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In a world where everyone has access to the same information at the click of a button, it’s hard to make an impression. Copy is one way for brands and businesses to stand out from their competitors by leveraging diverse ways of creating content online that can’t be easily replicated with standard marketing techniques.

The “copy shortcut” is a command-line tool that allows users to copy files. It can also be used as a shortcut to open the file in the default application, or use it with another program.


transferring files It’s not glamorous, but it needs to be done. We copy and paste using the clipboard in the GUI, but we have a cmdlet named Copy-Item in PowerShell.

In all shell languages, there have always been commands for copying files. The PowerShell Transfer-Item cmdlet is the most common technique to copy a file or folder in your PowerShell script from point A to point B in PowerShell land. This cmdlet enables us to copy a file or folder while also allowing us to recurse over files in a folder, use wildcards to choose items to copy, and even utilize PowerShell Remoting to transfer data!

The PowerShell provider cmdlets include the Copy-Item cmdlet. It’s a generic cmdlet with the Item noun as its name. Although most of these provider cmdlets may be used with any provider, I’ve only seen Copy-Item used with the file system provider in my almost ten years of using PowerShell.

PowerShell’s Copy-Item command enables a developer to copy files and directories in a variety of ways.

Basic Instructions

The Copy-Item cmdlet transfers a single file from point A to point B using the Path argument as the source file directory and the Destination parameter as the destination folder path at its most basic level.

PS> Test-Path -Path C:PointB1.txt False PS> Copy-Item -Path C:PointA1.txt -Destination C:PointB PS> Test-Path -Path C:PointB1.txt True

This cmdlet may also be used to copy empty directories. I’ll make a list of everything in the C:EmptyFolder folder, then copy it out.

PS> Get-ChildItem -Path C:EmptyFolder PS> Test-Path -Path C:PointBEmptyFolder -PathType Container False PS> Copy-Item -Path C:EmptyFolder -Destination C:PointB PS> Test-Path -Path C:PointBEmptyFolder -PathType Container True

Perhaps the folder contains a read-only file. Copy-Item will not overwrite it by default. Simply add the Compel argument to force the override.

Using Copy-Item to Be More Selective

We may duplicate the whole contents of a folder in addition to a single file or folder. Copy-Item allows wildcard characters like the asterisk to match one or more characters and the question mark to match just one character in the Path argument.

PS> @(Get-ChildItem -Path C:PointB).Count 0 PS> @(Get-ChildItem -Path C:PointA).Count 10000 PS> @(Get-ChildItem -Path C:PointB).Count 0 PS> Copy-Item -Path C:PointA* -Destination C:PointB PS> @(Get-ChildItem -Path C:PointB).Count 10000 PS> @(Get-ChildItem -Path C:PointB).Count 0 PS> Copy-Item -Path ‘C:PointA26?0.txt’ -Destination C:PointB PS> Get-ChildItem -Path C:PointB Directory: C:PointB Mode LastWriteTime Length Name -a—- 8/11/2017 8:59 AM 5 2600.txt -a—- 8/11/2017 8:59 AM 5 2610.txt -a—- 8/11/2017 8:59 AM 5 2620.txt -a—- 8/11/2017 8:59 AM 5 2630.txt -a—- 8/11/2017 8:59 AM 5 2640.txt -a—- 8/11/2017 8:59 AM 5 2650.txt -a—- 8/11/2017 8:59 AM 5 2660.txt -a—- 8/11/2017 8:59 AM 5 2670.txt -a—- 8/11/2017 8:59 AM 5 2680.txt -a—- 8/11/2017 8:59 AM 5 2690.txt

Bringing Together Multiple Folders

Copy-Item also has the ability to copy many directories at once, which is a fantastic function. Copy-Item will look at each path, copy either the folder or file(s) depending on the path, then “merge” them all into the one destination if multiple paths are given to the Path option.

PS> Copy-Item -Path C:PointB*,C:PointC*,C:PointD* -Destination C:PointE PS> Get-ChildItem -Path C:PointE Directory: C:PointE Mode LastWriteTime Length Name -a—- 11/11/2017 12:15 PM 2 PointBFile.txt -a—- 11/11/2017 12:15 PM 2 PointCFile.txt -a—- 11/11/2017 12:16 PM 4 PointDFile.txt

Recursive File Copying

It’s unlikely that you’ll get fortunate and have all of your files in a single folder with no subfolders. We often encounter scenarios in which we have a large number of subfolders in the parent folder with files we’d want to transfer across. Copy-Item will cheerfully check in each subdirectory and copy all files and folders in each recursively if the Recurse argument is used.

Notice how I’m copying files and directories right from Get-ChildItem to Copy-Item. Copy-Item now supports pipelines!

PS> (Get-ChildItem -Path C:PointB -Recurse).Count 5 PS> Get-ChildItem -Path C:PointB | Copy-Item -Destination C:PointC -Recurse PS> (Get-ChildItem -Path C:PointC -Recurse).Count 5

The PassThru parameter has a number of advantages.

The PassThru argument is available in several PowerShell cmdlets. The PassThru argument allows Cmdlets that normally return nothing to return the objects they’re managing. This cmdlet is no exception. I never used this argument when I first began scripting since I didn’t think it was necessary.

If I wanted to transfer a file to a distant place and then refer to it later in my script, I’d do something like this:

‘WEBSRV1c’ as $remoteFilePath $File.txt’ -Path C:File.txt -Destination Copy-Item Write-Host $remoteFilePath “I simply copied the file to $remoteFilePath,” says the user.

This strategy is effective, however it might be improved. Why not simply capture the object returned by the Copy-Item cmdlet when utilizing the PassThru option without than establishing a variable for the remote path? The target file path will always be included in the items returned.

$copiedFile = Copy-Item -Destination ‘WEBSRV1c’ -Path C:File.txt

Using a PowerShell Remoting Session to Copy Files

This cmdlet’s ability to utilize WinRM and a PowerShell remote session instead of the normal SMB protocol for file transfer is a wonderful feature that debuted with PowerShell v5. Copy-Item leverages an existing PowerShell session to transfer the files when the Session argument is used. This is an excellent approach to get past firewalls and adds an added degree of protection when the session communication is encrypted.

PS> $session = New-PSSession -ComputerName WEBSRV1 PS> Invoke-Command -Session $session -ScriptBlock { Test-Path -Path C:File.txt } False PS> Copy-Item -Path C:File.txt -ToSession $session -Destination ‘C:’ PS> Invoke-Command -Session $session -ScriptBlock { Test-Path -Path C:File.txt } True

We could have used the WEBSRV1c$ destination path to copy the File.txt file over SMB and hoped the C$ admin share was accessible. The target path will always be the path local to the machine where the remote session is operating since we used the ToSession argument instead.


The Copy-Item cmdlet is one of those essential PowerShell cmdlets that you’ll use often. Copy files and folders in PowerShell in a variety of ways using its simple but powerful interface, which includes the ability to utilize wildcards, combine several directories of files, and leverage existing PowerShell Remoting sessions!

Additional Reading

“Copying” is a command in the Unix/Linux terminal that copies files from one location to another. Reference: copying.

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