PowerShell Copy-Item

Copying of files is mostly done in a traditional way of using a file system provider. However, the Copy-Item cmdlet is the best way to automate the copying mechanism.

The Copy-Item cmdlet is used to copy an item from one path to another by using the terminal support of PowerShell. This command is used for multiple purposes such as copying a file/folder, or multiple files/folders.

In this informative guide, you will learn to apply the Copy-Item cmdlet in PowerShell.

How to use Copy-Item in PowerShell?

The copy-item cmdlet is used to copy one item from one path source location to another destination path in the same namespace. The item could be a single/multiple files, folders, sub-folders, and so on.
The working of the Copy-Item cmdlet is explained in the upcoming examples:

How to copy a single file in PowerShell using Copy-Item?
Copying a single file is the basic use of the Copy-Item cmdlet in PowerShell. The following command is to copy a file from the “C:\Work\File.txt” path to the “C:\Output” folder.

> copy-item -Path "C:\Work\File.txt" -Destination "C:\Output"

Now, let’s verify whether the file is copied or not by running the Get-Childitem cmdlet on the “C:\Output” file.

> Get-ChildItem -Path "C:\Output"

The above screenshot verifies that the file is copied from the source path to the destination path successfully.

How to copy multiple folders in PowerShell using copy-item?
Copy-item cmdlet also allows you to copy multiple folders or files altogether. It saves your important time while copying. The command written below copies the items from the “C:\File\” and “C:\Docs” to “C:\abc”.

> copy-item -Path C:\File\,C:\Docs\ -Destination C:\abc\ -Recurse

Now, let’s verify the copying process by executing the “Get-ChildItem” cmdlet on the C:\abc\.

> Get-ChildItem -Path “C:\abc\”

The above process verifies that the files are copied into the “C:abc” directory.

How to copy specific files from a folder using copy-item?
Sometimes we need to copy only selected files. For this purpose, the (*) asterisk sign is used with the file names to select those files. Let’s practice this example by getting the content of the file where we will apply the Copy-Item cmdlet:

> ls Test

The output shows that three files are present in the “C:\Test” directory.

Now, the following command copies the “docs.txt” file from the “C:\Test” directory to the “C:\abc\” directory.

> copy-item -Path "C:\Test\*docs.txt" -Destination "C:\abc"

The result of the command can be verified by the following Get-ChildItem cmdlet:

> Get-childitem -Path "C:\abc"

The output shows that the “docs.txt” file is copied into the “C:\abc\”.

How to copy files other than excluded using Copy-Item?
Copy-Item can be used to copy all the files except the one you have excluded. To do so, PowerShell’s “-Exclude” parameter is used with the “Copy-Item” cmdlet. For instance, there is a folder that contains the “txt” and “PDF” files. The following command will copy the items of “C:\Test\*” to the “C:\abc\” directory excluding the “.txt” files.

> copy-item -Path "C:\Test\*" -Destination "C:\abc" -Recurse -Exclude "*.txt"

Let’s verify the copied files:

> Get-childitem -Path "C:\abc"

The output shows that only “.pdf” files are copied and the “-Exclude” flag has excluded the files other files of the source directory.

How to overwrite files and folders in PowerShell using copy-item?
Sometimes we copy files/folders from one location to another and want to overwrite the existing files. In such a case, the “Copy-Item” is applied with the “-Force” flag to replace the folder.

The following command will copy the content of the “C:\Test\*” directory to the “C:\abc\” and will overwrite the destination folder.

> copy-item -Path C:\Test\* -Destination C:\abc\ -Recurse -Force

Let’s verify the process whether or not it was successful. We need to run the following command.

> Get-childitem -Path C:\abc\

The above image shows that the folder was successfully overwritten in the destination folder.

Congratulations! You probably have learned the basic and advanced level functionality of PowerShell’s Copy-Item.


The Copy-Item is a cmdlet used to copy files from a specific path to the other location. It supports tens of flags to perform a specific copying operation on files/folders. In this guide, the functionality of the Copy-Item cmdlet is described in detail with the help of suitable examples. The Copy-Item cmdlet is enriched with a set of parameters to perform all basic copying operations. You have learned to apply the Copy-Item cmdlet in various copying scenarios.

About the author

Adnan Shabbir