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Use RoboCopy to copy files from crashed hard disk drives

I often find myself copying a friend's/client's hard disk drive, to put back on after reinstalling Windows. Often, the hard disk drives have errors causing the copying process to fail, and I have to manually figure out which files still need to be copied.

Is there a better way of copying files from crashed hard disk drives in which the process won't fail and stop if it comes across a corrupt file, i.e., either skip that file and continue, or copy the file with errors and all?

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Yes. I recommend using the command-line copying tool called RoboCopy. Microsoft now includes it in its default Windows Vista package but is available as a free download for Windows XP and Windows 2000.

RoboCopy can copy error-prone files in a forgiving way (i.e., skip files that can't be copied and just continue). It also attempts retries when copying across a network connection that may be prone to being dropped or disconnected. I've used this program to recover some error-riddled file repositories from another hard disk drive, and salvage what could be used. There is also a GUI for Robocopy.

This was first published in May 2007

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