If you do any serious file copying on a Windows system, you'll quickly discover that there are substantial limitations to the default
Copying a few documents from your hard drive to your flash drive doesn't stress out the default copier too much. If you're dumping gigabytes of data from one drive to another, however, you'll quickly find that the default copier is sluggish and unreliable. The pinnacle of frustration: When Microsoft's default copier putters out while you're transferring tons of files and you're left with no indication what was copied and what wasn't, leaving you to pick through the file lists on each end or starting from scratch to ensure a clean copy. The five excellent alternatives below all succeed at alleviating the many shortcomings of the default copier.
FastCopy (Windows, Free)
FastCopy isn't pretty, but it is, as the name implies, quite speedy. FastCopy integrates with the system shell and is the only copier listed here which allows you to select which individual commands will appear on the right-click context menu. FastCopy allows you to specify actions based on a file's age, size, and name, among others. You can also enable secure overwrite, where all moved files are securely deleted from the source directory upon completion of the move. FastCopy can be made portable by copying the FastCopy.exe and FastCopy.chm from the installation directory.
RichCopy (Windows, Free)
RichCopy has been around since 2001 but was only recently released to the public; prior to that it had been an internal Microsoft tool. RichCopy offers all the functionality of the popular command line file copier, RoboCopy, but it's wrapped in a radically more user friendly GUI. RichCopy has a single but significant shortcoming: It lacks integration into the Windows shell. Despite functioning only as a stand alone tool, it earns its spot in the
SuperCopier (Windows, Free)
SuperCopier is a strong candidate for your flash drive. It's the only alternative copier here that makes itself the default drag-and-drop handler while the program is active. You can turn SuperCopier into a portable application by going into the Advanced menu and changing the Settings Location to ".ini file". SuperCopier, like RichCopy also allows you to specify if file attributes and security settings will be copied.
TeraCopy (Windows, Basic: Free / Pro: $21)
TeraCopy is one of the best known alternative file copiers, winning people over with an interface and functionality that one might call "just advanced enough". TeraCopy integrates with the Windows shell for drag-and-drop support and includes a solidly laid out right-click menu. It doesn't overwhelm you with a plethora of settings or options, but it provides enough advanced functionality to speed up file copying, notify you when files don't copy correctly, and allow you to bulk approve overwriting, renaming, and skipping of duplicate files. TeraCopy is also available in a portable version. The $21 Pro version adds the ability to select files by extension and remove files from the queue without having to start over.
CopyHandler (Windows, Free)
CopyHandler is another candidate with a ton of customizable options. While RichCopy specializes in granular control over things like file names and attributes, CopyHandler allows you to get as picky as setting custom buffer sizes based on whether a file is being copied to the same physical disk, disk to disk, disk to optical drive, and so forth. You can integrate CopyHandler into the Windows shell and the right-click menu, and you can even instruct it to perform tasks like shutting down the system when the copying is done. CopyHandler is also the only alternative copier listed here which allows you to pause your queue transfer, shut down the computer, and then start the queue up again upon logging back in.
This week's honorable mention goes to RoboCopy a powerful command line utility originally offered as part of the Windows Resource Kit and now included in Windows Vista and Server 2008. Even with the GUI add-on it's not pretty or remotely easy to use but it's quite a powerhouse if you love the command line.
Whether it's your first time trying out an alternative copier or you've long since swapped out the old and busted for the new and streamlined, we want to hear about it in the comments below.