Xxcopy vs Xcopy: Command line copy utilities

Last Updated on April 19, 2023 by Dave Farquhar

XXCOPY vs XCOPY: Which do you like? Both of them are extensions of the DOS command COPY. Think eXtended Copy and eXtended eXtended Copy. Two extendeds are better, right? Yep.


In the beginning there was COPY, a  DOS command to copy files one file at a time. It was fine for simple tasks, but once people had hard drives full of files, it started to show its limits since it was designed to run on original IBM PC computers with small amounts of memory. Microsoft’s solution was XCOPY, which extended COPY’s capabilities. Get it?

Today, the most important thing XCOPY added was the ability to copy subdirectories.

Once we got into corporate environments with networks full of servers, XCOPY started to show its limits. So several companies came up with replacements. One of the most popular is Xxcopy, because it extended Xcopy while remaining fairly true to its predecessor. If you know how to use Xcopy, you can adjust to Xxcopy pretty fast. Xxcopy copies subdirectories. It also copies complex file attributes that confuse XCOPY. It’s also robust. If it gets interrupted, it pauses three seconds, then tries again, rather than immediately failing like XCOPY would.

XCOPY vs XXCOPY: XCOPY’s advantages

XCOPY’s options are few enough that most people can learn them quickly. Plus, they’re simple and straightforward. Of course, the appeal of XXCOPY is how much it is like XCOPY.

XCOPY’s biggest advantage is simplicity and ubiquity. It’s there on every Windows PC, without you installing anything.

You can type xcopy /s source destination, hit enter, and you know what it’s going to do. Plus, you can add some switches to prompt you or not prompt you, and there are some other switches that let you fine tune things, but it’s pretty straightforward. You can get by knowing a couple of switches, and as long as you type the filenames right, there won’t be any surprises.

I won’t create a section where I write about the disadvantages, because XCOPY’s strength is also its weakness. When it does what you need it to do, it’s a strength. When you run up against its limits, it’s no longer a strength. It’s a bit like my old Honda Civic. It was a fantastic commuter car but it was lousy for hauling lumber.

When simple tasks call for simple tools, use XCOPY. It saves the potential for mistakes.

XCOPY vs XXCOPY– which do I use?

It depends. If I’m only copying one directory tree, and it’s not terribly large, I use XCOPY. It’s easier. But if I’m copying half a gig of data or more, I’ll probably use XXCOPY instead. I’d rather let XXCOPY get it right than babysit XCOPY. When you have a lot of data and a noisy network and complex attributes, there’s no comparing XCOPY vs XXCOPY. You need XXCOPY for that.

Although, if you want a GUI that still has most of the advantages of XXCOPY, check out Fast Copy. It’s powerful and free.

Xxcopy advantages

Xxcopy’s advantages are its similarity to Xcopy and its simplicity. I most frequently used its /clone switch, like this: xxcopy /clone source destination

So if you’ve just installed a new hard drive and want to move your old one to the new one, do this:

xxcopy /clone e:\ f:\

And then you can swap the drives.

When I was a system administrator, I totally would have used it to copy my mega-collection of Windows patches across the WAN too, if I could have. XXCOPY would have been far better for that than XCOPY was.

The /backup switch is safer than /clone, as it doesn’t delete any files. Since I normally used it for one-time copies to a new blank hard drive, there was no perceptible difference between the two.

It really just is an extended Xcopy. Sub in something more powerful for /s and off you go. It’s easy, and either option skips any files that haven’t changed, so if they get interrupted, just run the command again and they pick up where they left off.

Xxcopy disadvantages

I stopped using Xxcopy when it stopped being free for commercial use several years ago. But it worked just fine then, and presumably still works just fine now, if you’re willing to pay for it or qualify for a free license. For the time it saves you, it’s probably worth the purchase price if you use it at work.

Some organizations won’t approve third-party software without jumping through a lot of hoops, or at all. It may very well be easier to learn Robocopy than to install Xxcopy.

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