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Copy any NTFS file with RawCopy – even if it’s locked

28 December 2013, Mike Williams

Copying files is normally a very straightforward process, but there are one or two potential problems waiting to trip you up. If Windows or another application has the file open, for example, you’ll probably just get a “File in Use” error. And if you don’t have the necessary permissions to access the file then you could also be blocked.

You might be able to get around some of these issues, with a little work (using Unlocker to manually close a file, say), but RawCopy offers a simpler and safer approach. It’s an open-source console-based tool which copies NTFS files using low-level disk access, bypassing all the usual restrictions. Whether the file is locked by an application, Windows, or you just don’t have the necessary permissions, there’s no problem: RawCopy will copy it regardless.

To try this out, first open a command prompt as an administrator (right-click cmd.exe, “Run as administrator”). Change to the folder where you’ve unzipped RawCopy, and enter your copy command in this form:

RawCopy “C:\Source Folder\File.exe” “C:\Destination Folder\Subfolder”

You must follow RawCopy’s syntax precisely to avoid odd errors

(Use RawCopy64 on 64-bit Windows).

That’s essentially it; your source file is copied to the destination folder, and the program lets you know of its success or failure (if there was some unexpected error).

While this is simple enough, keep in mind that you have to use this exact syntax at all times. The Source parameter must include a full (not relative) path; the destination can’t include a file name, it must be a path only; and as usual with console programs, if either the source or destination parameters contain spaces then you should surround them with quotes.

It’s important to get this right, too, because RawCopy isn’t great at handling input errors. Use something like  RawCopy file.ext D:\  , say, and the program will assume that “fi” (the first two characters of the source) represents the source drive, before complaining that “Target volume fi is not NTFS”. Not the most helpful diagnosis.

As long as you remember to use the full syntax, though, RawCopy works well, and the program makes it easy to copy even the most awkward of files to your chosen destination.

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