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I'm trying to migrate my files from WinXP to Win8, but they use different paths. WinXP uses C:\Documents and Settings and Win8 uses C:\Users. Plus, WinXP uses Chloe\My Documents\My Music, while Win8 uses Chloe\Music. I want to synchronize the files first because inevitably something won't work (money depends on it) and I will need to switch back to using the old computer temporarily, but I don't want to lose any changes if I make them on either.

I've tried the following, but they all fail:

  • Considered restoring the files on the new computer from backups, but they are off-site and will take a month.
  • Tried Unison, but it doesn't keep the file modification times! If I look at all the files it copied, they all have the current time. If I compare with another tool, it thinks the destination is newer and wants to synch back to the original! I kind of like the mod times so I can judge when I last worked with a file. It's been useful before, for example when updating my resume and filling in the dates for old projects. Plus, Unison corrupts Cygwin symlinks and device files.
  • Tried Microsoft SyncToy, but after it copied My Documents\My Music, it gave an error saying the transfer failed. I looked on the destination, and the files did copy, but magically into Chloe\Music. I originally intended to manually copy in Chloe\Music after everything was settled. There was an unreadable file in Chloe\Documents\My Music, which I couldn't even double click, not even as Administrator. Access Denied! SyncToy also ignores all open files, even if they are unlocked.
  • Tried rsync (Cygwin). This works the best preserving modification times and permissions and correctly handles Cygwin symlinks, but it is dog slow and it is only one way.
  • Considered robocopy, but WinXP wouldn't execute the file I copied from Win8.

(Why doesn't this format as a block when this line is removed?)

Dialog: "robocopy.exe is not a valid Win32 application." 
Access is denied.
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You don't go into what type the file is nor the reason Windows XP wouldn't execute the file. As for your bonus question "what is a junction" you should read the following: as for a solution product suggestions are actually not on topic here so I can't suggest anything. – Ramhound Mar 1 '13 at 19:40
Ok I deleted the bonus. The error when trying to run robocopy is "Access id Denied" and "robocopy.exe is not a valid Win32 application." dialog. – Chloe Mar 1 '13 at 20:00
There is no reason Robocopy should not work on Windows XP you need to determine the reason its not working before you can proceed with trying to synchronize your files. – Ramhound Mar 1 '13 at 20:10
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I found a solution. I saw another post that mentioned Synchronize It, and it worked very well and very fast. It did not corrupt Cygwin symlinks and it preserved modification times. It doesn't propagate deletions, so anything you delete will pop up again on the next synch, but I can live with that for a few weeks until I can retire the old computer.

Synchronize It:

share|improve this answer

If you are looking for an effective way to copy files while maintaing timestamps, use Robocopy and the "/dcopy:t" switch.

As for this error: "Considered robocopy, but WinXP wouldn't execute the file I copied from Win8."

It suggests a permissions error- check that you can browse to the share on the other machine from the one running Robocopy.

Also, what is this file that Robocopy is trying to "execute"? You mean "copy" right? Please clarify.

If you're trying to run the Robocopy.exe file which originally came with your Windows 8 machine on your XP machine, then this problem is not surprising. You haven't given enough details, but if your XP machine is 32-bit and Windows 8 is 64-bit, then you're trying to run a 64 bit exe on a 32-bit system.

Instead of trying to get Windows 8's Robocopy to play nice with Windows XP, you should run Robocopy actually on the Windows 8 machine itself.

share|improve this answer
From the question: Considered robocopy, but WinXP wouldn't execute the file I copied from Win8. – Chloe Mar 1 '13 at 20:02
I missed that. Well Robocopy is still the way forward here. – Austin ''Danger'' Powers Mar 1 '13 at 20:05
It's not a permission error. The Win8 executable WON'T execute on WinXP. – Chloe Mar 1 '13 at 20:11
Plus, RoboCopy doesn't synchronize either. – Chloe Mar 1 '13 at 20:11
@Chloe, like I said in my answer: you haven't told us about the architecture of the 2 computers, but you could simply be trying to run a 64-bit exe on a 32-bit system. Why aren't you just running Robocopy on the Windows 8 machine instead? Also I don't see why you want to syncronize- a copy (or move) is what people usually do when moving data to a new PC. What's on your new PC that you need to copy back to the old one? – Austin ''Danger'' Powers Mar 1 '13 at 20:25

This is going far to in-depth for the purpose of backing up files. Is there a real particular reason why you want to 'sync' everything versus just backing everything up via external drives? For every good synching method, you usually need a middle man (which is a server or some sort of network drive). There are plenty of scripts you can right and have run on boot that will do this for you.

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I don't want to back up files. I already have Crashplan. I want to switch to the new computer, but I'd bet money that some thing will not work. For example, I already discovered that OpenVPN for my job crashes on Win8. I need to keep them in synch until I resolve all potential problems in Win8. – Chloe Mar 1 '13 at 20:27
If you wanted to just switch over to a new computer, it's not that hard. I do windows migrations every day. There are quite a few ways to tackle this. You can as I stated before just do a simple back up. When I say this, I do not mean a windows backup. Copy the main directories and such onto and external HDD for your user profile on your XP and copy/paste the info from the backup to your Win 7 machine. It really is that easy. You will have to reinstall your programs and should. Just keep in mind that there are compatibility issue you won't get around if you don't do this a normal way. – TheCodingArt Mar 2 '13 at 21:12
After doing this with the basis information (and if you are at work and have a Group Policy... there's quite a few things you can do with preferences carrying over) just write scripts that match and sync certain files between your XP and 7 machine. – TheCodingArt Mar 2 '13 at 21:13
Mind you you can also just google transfer and look at stuff like this: Most Windows 7 transfer stuff should work because Windows 8 is just a GUI coat for Windows 7. – TheCodingArt Mar 2 '13 at 21:17

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