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How can I preserve my files' create dates, after copying and pasting to another drive?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / December 21, 2011 8:24 AM PST

How can I preserve my files' create dates, after copying and pasting to another drive?

I back my system up regularly but not with one of the commercially available programs; I just copy and paste all the files/libraries I want to a HDD. I have a couple and alternate them each time I do a backup, so if the one disk fails, I always have at least the penultimate backup. When I build a new system, I just copy and paste again. Now here is my problem, when I set up a new system all my dates, except for "photo date taken" all reset to the current date. I have tried all the date options from the View menu but none show the date created. How can I preserve my dates? And is there a way to prevent this from happening again? System Window 7 64BIT Pro. Many thanks!

- Submitted by Regi O.
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This looks like a job for ...
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 21, 2011 8:38 AM PST
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This answer is completely bogus.
by vlavalle / December 4, 2012 4:23 PM PST

I have used Total Commander since it was first released (when Norton Commander quit working on the then new version of Windows). I am also on Windows 7 64-bit. I have recently discovered this problem about loosing the creation dates when copying files. This lose happens when using Total Commander as well as Explorer. There is probably a Windows problem here, which I am researching, so it appears to be fundamental and Total Commander does not resolve this at all. I have tried using Explorer and Total Commander with copying the same file with both tools, and the resultant copy in each case looses its creation dates. This problem exists on Vista as well, so it is not a Windows 7 only issue. Also, this problem occurs whenever copying files, whether that be to a backup external device or to another HDD or just to another folder on the same HDD.

Vincent (12-05-12)

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Did you Sync or Copy?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 5, 2012 5:41 AM PST

I'd like to see why you could not get this to work.

I see you wrote COPY. Try SYNC instead.

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Did you Sync or Copy
by vlavalle / December 5, 2012 5:26 PM PST
In reply to: Did you Sync or Copy?

Bob, thanks for the response on keeping file creation dates when moving them. But I am actually looking for a file manager run as a Windows program that anyone can easily use. I am a computer consultant and have many customers, and the solution to this dilemma needs to be fairly simple. Using DOS commands or zipping files is not easy to do. As for your questions, I do not see any 'Sync' function in Explorer, and the sync function in TC simply uses its standard copying function to sync up two directories. So what are you referring to when you mentioned 'Sync'?

I have even written to Christian (the owner of TC) and he agrees that TC cannot retain creation dates, just as Explorer cannot, so he doesn't feel it is his problem. I suggested that he update his product so it can! And to give this all the more credence, I have come across a rather crude but effect file manager copying tool that DOES retain file creation dates, and gave this info to Christian as well. This, of course, means that this is doable! This product is called SafeCopy V2 and can be acquired (free) online at I tried it with a simple test copying just one file, and the creation date did not change! In the next couple of days, one of my customers will install this product and try it on a large directory copy (with many subfolders) and this will be a really good test. Creation date is VERY important for legal reasons to some of my customers, including to me! I have written and Copyrighted a very in depth Windows tutorial and I need the creation date to remain intact.

Also, I have started another thread with this topic on this system since this thread (although it is the same topic) seems to be dead due to its age.

Vincent (12-06-12)

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Sync is in the TC menu system.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 6, 2012 12:39 AM PST
In reply to: Did you Sync or Copy

Since that's considered too hard to use and this thread is old I'll offer 2 other sync apps that I use.

GoodSync and SyncBack.

As long as we copy, there are issues as you note. There are other copy apps but you seem adverse to command line tools so I won't bring those into the discussion.

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I would suggest that you can do just what you want ...

using robocopy by Microsoft. Came originally in the NT resource kit and the /MIR switch (mirror) will retain the file date stamps. Robocopy comes right with Windows 7 and here is a link that might assist you with it:

NOTE: The only incorrect information on the page is their statement that it was "introduced with the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit" I have a copy of it dated 21 dec 99 that replaced the older robucopy which is dated 29 feb 96. They might have meant that the GUI interface was introduced then but even that is wrong as the initial GUI interface was introduced while NT 4.0 was still the OS to have.

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That was my first thought.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 23, 2011 12:04 AM PST

But as more and more folk will not accept the command line, I had to find another answer. Well maybe I didn't have to but who read

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This works! It even saved FOLDER date!
by starstreak / January 7, 2012 9:39 AM PST

robocopy "E:\test" F:\test /MIR /DCOPY:T

I THINK that's what I did. So it copied my test folder on E: to F:\test. Since I did not have a test directory on F: it created it.
In that folder, all my subfolders had the original creation date. NOT todays date. And all my files had the correct dates too.

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by starstreak / January 7, 2012 9:41 AM PST

You need that /DCOPY:T it tells the copy to keep original folder timestamp. Without it, the folders will have new timestamps but files will have correct creation dates.

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by N385 / November 5, 2016 11:37 AM PDT

Suggesting using the /MIR command in robocopy without explaining it's purpose is totally irresponsible as it will purge (DELETE) all files in the destination folder that are not in the source!
According to robocopy page it is capable of "deleting files and folders faster than you can say “Whoops.”."

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re: How can I preserve my files' create dates, after copying

Hi Regi,

A very simple and fast method I use is WinZip. Just select the folders option to keep file structures intact. It will preserve all dates associated with a file on restore. I am using a licensed WinZip (you can also d/l free versions) which lets me set up a batch file to run all my backups. The BAT is on my desktop making it easy to use.
You can also set it to 0 compression. That makes it run very fast if you have plenty of backup space.

I hope this helps.
John H.

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Why copy & paste?

Since Windows 3.11, I've absolutely NEVER ever used that method to transfert files from location to location. I find that sellect, drag and drop is much easier, natural and convenient.

Also, using that method, the creation dates are preserved. You duplicate the file(s) with all of it's attributes including things like read only or system status, while the copy & paste create a new file with the content of the original one(s).

Total Commander suggested by Bob is an excellent file manipulation tool, in many aspect superior to Windows' explorer. It natively support several archive formats that explorer just can't.

I can NOT recommend WinZip nor PK Zip. You are beter with IZ-Archiver or Power Archiver: It fully support the ZIP format, as well as 7Z and almost every format you may stumble uppon. Also, IZ-Archiver is FREE for personal use Happy while WinZip and PK Zip will cost you money or constantly nag you if you don't register.

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Agreed, but additionally,
by l8rb / December 23, 2011 7:12 AM PST
In reply to: Why copy & paste?

Since you are running W7, you have a feature to 'bookend' two windows side-by-side which makes drag-n-drop a breeze!

However, in some doc or spreadsheet formats that action removes the item to the new suggestion would be to then right-click and 'copy to' it back.

One other consideration would be to use one of the -- MANY -- automatic back-up programs (either onboard or online), and do your due diligence regarding this particular issue and it's ability to be modified.

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drag and drop
by TonyGore / January 7, 2012 9:42 PM PST

if source and destination are on the same drive, it moves
if source and destination are on different drives, it copies
knowing the above solves many mysteries of disappearing files

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Re: drag and drop
by Kees_B Forum moderator / January 7, 2012 9:56 PM PST

But if you press control, the logic is reversed!


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drag and drop not working
by ccpjklyk / January 6, 2012 1:03 PM PST
In reply to: Why copy & paste?

Many of you have indicated using "select, drag and drop" or the like, but when I tried it on either Windows Vista or Windows 7, it didn't work. The file being copied has a new creation date. Is there anything wrong with my settings?

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Select, Drag and Drop don't work either
by dsttexas / January 7, 2012 2:01 AM PST
In reply to: Why copy & paste?

I don't know about Vista or Win7, but on XP copy / paste and your suggested Select / Drag / Drop will both change the creation date. Regardless of whether copying to a different drive or a different folder on same drive. You've been doing this since Windows 3.11 huh? Make sure you have both Modified Date and Creation Date showing in the header on Windows Explorer.

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An update to my post above
by dsttexas / January 7, 2012 2:20 AM PST

An update to my above post. Creation date changes to new (today) date if you are copying the file for the first time into that drive or folder. If the file already exists and you are overwriting it, the previous creation date remains. Hey, that's Windows for you. Try it yourself.

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Yes Ctrl-Select, Drag, and Drop Retains Create Date
by NotAsSmartAsILook / September 8, 2014 4:30 AM PDT

I am using Win 7/64 and I have found that holding Ctrl-key while selecting an item in one folder, then dragging the selection to a different folder and dropping, preserves the Create Date. Doing that within the same folder, produces a file with "Copy" in its name, with a create date of today/now.

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Reply to "Why copy & paste?"
by rcj007 / May 30, 2012 3:24 PM PDT
In reply to: Why copy & paste?

Doesn't drag & drop MOVE the files and if so that would not accomplish the objective.

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Drag 'n Drop does not preserve the create date ....
by JohnnyMiri / November 22, 2012 3:37 PM PST
In reply to: Why copy & paste?

going from one drive to the other, in Windows 7

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(NT) While interesting, it's been that way for years.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 22, 2012 3:55 PM PST
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To be more precise
by NotAsSmartAsILook / September 8, 2014 4:26 AM PDT
In reply to: Why copy & paste?

I think to be clearer I would have written "Hold down Ctrl-key then select, drag [to a different folder] and drop."

It may be obvious but it is worth stating for clarity that this method will not work within the same folder because windows will give the file a new name and create date when it performs the copy to the same location. Giving it a new name is clearly correct; I am not so sure that Windows should be giving it a different create date, but that is arguable either way. I might even say I come in on the side of changing the date.

And if you drop it into a different folder where it did not previously exist with that name,

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Don't copy & paste

When I create a file that I want to save and backup, I immediately do a "save as" right after my "save". Then I copy the file to a network share folder. Whenever I logon to a different computer (or you could use an external drive), I copy that file to my backup computer or hard drive. That way the file always retains its creation date. I don't know why you would use "copy & paste" when it's so much easier to use "save as" and retain all original info.

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Re: drag and drop not working
by jdp06 / January 6, 2012 3:26 PM PST
In reply to: Don't copy & paste

Welcome to the evils of Vista...........XP is still the best O/S

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MS has free software
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I second the SyncToy solution, for several reasons...
by JeffAHayes / January 6, 2012 10:04 AM PST
In reply to: MS has free software

1. It's also available for 64-bit versions of Windows, so if you're running Windows 7 Pro 64 with 12 GB of RAM, as am I, there's at least A CHANCE your copies will go faster, as it actually MIGHT use more than 4 GB of RAM (I haven't actually checked on that, but I think it should -- there are still very FEW programs that run in 64-bit mode, but SyncToy is one of them).

2.You can set it up to "Echo" one drive to another or to sync both ways (and I think there are other options, as well). But I simply use the "Echo" function, and every week or two I run it to back up files from my primary storage drive to a second drive.

3. If you're doing it "drive-to-drive," the drives might need to be identical, but you can also do it "folder-to-folder," which is what I'm doing now, since I no longer have two identical drives for this purpose, as I once did. Now I have a slightly faster internal for main storage and an external I'm not sure about (not sure about most ANY externals any more), that's supposedly the same SIZE as the internal. My main storage for just about all documents, at any rate, is in a big folder called, "My Documents," which has MANY subfolders within it, some of which have many subfolders nested within them... I simply "Echo" "My Documents" from one drive to the other. And as SyncToy copies ONLY files that are NEW or have changed since the last time, it DOESN'T copy the OTHER million or so files in "My Documents" that haven't changed every time I do a backup.

Sure works for me -- and it's F R E E !!!
Jeff Hayes

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I'll give SyncToy the third vote!!!!!
by cimofj2 / January 6, 2012 10:28 AM PST
In reply to: MS has free software

I just LOVE FREE!!!!!
I have both the 32 & 64 bit versions on my & my wife system with Seagate GoFlex PORTABLE Drives.
Mine has saved my bacon TWICE now!!!!!
I run in Echo Mode, so my DAILY work is saved & I have 1 Major Folder uder which are the folders I use regularly.
So I setup Folder Pairs to save to Matching Folder Names under the Major Folder.
This way everything is under the Major Folder & each Subfolder has the same name & icon the source has!

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copy files with corect dates

Highlight the files and flders to save.
with the external drive pluged in right lick on a selected file or folder then select send to next select the externaldrive and all the files will be copied with thair corect names and date information.
Have a Merry Christmas Happy New Year. Grin

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folder date is copy date, not original
by starstreak / January 6, 2012 11:21 AM PST

Tried it and the folder creation date is the date of the copy, not the date of the original.

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