I have a directory Source with some files in it, which I would like to copy to a folder Destination. Destination may exist, and it may have files in it already. Any files with the same name as those in Source should be overwritten.

If I run this in Powershell:

Copy-Item Source Destination -Force -Recurse
Copy-Item Source Destination -Force -Recurse
Copy-Item Source Destination -Force -Recurse

Then the first line creates the folder .\Destination and copies .\Source into it, which is what I'd like to repeat for the next time. However, the second line copies .\Source into the new .\Destination folder (creating .\Destination\Source) instead, then the third line overwrites .\Destination\Source again.

How can I make it act like in the first case all the time? That is, overwrite .\Destination instead of copying into it?

  • Can you clarify? you want to copy the contents of "source" in to "destination"? and not copy the folder "source" into "destination"?
    – BroScience
    Jan 31, 2013 at 15:25
  • Yes, that's correct. The "destination" folder may not exist, so I want it to be created if it doesn't exit.
    – Douglas
    Jan 31, 2013 at 17:22
  • It may be worth considering robocopy as an alternative. You can still call it from powershell if you need to. It will handle the if exists issue easily and wont require you to force-ably recursively delete your destination either, which comes with its own dangers.
    – Jeremy
    Mar 23, 2018 at 16:29
  • Closely related SO question: stackoverflow.com/q/47964451/45375
    – mklement0
    Dec 13, 2018 at 19:58

4 Answers 4


So the problem is that this:

Copy-Item -Force -Recurse foo bar

only works if bar does not exist and this:

Copy-Item -Force -Recurse foo/* bar

only works if bar exists. So to work around, you need to make sure bar exists before doing anything:

New-Item -Force -Type Directory bar
Copy-Item -Force -Recurse foo/* bar

Steven Penny's answer https://superuser.com/a/742719/126444 doesn't delete original content of the target directory, just appending to it. I needed to completely replace the target folder with content of the source and created 2 functions:

function CopyToEmptyFolder($source, $target )
    DeleteIfExistsAndCreateEmptyFolder($target )
    Copy-Item $source\* $target -recurse -force
function DeleteIfExistsAndCreateEmptyFolder($dir )
    if ( Test-Path $dir ) {
           Get-ChildItem -Path  $dir -Force -Recurse | Remove-Item -force -recurse
           Remove-Item $dir -Force

    New-Item -ItemType Directory -Force -Path $dir

If you only want to copy contents of the "source" folder use

copy-item .\source\* .\destination -force -recurse
  • 1
    This only works if destination already exists.
    – Zombo
    Apr 16, 2014 at 23:46

Let's say that you Have the following structure of Directories

  • root

    • folder_a
      • a.txt
      • b.txt
      • c.txt
    • folder_b
      • a.txt
      • b.txt

    In The root folder you can achieve the results you want by the following sequence of commands:

    $files = gci ./folder_b -name
    cp ./folder_a/*.txt -Exclude $files ./folder_b

Only c.txt will be copied

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .