When Microsoft was developing Windows Vista, the company decided to work on the file copy engine, to optimize it for performance. This wasn’t exactly the most successful of moves, though — soon many users were complaining that file copies were taking longer than ever before. And while Windows 7 has addressed many of these issues, there still seems to be plenty of people who feel that copying is still slower than it ought to be.
If you’re also tired of staring at the copy dialog, then there are alternatives. Fast Copy, in particular, claims to be the fastest copying software on Windows. It supports UNICODE and long file pathnames (more than 260 bytes), and, the author says, can achieve read/write performance that’s close to the limit of your hardware.
Sounds great, but does it actually work? To find out, we created a test folder containing 4.23GB in two ISO files, and timed how long it took to copy this to an external USB drive on a Windows 7 test PC. Explorer took 163 seconds, but FastCopy cut this to 153 seconds, a 6-percent improvement.
That wasn’t a major speed boost, but then the bottleneck here was really the USB interface: there’s not much FastCopy could do to improve performance there. If we tried copying the same folder to another location on the same (internal SATA) drive then the results were much better: 124 seconds for Windows, and only 86 seconds for Windows, a surprising 30 percent savings.
We hadn’t expected that kind of speed boost, but the next test showed it was no fluke. We copied the same folder to a SSD drive, which took 72 seconds in Windows, but only 54 seconds with FastCopy, a 25-percent advantage.
Of course, it’s relatively easy to copy just one or two large files. So we decided to test the program with something more complex: 6,250 text files of varying sizes, 119MB of data in total. Windows copied these to our SSD drive in 69 seconds, but once again, FastCopy did better, requiring only 64 seconds, a 7-percent improvement.
Again, this isn’t a huge margin of victory. And if you only occasionally run this type of copy then the saving of a few seconds may not seem that important.
If you regularly copy larger files, though, and you’re currently bored of waiting for Windows to finish the job, then FastCopy could be worth a try. In our experience it’s always faster than Windows, sometimes substantially, and that’s just with the default settings. If you’re willing to tweak the program (though not always straightforward, thanks to an awkward and poorly-translated interface) then there could be even better performance gains to be had.