Try to think of a time when, either as an IT professional or even as just the user of a home computer, you didn't need to copy files. Whether you're building a master image for desktop deployment, publishing new pages to a Web server, or just backing up or reorganizing your own documents and photos, copying files is one of those core operations you are bound to perform in your daily interaction with a PC.
But there's a problem. The traditional "copy and paste" functionality that is built into Microsoft® Windows® has limitations. It works well enough for simple tasks (moving a document from one directory to another, and so on), but it lacks the advanced functionality an IT professional needs in the workplace. For example, the copy and paste operation doesn't include any kind of advanced resiliency that would allow it to recover from a brief network disruption. It's also an all-or-nothing proposition, particularly when copying complete directories. Through the UI, you can't choose to copy only those files which are new or have been updated. You either copy individual files, entire directories, or nothing at all.
Enter Robocopy. This powerful tool, included with the Microsoft Windows Server® 2003 Resource Kit Tools, allows for all of those advanced functions and more. Robocopy enables the more serious file replication tasks that can really simplify your job. The biggest benefit I think you'll find is the ability to create full mirror duplicates of two file structures (including all subdirectories and files, if you choose) without copying any unnecessary files. Only the files that are new or have been updated in the source location will be copied. Robocopy also allows you to preserve all of the associated file information, including date and time stamps, security access control lists (ACLs) and more.
Of course, we all like to work in different ways. Some people prefer the command line and for those people, the Robocopy tool as it ships is great. However, others are more point-and-click oriented, and for that crowd, there's Robocopy GUI. This welcome add-on to Robocopy comes to us from Derk Benisch, a systems engineer with the MSN Search group at Microsoft. Derk's utility allows users to customize their Robocopy scripts using a simple and very familiar-looking graphical interface (see Figure 1).
Robocopy GUI lets you specify your source and target paths, as well as any custom options or filters you'd like to apply, whether or not you'd like to create a drive mapping, where you'd like to store the resulting logs, and so on. These are all features you can certainly execute with traditional Robocopy command line functionality, but for many, having the options consolidated in a graphical interface may really simplify the process.
Robocopy GUI also extends the functionality of the existing Robocopy tool in some very interesting ways. For example, this tool is multithreaded, allowing you to create a Robocopy script, execute it, and begin creating another one while your first script is still running. It also allows you to save your scripts (even if you don't actually execute them) so that you can create a library of common scripts or share them with your colleagues. And most importantly, Robocopy GUI allows you to save your default settings so you don't have to start from scratch every time.
Robocopy GUI includes a help file of its own, as well as an embedded copy of the full Robocopy reference guide. This reference includes a full index of all of the Robocopy commands and syntax to help you determine which settings you'd like to take advantage of.
With all of these useful features, Robocopy GUI makes a great addition to any IT professional's toolbox. You'll find a copy of Robocopy GUI in the downloads section of our Web site.
Download the code for this article: UtilitySpotlight2006_11.exe (1052KB)
Download the Robocopy GUI User Manual v3.1.1 (700KB): http://cid-2a56954c01a1caa0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Public/Documentation/Microsoft%20Robocopy%20GUI%20Users%20Guide.pdf