If you have a new computer with the latest version of Windows 11, you may still need to transfer your files from the old computer. Usually, the easiest way is to copy the files to a USB external storage to move them over the new device, but you can also transfer the files over the network.
The only problem with this last option is that if you use the File Explorer copy option, the process could take a long time and cause many issues. However, you could use the Robocopy (Robust File Copy) command-line tool, which offers the fastest way to copy files over the network between an old and new Windows 11 computer.
This guide will teach you how to use Robocopy to quickly transfer huge amounts of files over the network on Windows 11.
Copy files over network fast on Windows 11 using Robocopy
Although Robocopy lets you copy files faster than using File Explorer, it’s always recommended a wired connection for the best results. The time to complete the transfer will depend on the connection, type of files, and hard drive performance.
The copy process includes two steps. You first need to set up file sharing on the source computer and then use Robocopy in the destination computer to transfer the files.
1. Enable file sharing on Windows 11 (source)
To share files on the network with the express settings, use these steps:
Open File Explorer on Windows 11.
Open the folder with the files to migrate.
Right-click the folder and select the Properties option.
Click the Sharing tab.
Click the Share button.
Select the user or group to share files or folders using the drop-down menu.Quick tip: If you have connection issues, it’s best to use your source account to share the folder instead of the “Everyone” group, and sign in with your account on the destination device.
Click the Add button.
Under the “Permission Level” section, select the sharing permissions for the folder. For instance, you can select Read (default) if you only want users to view and open files. If you select Read/Write, users can view, open, modify, and delete the content on the folder you’re sharing.
Click the Share button.
Right-click the path and select the Copy Link to copy the network path.
Click the Done button.
Click the Close button.
After you complete the steps, make a note of the folder path and the IP address of the source computer. You can quickly find out your IP address on Settings > Network & Internet, click Wi-Fi or Ethernet, and click the connection to view the information.
If you use a Microsoft account to sign in to Windows, you may run into issues trying to access the files remotely. It’s recommended to create a temporary local account in the source computer to sign in remotely with Robocopy from the destination device. Alternatively, you can also switch from a Microsoft account to a local account on the source computer, and then switch back to a Microsoft account. The process will fix the issue to sign in with a Microsoft account from a remote computer.
2. Copy files fast over network on Windows 11
After you configure file sharing on the source computer, you can copy the files with the Robocopy command-line tool from the destination computer.
To transfer files fast over the network with Robocopy on Windows 11, use these steps:
Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
Type the following command to add a network user and password to Windows 11 and press Enter:
cmdkey /add:COMPUTER-OR-DOMAIN /user:COMPUTER-OR-DOMAIN\USERNAME /pass:PASSWORD
In the command, replace COMPUTER-OR-DOMAIN with the target computer, IP address, or domain, COMPUTER-OR-DOMAIN\USERNAME for the target device and username, and PASSWORD for the account password.
This example adds the entry in Credential Manager for the “admin01” user available in the source computer that Robocopy can use to access the shared folder:
cmdkey /add:office-pc /user:office-pc\admin01 /pass:password
Type the following command to copy the files over the network and press Enter:
robocopy \\source-device-ip\path\to\sharefolder C:\destination-device\path\to\storefiles /E /Z /ZB /R:5 /W:5 /TBD /NP /V /MT:16 /compress
This example speeds up file copy between two computers in the network:
robocopy \\10.1.4.181\Users\USER\OneDrive\Desktop\MyShareFiles C:\Users\USER\Documents /E /Z /ZB /R:5 /W:5 /TBD /NP /V /MT:16 /compress
In the above command, make sure to change the source and destination paths with your configuration.
Robocopy options details
On Windows 11, Robocopy provides a slew of features, and in this guide, we use the following options to transfer files faster and reliably.
- /E — Copy Subdirectories, including empty ones.
- /Z — Copy files in restartable mode.
- /ZB — Uses restartable mode. If access is denied, use backup mode.
- /R:5 — Retry 5 times (you can specify a different number, the default is 1 million).
- /W:5 — Wait 5 seconds before retrying (you can specify a different number, the default is 30 seconds).
- /TBD — Wait for share names To Be Defined (retry error 67).
- /NP — No Progress – don’t display percentage copied.
- /V — Produce verbose output, showing skipped files.
- /MT:16 — Do multithreaded copies with n threads (default is 8).
- /compress — Enables SMB compression to speed up transfers over the network.
In this guide, the two most important options are the /MT and /compress. The /MT enables Robocopy to transfer files in multithreaded mode. Usually, when you copy files on File Explorer, the process copies one file at a time. The multithreaded feature allows you to copy multiple files simultaneously, better utilizing the bandwidth and significantly speeding up the process.
If you do not specify a number when using the “/MT” option, the default number will be “8,” which means that tool will copy eight files simultaneously, but Robocopy supports “1” to “128” threads.
The command uses “16,” but you can specify a higher number. The only problem is that more processing power and bandwidth will be used when using higher numbers. If you have an older processor and an unreliable network connection, it might cause issues. As such, make sure to test the command before executing the command with a high number of threads.
The /compress is a new option available on Windows 11 that enables “SMB compression.” The feature allows Robocopy to request file compression (if applicable) as they move from source to destination over the network, removing the need to compress files manually to reduce their size and then uncompress at the destination computer.
Since compressed files use less space and consume less network bandwidth, speeding up the transfer time. The only caveat is that “SMB compression” requires additional processor resources during the process.
The /compress option with Robocopy is more effective on networks using 1Gps Ethernet or Wi-Fi connections. Compression is unnecessary if you are transferring files over 100Gps connections, and sometimes, it may even take more time.
You can always view all the available switches, run the
robocopy /? command.