Pin Me

Fix Slow File Copying in Vista

written by: Lamar Stonecypher•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 10/15/2009

Growing old waiting for Vista to complete a file copy operation? Although Service Pack 1 improved copy performance, we CAN do better. Here we'll look at what else is out there.

  • slide 1 of 34


    Unlike in most of my articles for Vista, there’s no magic potion or Registry edit that will fix what ails file copying speed in Vista. It improved in Service Pack 1, but it’s still lackluster compared to XP. In this case, the best fix is not using Vista’s file copy procedure at all – use instead a separate application that works better. Let’s look at using the freeware application Windows FastCopy by Hiroaki Shirouzu.

    After becoming used to eye-candy in Vista, seeing a traditional programmer’s mature utility application can be a bit of a shock. There seems to be a lot going on in FastCopy.

  • slide 2 of 34


  • slide 3 of 34

    Installing FastCopy

    After the distribution file is downloaded from the link above and unzipped (right-click and select Extract All in Vista), a number of files are created.

  • slide 4 of 34


  • slide 5 of 34

    Double-clicking setup.exe starts the installation process.

  • slide 6 of 34


  • slide 7 of 34

    Using FastCopy in Vista in Shell Mode

    In shell mode, FastCopy installs itself as a service in Vista. This means that it can appear natively in the right-click menu of files, and it can minimize to the system tray. Selecting right-click, Copy (FastCopy) on a file brings up the main FastCopy window. Unfortunately, it appears in the center of the screen and does not seem to remember the last dimensions it was dragged into.

  • slide 8 of 34


  • slide 9 of 34

    This warning always appears: “Behavior changes whether there is \ on the tail after specification of DestDir. Please refer to help for details by pushing the “?" button." (The question-mark button appears to the right of the Buffer size window.) The warning itself deals with copying the contents of a directory or the directory itself.

    • If the source directory, shown to the right of the the Source button, ends in a backslash, FastCopy copies the contents of the directory to the target directory.
    • If the source directory does not end in a black-slash, FastCopy copies the directory itself AND its contents to the target directory.

  • slide 10 of 34

    Operational Modes

    Clicking the down-arrow on the Diff (Size/Date) button brings up the other modes of operation.

  • slide 11 of 34

    Diff (No Overwrite) – if the same filename exists in the target directory, FastCopy does not copy the file.

    Diff (Size/Date) – if the same filename exists in the target directory, FastCopy copies only when the size or date is different from the same filename in the target directory. This is the default.

    Diff (Update) – if the same filename exists in the target directory, FastCopy copies only when the source’s file date is newer.

    Copy (Overwrite) – FileCopy always copies, regardless of the files’ dates and sizes.

    Move (Overwrite) – FileCopy always copies, and the original file is deleted.

    Delete – The specified files and directories are deleted.

  • slide 12 of 34


    FastCopy does not use the operating system's cache for copying, so you can specify the amount of memory to use for the “Buffer." The default is 32 MB, but if you need to copy large files and have commodious memory installed, you can increase this.

    The slider right below the buffer setting allows you to specify the speed control from “Suspend," to a percentage, to Auto Slow, which makes it adjust speed based on other activity on the PC such as mouse movement or a change in the active window, and, of course, Full Speed ahead.

    “Nonstop" means continue despite any read/write errors. “Verify" means verify the destination file after writing. “Estimate" means give an estimation of when the operation will finish before starting the copy.

    “ACL" means copy the Access Control List attributes of the files. This would be normal for Vista’s file system, and you should select it, but if you were copying to FAT, you may want to turn this off. Likewise, “AltStream," or alternate stream is a feature of Vista’s NTFS. Alternate streams are used to contain things like thumbnails for an image or formatting data for a document. Alternate streams are fine to include when writing to NTFS volumes, but Vista will ignore them when writing to a flash drive, CD-R, or FAT file system drive. Thus it‘s safe to select this in Vista.

  • slide 13 of 34

    The “Elevate" button in the top row means “elevate privilege." If you have User Access Control active on your Vista PC and select this, Vista won’t like it at all. It’ll say “An unidentified program wants access to your computer." If this happens, just click “X" in the top right of the warning dialog to close it.

  • slide 14 of 34

    Next: Filters, Settings, and Using FastCopy in Portable Mode

  • slide 15 of 34
    On this page, we look at the settings and options for FastCopy, as well as using FastCopy in portable mode from a USB flash drive. How to Fix Slow File Copying in Vista, FastCopy Settings, Filter Settings, Using FastCopy in Portable Mode
  • slide 16 of 34


    The include and exclude Filters settings specify whether the filters are effective or not effective. The author warns that the operation of the filters may change in a future version, but for now if you first click the “Filter" checkbox:

  • slide 17 of 34

    If you enter a filter, which can be a directory or filename, with or without wildcard characters, only the files or directories that match to the filter are copied. For example, if you entered “*.pdf" as an include filter, only PDF files would be copied from the source directory to the destination directory.

    If you enter a filter under “Exclude Filter," the files or directories that match to the filter are excluded. In other words, if you excluded “*.pdf," no PDF files from the source directory would be copied.

  • slide 18 of 34


    A large number of the controls can be set as defaults under Options, then General Settings.

  • slide 19 of 34

    The upper area repeats the controls and options from the main screen. You will want to read the Help file and become familiar with the program before you change any of the other options.

  • slide 20 of 34


  • slide 21 of 34

    Options, then Shell Extension Settings brings up a dialog that deals with what is shown in the right-click menu for files and directories.

  • slide 22 of 34


  • slide 23 of 34

    The remaining selections under the Options menu are Auto HDD Mode, Same HDD Mode, and Diff HD Mode. Auto is the default and is checked when the menu is first viewed. These refer to how the program works in copying. If “Same HDD" is selected, FastCopy uses the big buffer, reads until the buffer becomes full, and writes the data out in bulk. If “Diff HDD" is selected, both reading and writing are processed with multiple threads running in parallel. Because FastCopy does not use the system cache (unless you set it to) the impact on the performance of the system is lighter than Vista’s own copy process.

  • slide 24 of 34

    Using FastCopy in Portable Mode

    FastCopy also can run from a flash drive. When started this way, it does not provide the shell integration in Vista, i.e. FastCopy options do not appear in right-click menus.

    To install FastCopy to a flash drive, copy the fastcopy.exe and fastcopy.chm files from the distribution zip file to the root folder of the drive.

  • slide 25 of 34


  • slide 26 of 34

    If you wonder what those other files are on my flash drive, please see the further reading section at the end of this article. I’m using TrueCrypt to provide on-the-fly encryption and decryption of a 7 GB partition on the drive, and the Adeano-retrievecredentials.ost file is a cryptographic cipher I’ll use if I ever lose my laptop and need to track it.

    How does FastCopy look when started from the flash drive?

  • slide 27 of 34


  • slide 28 of 34

    Exactly the same way it does when first-run in shell mode.

  • slide 29 of 34

    Next: FastCopy's License, Performance Testing, and Conclusion

  • slide 30 of 34
    How did FastCopy do? In this concluding page, we look at the FastCopy license and put FastCopy through some performance testing. How to Fix Slow File Copying in Vista, FastCopy License, Performance Testing, Conclusion
  • slide 31 of 34

    FastCopy's License

    FastCopy is distributed under the BSD license, and the source code is freely available.

    Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

    1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.

    2. Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.

  • slide 32 of 34

    Performance Testing

    Copying a 4.35 GB .iso file from a folder on the C: drive to a folder on the same drive using Vista’s copy/paste function took 3 minutes, 43 seconds. Using FastCopy at default settings took 2 minutes, 59 seconds. I increased the buffer size to 64 MB, tried again, and shaved off another 4 seconds.

    I then tried copying an 8.8 GB folder with 29 files varying from over 1 GB to 158 KB. Vista took 6 minutes and 38 seconds to do this. FastCopy, with the cache set to 64 MB, took 5 minutes 37 seconds.

    As a final test, I selected 19 small files and Vista took about two seconds to copy them. FastCopy took .23 seconds.

  • slide 33 of 34


    FastCopy is fast, free, and open-source. The performance testing was in line with what I expected from just having used FastCopy for a while. FastCopy is faster than Vista in copying really big files, and when the file sizes are a mix, FastCopy is much faster. This varies from 20% for large, single files to 400% for several small files.

    The application could certainly be prettier with the interface more streamlined, but there’s no denying that it does what it promises.

    Hiroaki Shirouzu, thank you for FastCopy.

  • slide 34 of 34

    Further Reading

    How to Track a Stolen Laptop - It's a jungle out there. According to a recent report, 672,000 notebooks are lost in airports every year in the US and more than half are never recovered. It makes sense to assume eventual loss and take precautions before the loss or theft happens. Free tracking application Adeona can help.

    Automatic Encryption/Decryption for Your USB Flash Drive - Want to keep the data on your thumb drive away from prying eyes? TrueCrypt, running in "Traveler" mode on your flash drive, provides transparent, seamless encryption and decryption and can automatically run itself upon insertion. This guide provides step-by-step instructions to set it up.

    How to Make a Bootable Disc in Vista - Need a backup method to start a Vista PC? Creating a bootable disc in Vista is not as easy as in previous versions of Windows, but it can be done. This article tells you how.

    How to Tame Vista's Folder Template Forgetfulness - If Windows Vista is confused and is showing your documents in a multimedia folder and your music in a documents folder, we've been there, too. This article will show you how, step-by-step, to tame Vista's template folder forgetfulness until, we hope, Microsoft finally fixes the problem for good.

    How to Speed Up Vista's Boot Time - Can you bake bread in the time it takes for your Vista PC to start up? Or does it seem that way? Fortunately, there are some relatively easy steps to take to speed up Vista's boot time. We describe four of them here.