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What do you use when you want to update the date-modified field of a file on Windows?

  1. commands accessible via C++, .NET, C#, or something native to Windows (Vista preferably)
  2. tools/applications preferably free, and if possible open source as well

Edit: there is already a page for applications as pointed out by CheapScotsman here.

If anyone knows how I can do this via C++, C#, WSH or something similar, well and good, else I would think everything else is covered in the linked question.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Jul 21 '09 at 23:26

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27 Answers 27

up vote 6 down vote accepted

If you feel like coding it yourself, .NET offers the File.SetLastAccessTime, File.SetCreationTime and File.SetLastWriteTime methods.

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If you want to touch the date stamp of a file using windows, use the following command at the command prompt:

copy /b filename.ext +,,

(where filename.ext is your file's name). The +,, is a special flag to copy telling it to simply update the date/time on the file:

* Changing the time and date of a file

If you want to assign the current time and date to a file without modifying the file, use the following syntax:

copy /b Source+,,

The commas indicate the omission of the Destination parameter.

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4  
This will be slow if the files are large. –  mob Sep 18 '09 at 15:09
31  
What is this doing? Where is it documented? (Google fails to index "+,,", and the MS site is not leading me in the right direction as searching on 'copy' turns up a lot of nothing useful.) I mean, it works great and I'll take that much for granted, but I am curious. –  dash-tom-bang Oct 30 '09 at 21:42
10  
Documentation for copy: technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb490886.aspx –  johsephm Jun 3 '11 at 20:19
9  
type touch.bat is @echo off and next line copy /b %1 +,, - put it into C:\bin or what have you for your own scripts, and then you can use it like touch myfile.txt. –  Lumi Jun 13 '11 at 13:37
5  
In Win7 this won't work if you are not in the folder containing the file. It will create a copy in the current working directory. –  Jamie Jun 27 '12 at 7:48

I've used and recommend unxutils which are native Win32 ports of lots of common Unix utilities. There is a touch command in there.

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3  
Would upvote twice if I could. This is one of the tools I install after a fresh install, can't get out of the habit of typing ls at any command line I touch. –  Jamie Penney May 29 '09 at 3:06
6  
Note: the links on the above page don't seem to work for me but going to the project page sourceforge.net/projects/unxutils (as linked by Adam Davis below) allows you to download them fine. –  Chris Feb 10 '11 at 10:28

If all you want is to change the file's last modified date (which was my case):

C:\> powershell  (ls your-file-name-here).LastWriteTime = Get-Date
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3  
PowerShell FTW. I mean, seriously, unix is cool but PS is cooler. –  matt Sep 9 '11 at 14:35
1  
You can update the last time write for multiple files / folders as well –  ThiagoAlves Sep 22 '11 at 1:50
4  
This will work only on one file. For multiple files: ls * | ForEach-Object {$_.LastWriteTime = Get-Date} –  Eli Algranti Oct 2 '12 at 4:52
1  
If you want to do it recursively, this works pretty well: gci -recu -inc "." | % { $_.LastWriteTime = Get-Date } –  BrainSlugs83 Jan 15 '13 at 1:43
1  
@BrainSlugs83: use backticks ` for code: gci -recu -inc "*.*" | % { $_.LastWriteTime = Get-Date } –  alldayremix Jun 29 '13 at 0:44
type nul >>file & copy file +,,
  • Creates file if it does not exist.
  • Leaves file contents alone.
  • Just uses cmd built-ins.
  • Both last-access and creation times updated.

UPDATE

Gah! This doesn't work on read-only files, whereas touch does. I suggest:

:touch
if not exist "%~1" type nul >>"%~1"& goto :eof
set _ATTRIBUTES=%~a1
if "%~a1"=="%_ATTRIBUTES:r=%" (copy "%~1"+,,) else attrib -r "%~1" & copy "%~1"+,, & attrib +r "%~1"
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@dash-tom-bang:

Here is MSDN's explanation of the mysterious '+' and commas:

copy /b Source+,,

The commas indicate the omission of the Destination parameter.

The copy command supports merging multiple files into a single destination file. Since a blank destination cannot be specified using a space character at the command prompt, two commas can be used to denote that.

And this is MSDN's copy command reference: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb490886.aspx

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10  
Now that's just messed up syntax. Seriously, what were they thinking? Also note the same documentation says "Destination: Required."... I'm amazed. –  sth Nov 25 '09 at 13:22
1  
This doesn't seem to even work in Vista... I wonder if they came to their senses? –  quillbreaker Dec 8 '09 at 20:53
1  
Works in Windows 7 –  Imran Dec 9 '10 at 5:37
4  
It worked for me even without commas: copy file.ext+ So the documentation is as far from actual behaviour as the behaviour is from any reasonable expectations. –  Abgan Jul 17 '11 at 11:24
2  
It worked in Windows Server 2008 but only if you are in the folder containing the file –  FrinkTheBrave Dec 12 '11 at 14:48

Here's a simple regfile I wrote to add right-click "touch" in Windows explorer. It'd be easy to script it, too, since it just calls:

cmd.exe /c copy %1+nul %1 /by
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1  
Useful and handy too. Thanks. –  facepalmd Jul 21 '09 at 22:12

cygwin comes with touch. I know you mentioned that you don't want to install a whole framework, but cygwin is quite lightweight, and can be called from dos command window without the whole unix-like command line turned on.

You can also control what tools to install, so you could simply install the touch.exe file, and leave the rest of the framework.

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2  
To your point here, all you need to install is the touch.exe and cygwin.dll file in a directory to use the tool. There are no other dependancies relative to using cygwin based tools. –  Tall Jeff Sep 9 '08 at 10:58
1  
when I try this (win7x64) I need 4 cygwin dll's in addition to touch.exe: cygiconv-2.dll cygintl-8.dll cygwin1.dll cyggcc_s-1.dll –  matt wilkie May 27 '10 at 20:33

The GnuWin32 project has Windows ports of the Gnu versions of the Unix command line utilities.

It comes as a number of separate packages and you can install just the commands you need with no other dependencies. For touch you would need the CoreUtils package.

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Native win32 ports of many unix commands, including touch.

I've used it before and it works well - no installation, no DLLs, etc

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here is a recursive version using powershell... this will change the last modified time for all files and subdirectories, and files within this directory's subdirectories

ps c:myDir> Get-ChildItem . * -recurse | ForEach-Object{$_.LastWriteTime = get-date}
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Try this one from CodeProject.

  • No need to install.
  • If you want, you can even modify the source.
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You could also install Cygwin which gives you Touch as well as a plethora of other *NIX commands.

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2  
can't live on windows without cygwin. –  jweede Sep 10 '09 at 12:32

i tried this to create a empty file in my batch script ,you can use this

ECHO text>file1.txt

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1  
This is BY FAR the best quick method.. I just needed to create a .gitignore file, and Windows 7 keeps complaining "must enter a filename" etc etc. echo pie>.gitignore worked a treat - thanks! –  Alex McMillan Mar 7 at 4:02

There are Windows ports of many Unix utilities. Have a look at unxutils or GnuWin32 projects.

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From a similar question on Stack Overflow.

For updating timestamps (ignoring the other functionality of touch), I'd go with:

copy /b filename.ext +,,
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The five alternatives mentioned above, plus three more not mentioned here, can be found on SuperUser: "Windows Recursive Touch Command"

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from the website:

Funduc Software Touch is a free 'touch' utility that allows you to change the time/date &/or attribute stamps on one or more files. In addition, FS Touch can add/subtract a specified number of seconds from the existing file time. You can specify which file(s) and/or subdirectories to change via 'complex file masks'. The program can be run from interactively or the command line. New to version 7.2 is a command line switch to change file modified time stamp +/- the specified number of seconds.

FS Touch runs on Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, & Windows 8.

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This content can be saved to a reg file. This will add a right click context menu for all files with the "Touch File" ability (tested on Windows 7). Copy all the following lines to reg file. Run the file and approve the question. Right click on any file (or multiple files) - "Touch File" option is now available.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shell]

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shell\Touch File]

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shell\Touch File\command]
@="cmd /C copy /b \"%1\" +,,"
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I found a quick way to do it if you have vim installed (not great for big files, will open entire file then close it...)

vim foobar.txt +wq!

The "+" sets argument to run the following commands. "wq!" is "write, quit, force". This will open file, do a save, then close it immediately afterward.

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This is slightly unrelated to the original question, but I find this very useful on Windows due to the GUI.

I'm using the TouchPro utility which provides a GUI (builds into explorer shell):

http://www.jddesign.co.uk/products/touchpro/touchpro.htm

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Save the following as touch.bat in your %windir%\system32 folder or add the folder in which it is saved to your PATH environment variable:

@echo off
if %1.==. goto end
if not exist %1 goto end
copy /b %1 +,, > nul
echo %1 touched!
:end

Sample usage:

touch *.cpp
touch somefile.c

Reference: Microsoft KB 69581

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If you are using git for one or more projects, the mingw based git-bash for Windows has the touch command. I want to thank @greg-hewgill for pointing out to me that 'nix utilities exist for windows, because it was that which put me on the idea to try touch in git-bash.

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There is an utility which adds touch to the context menu (right-click) of a folder. More information is available here

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Try

fsutil file createnew new.txt 0

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2  
The FSUTIL utility requires that you have administrative privileges. -- and it doesn't behave like touch for existing files. –  Keith Thompson Feb 18 '12 at 1:39

The four alternatives mentioned above, plus four more not mentioned here, can be found in the answer to a similar question: "Windows Recursive Touch Command"

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