File Copy Options

Here's how to move files and folders from one drive to another without losing the time and date information. Use Robocopy.

QUESTION I have a large collection of photos on my Windows 8.1 PC, which has grown to the point where the drive is now nearly full. The pictures are organised into many folders, which I like to keep sorted by date. To cope with the growing collection, I bought a larger drive and copied over all the images. This seemed to work fine, but when I looked more closely I noticed that the files all had the same time and date. This means I'm no longer able to sort my collection by date. Can you help me?

HELPROOM ANSWER If you still have the original drive and are able to copy the files again, then you can use the Windows built-in command 'Robocopy' to copy your files instead. Standing for 'Robust File Copy', Robocopy offers many advanced bulk copying options including the ability to maintain the original timestamps on your files and folders.
To use it, open up a command prompt by right-clicking on the Windows 8.1 start button and selecting 'Command Prompt (Admin)'. Next, type the following command:

ROBOCOPY "C:\photos" "D:\photos" /E /COPYALL /DCOPY: T

Substitute "C:\photos" and "D:\photos" for your source and destination folders respectively.

The

/COPYALL

and

/DCOPY:DAT

options ensure that your original 'date modified' attributes are preserved during the copy.

The /E option ensures that subfolders are also copied, including any empty folders you may have in the original location. Robocopy has a great number of additional functions and options, which you can discover by typing robocopy /? at the command prompt.

If you're put off by the idea of using the Windows Command Prompt, you can download a utility called RichCopy, written by Ken Tamaru of Microsoft. It provides a graphical interface to set of functions similar to those of Robocopy.

To access the options required to manage your file attributes, select 'Advanced' from the View menu. Next, choose your source and destination paths, by clicking on the source and destination buttons in the main window. Click the Option button and select 'File attributes, Error handling' from the left-hand pane. In the right-hand pane, ensure that the Time Stamp box is ticked, select any other options you want and click OK. Select Start from the Action menu to start your copy.

If you don't have your original disk and have lost the time stamps, then all is not lost. Your image files will probably contain EXIF data, storing within them the time and date when the photos were originally taken, so you can sort them by this if you wish.

Open up a File Explorer window in a folder containing your images, then click on the Sort By button in the ribbon at the top and select 'Date Taken'.

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