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Can I Copy and Rename a File in a Single Step?

Question: I would like to be able to copy a file but at the same time rename it, so when it gets to the destination folder it has whatever file name I want it to. Do you know of a way to accomplish this in one step?

Not using Windows Explorer, no.

However it’s a snap using the Windows Command Prompt.

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In Windows Explorer, when you drag and drop a file from one location to another, you must let the copy (or move) operation complete before you can then rename the file in its new location.

However, using the COPY command in the Windows Command Prompt, you can do it in one quick step.

Start by firing up a command prompt – usually Start, All Programs, Accessories, Command Prompt. You’ll probably get something like this:

Command Prompt
The COPY command has the following syntax:

COPY source destination

The “trick” here, if you want to call it that, is that the destination can either be the folder to receive the file, or it can include the new filename.

For example:

Command Prompt with a simple file copy
This command:

copy current.txt “My Documents”

Executed with “C:\Documents and Settings\LeoN” as the current directory, copied “C:\Documents and Settings\LeoN\current.txt” to “C:\Documents and Settings\LeoN\My Documents\current.txt”.

Now, this time we’ll specify a filename:

Command Prompt with a simple file copy and rename
This time we copied “C:\Documents and Settings\LeoN\current.txt” to “C:\Documents and Settings\LeoN\My Documents\copy.txt“. In other words we copied the file, and gave the copy a new name in one operation.

These examples all assumed that the file you want to copy is in the “current directory” (or current folder), as listed in the command prompt itself. You can change directories with the “CD” command:

Command Prompt having executed a CD
Now your COPY operations will be relative to the new current directory.

Alternatively the COPY command will work with full paths as well, eliminating any reliance on the current directory:

Command Prompt having executed a copy using full paths
This example performed the same copy-and-rename we did earlier, but doesn’t rely on any assumptions about the current directory. It specifies a full path to both the source and destination.

As you can imagine, the Command Prompt, while somewhat arcane for the average user, is incredibly powerful. Depending on your plans, it could be well worth spending a little time learning more about.

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10 comments on “Can I Copy and Rename a File in a Single Step?”

  1. For anyone interested, you can download the sucessor to cmd.exe, Windows Powershell, at (The Windows XP / Server 2003 versions are final, but the Vista version is still in RC2). It’s supposed to be incredibly powerful, and certaily overkill if all you want to do is copy files — but if you’re learning a CLI syntax from scratch anyway, you may as well learn the one that may end up being far more useful in future (i.e. if you ever need something more versatile than cmd.exe).

    There’s a getting started guide and quick reference at

  2. In an OS long, long ago there was quite a performance difference between COPY and XCOPY.

    COPY was part of the command interpreter that loaded very quickly and moved smaller files very well. XCOPY was a .EXE that took longer to load, but moved larger files quicker – due to a larger buffer.

    These days it appears that the only real difference is the depth of features in XCOPY. Do you know if there is still a performance difference?

    Hash: SHA1

    I assume that any actual performance difference between the two has long
    since been overshadowed by the increase in both media and processor
    speed. I’m sure that the differences you mention are still there, but so
    small as to be unnoticeable these days.

    Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)


  4. I have a folder in My Documents that needs to be renamed. “C:Documents and SettingsJulia…” The folder is the Julia folder. When I right click to delete it there is a message that this folder cannot be deleted. How do I rename a name on this computer that is no longer related to the computer or the files in it?

    Folders at that level in Documents and Settings are … special. They represent user accounts on the machine. The only way to remove them is to delete the user account “Julia”, but remember that anything associated with that account will also be lost.

    – Leo
  5. Can I copy a file to another folder and rename the file where I copy the current date into the file name? So for example I want to copy test.txt to another folder but have it saved with the name 13032009test.txt.

  6. I have an EXCEL template and I used 8 alpha-numeric characters to identify the data sheet after I fill it up. When I save it, I have to re-type the identification number as a filename. I tried to copy and paste to replace the filename but won’t accept it. Is there a way that I can just copy and paste the filename to avoid errors during retyping?

  7. What if I know where the text file is, but don’t know what it is named. However, know it is the only text file in the folder and depending on the folder know what I want to call it. Can you use wildcards? Example: \ed\doc1\*.txt \docs\doc1.txt


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