralized user accounts and shares, running on Windows Server or Samba, whichever you can afford. Make it a print server too, and print from it, just like you would from an office. Then extend it, and extend your sysadmin skills. Here are several ideas for projects of varying length, difficulty, and expense.

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Pipe output to the clipboard in Windows

Besides all the changes to the GUI that happened post-Windows XP, they also made one useful change to the command prompt. When you run a command, it’s now possible to pipe output to the clipboard.

If you’re like me and write a lot of documentation, or you just take a lot of notes while doing computer maintenance, it’s a big boon.

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Is there something better than Robocopy?

Here’s a question I hear quite a bit: Is there something better than Robocopy? If you’re looking for alternatives to robocopy, read on.

I immediately thought of Xxcopy. Depending on your perspective, it could be better. So-named because it’s an extension of Xcopy, which was itself an extension of copy, it’s a third-party copy utility that mimics the familiar xcopy command, which Microsoft’s own Robocopy does not. Read more

Windows 7 programs quit responding? You have a corrupt user profile. Here’s how to fix it.

Windows 7 can suffer from old-age disease, where it thrashes hard drives, programs quit responding, and it generally becomes unusable. I’m beginning to wonder if my main PC might be suffering from this. Microsoft prescribes this cure.

If you’re comfortable with a command line, I can make the solution faster and easier.
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Taming Robocopy

A prolific commenter mentioned yesterday how much he dislikes Robocopy. Perhaps worse than I dislike Windows 7. And the nightmare scenario he describes sounds plausible. I’ve trashed directories with errant copy and xcopy commands, and I know I’m not the only one. And those are comparatively very simple.

I suppose one could put training wheels on a tool like Robocopy, but to me, that defeats much of its purpose. When I play the Robocopy card, it’s generally because I have a copy task that potentially will take several hours–if not days–and it’s going to run into errors, and I want it to just do the best it can, without asking me any questions, so I can walk away and let it chew on the problem for however long it takes.

I won’t say Robocopy is one of those things that can make or break a career, but it’s certainly allowed me to swoop in and save the day on several occasions, and that’s always good. So here’s how.
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Using Robocopy to root out PST files

So the word came out that the office is migrating to Windows 7 at some yet-to-be-determined time, but soon. It’s in testing now. (Too bad they didn’t recruit me as part of the testing team, because breaking Windows 7 is one of my superpowers.)

We’ve been told to back up our data. Lots of people are paranoid that they’ll lose their Outlook PST files, and with it, their ability to do top-drawer work. Frequently we have to search our archives to find forgotten details about old projects. It helps to make the new projects go more smoothly.

I came up with a surprisingly easy solution. It doesn’t even require admin rights–which is good. I won’t elaborate.
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Robocopy categorized as social/dating?

So I got fed up with my network connections dropping 80% of the way through copying 25-megabyte files halfway across the world. I’ve been using Robocopy, but without any command line options, it just starts over again.

I did a little digging and found the /z switch, which is supposed to make it pick up where it left off. It introduces a little overhead, but I can live with that. It’s better than copying the files 1 1/2 times.

Finding out about it was the amusing part.After stumbling upon the /z switch, I punched that into Google to see what other people were saying about it. That’s where I learned about the increased overhead. Fine. But one of the links I clicked on was blocked by Smartfilter, which is the application my employer uses to keep us from spending all day watching Youtube.

Surprising? No. Smartfilter blocks lots of useful stuff that makes it a lot harder to do my job. But the category it put that page into was pretty amusing: Dating/Social.

I can just imagine that date now. Two people meet after work in a dimly-lit restaurant that will be out of business in 18 months. Instead of talking about music, or movies, the neighborhood, or the other things my wife and I talked about on our first date, they talk about Robocopy.

"Where have you been all my life? All I’ve ever looked for was a nice girl who knows what the /z switch in Robocopy does! I’ve never met a girl who knew what Robocopy was!"

Actually I might be able to think of one or two relationships that probably did go down something like that, now that I’ve mentioned it. I think that should scare me.

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