I'm trying to tidy up my folders and files on one of my NTFS formatted external hard drives, a 2TB Western Digital Elements drive.

When trying to move files from one folder to the other, the process takes as long as copying the files would, or so it seems anyway.

I have another WD Elements 2TB where this process takes only seconds, if even that. Which is how it should be as those files don't need to be cloned but only the file table needs to be updated, as I recall.

What on earth could be wrong? Could the hard-drive be failing already?

Additional information with regards to comments below:

  • No File Compression activated (or other attributes I know of)
  • The external HDD is connected per USB
  • Well...Windows says NTFS
  • It's not a NAS, it's just an external HDD
  • both folders are on the same partition
  • none of the files are links or reparse points
  • My OS is Windows 7

  • moving one file once is slow, but moving the file back is as fast as always (maybe a hint?)

I also have used ChkDsk, but only the "superficial" check (only the first of two boxes checked).

EDIT: I just found out that moving files in the other folders on the HD is very fast, while moving files in the folder that starts with an underscore "_" is slow as molasses. As soon as I removed the underscore, the speed went up. What the hell?

  • Does the folder you are moving files to or from have a special attribute? I.e. File compression? – Roger M Aug 3 '12 at 10:56
  • How is the drive connected? What interfaces? Do you know for sure the external drive is NTFS? If it's from some form of NAS it might be a different filesystem. – HaydnWVN Aug 3 '12 at 11:22
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    Are the two folders on the same partition? Are any of them reparse points or links? – David Schwartz Aug 3 '12 at 11:49
  • @danowar: I assume you are using Windows? Have you checked the volume for file system errors? Right-click the volume in the My Computer window, choose Properties, click the Tools tab and then click the Check Now... button. – James P Aug 3 '12 at 11:50
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    @danowar: What is the folder called? Are you sure you don't have any programs installed that are indexing this folder? Without knowing what programs you have installed it is difficult to say why this is happening. – James P Aug 3 '12 at 15:22

1 - check your antivirus! did you disable antivirus for a white and test the performance?

2 - exclude your external hard disk in antivirus from scanning.

3 - i recommended to use Total Commander as file manager that has many many features specially great file copy tools.


Run unlocker against the file to see if there are any processes that need it to stay where it is until they are done.

If the file is NOT being locked by any process: are those files newly created? What kind of files are they? Are they big and newly created? Size matters when the file is being indexed by windows.

Temporarily, disable windows indexing. Did it get better?

Disable Thumbnail Preview then clear the thumbnail cache. Did it get better?

If one of those two solves your problem at least you will know what was causing it: If it was indexing, rebuilding the index might help. If it was the thumbnail cache, clearing the cache AFAIK is all that you can do this time.


Maybe because that is formatted in the NTFS kind.

when booting or formatting via a usb drive too we need to format it in the NTFS type.

have you tried emptying your HDD and re-formatting it in FAT32 format ?

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    FAT32 lacks support for several things that NTFS has so this isn't really an option. – Gunnish Feb 26 '13 at 9:57

Does the machine in question have FrontPage installed? Files and folders with underscores have special meaning to FrontPage. Not 100% sure why this would slow file transfers (indexing?) but something to check I guess.

Beyond that I'd recommend running Process Monitor and setting it to only show activity on the folder you are working with (create a new filter entry looking for "Path" that "Contains" the folder). This way you'll actually see the activity as Windows tries to copy the file.

Perhaps another application is involved. We had a lot of problems with various pieces of third-party software that loaded into explorer.exe. Perhaps something is mis-interpreting the underscore in the folder name and trying to get involved when it shouldn't.


User protection scheme?? It sounds like its IS copying the file to the local c: drive under the user, then 'referencing' the changes you make there. Look up the meta/alternate data on the file if you have utilities to do so, or view it under a different use to see what happened. Once the file has been copied, it only writes changes you make causing it to be fast, and you're only seeing the virtual effects of moving it after that.

  • oh! look under the user protection folder to see if the file or directories were copied there. – ppostma1 Feb 18 '13 at 17:17

To rule out an application causing this, try running resource monitor while your file is being moved (or copied or whatever). See if anything pops up under Disk Activity and go from there.


Windows is terrible at copying files, especially large ones. I would recommend that you try Fast Copy or one of the "chunk" file copiers.

  • The chunk copiers grab up data as a parcel instead of a file.

  • Synchronizers are also very good at moving large chunks of information and there are several good ones out there.

  • Defragmenting the drive as well as a disc check should precede any of these actions.

  • Fast Copy is a very good tool that is easy enough to learn once you get the hang of setting paths. Five minutes of working with it will have you going and it will run for days moving or copying.

  • I also recommend Directory Opus or Total Commander if you are going to work with lots of files in Windows. Directory Opus is my first choice and while it may seem a bit pricey, you get tons of mileage out of it. They have a lower cost version now as well.

  • Alltip Salamander is also a very good tool to have in your kit.

I am sure we could go on forever picking nits about these tools. Go get one that suits you and you will be fine.

  • This is beside the point. His problem is not copying files, but moving them on the same partition. No file copy involved. – mivk May 14 '14 at 14:03

May be your external hard disk is fragmented. Try defragment(smart defragment) it, or else try using Teracopy. And what usb are u using? usb 2.0 is a bit slower than 3.0 Hope it help

  • I don't see how this could be a fragmentation issue or how TeraCopy can help?! The OP is not trying to copy files, simply moving them (which alters the file table, not the data on the disk). – MrWhite Aug 3 '12 at 15:54
  • Many "copy" utilitys have a move option. Unstopable copier is one and I trust its file handleing capibilitys much better than windows both for speed and long file name handling that windows would puke on. the OP did mention about an _ as the starting char of the folder. after changing that it doesn't suprise me that it sped up the copy. windows explorer has alot of stupid problems when it comes to file handeling. – Kendrick Aug 19 '12 at 13:25

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