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Copy/paste vs. copy-to-folder are only two ways to move files around in Windows. But which is better?

Is there any real difference between a "copy and paste" method versus the old tried and true method of using the Edit menu, select all the files you want to copy to another location and then select the "copy to a folder" command which brings up the standard browse dialog box in which you navigate to the destination and then click "copy". I would imagine that both methods copy exactly the same number of bytes, every 0 and every 1. It's just a matter of personal preference.

In this excerpt from Answercast #93 I look at various ways of copying and moving files around in Windows. How you do it is basically a matter of personal preference.

Copy/paste vs. copy-to-folder

You imagine correctly. And in fact, neither is tried or true. You will find that many people are only aware of the copy/paste method and have no inkling that the other method even exists.

And those are only two of what turns out to be several methods:

  • You can drag and drop;

  • You can use copy and paste, of course;

  • You can go to a command prompt and use copy commands at the command line.

Copying is copying

There are many, many different ways to copy and move files around in Windows. They are ultimately, at the end of the day, all doing exactly the same thing. They're copying a bunch of bits from one location to another. And they all fundamentally do it the same way once the process is initiated.

What it boils down to is, as you've correctly identified, personal preference. Whatever you are comfortable with; whichever model of understanding how copying files works works for you.

So there's no difference. Use whichever one you feel most comfortable with and don't be surprised if you find somebody else is more comfortable with something else.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6304 - February 10, 2013 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

February 10, 2013 9:12 PM

I add 'copy to folder' and 'move to folder' to the context menu. I find it a good time saver. I'd mention where I got the registry adds, but I'm not sure whether I'd be violating the terms of this forum.

Bobbi Rae
February 12, 2013 9:06 AM

Before Windows 7 and 8, I have found that using the "copy to folder" method will keep the folders'/files' original creation/modified dates, while using "copy/paste" would have everything default to the day of the action. Again, not sure if this still applies today...

Laurence Brevard
February 12, 2013 10:22 AM

For large copies I use the command line XCOPY - typically in a script. This provides a lot of control over verification, restart, continue on error, etc.

Typing XCOPY /? at a command prompt shows the various control switches available.

February 12, 2013 5:01 PM

There are instances where the right-click drop-down menu does not work and Copy does not function. Some times (not always) one can use the control-C command to copy.

February 12, 2013 8:37 PM

Since Windows 7, I always open the two folders, snap one to the left, the other to the right, and drag the files to copy from one folder to the other.

There are some instances where this action might result in a Move rather than Copy, in which case I hold down Ctrl while dragging to copy instead.

February 13, 2013 4:35 AM

You can also drag and drop using the right mouse button. This pops up a context menu that gives copy, move, and create shortcut options.

February 17, 2013 2:49 AM

For users of Windows program Xplorer2 (by Zabkat) copying is especially easy and reliable. Its interface has two panes, each with a view of the file structure. With F5 one copies files (and folders) to the opposite pane, with F6 one moves them. Copying/moving between separate disks is done in "robust" mode, including verifying the results. Xplorer2 has a free Light version, which misses a few features that the paid Pro version offers. The program has many great other features. (I hold no stock in Zabkat.)

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