Saturday, June 2, 2012


Why Windows Vista Takes So Long to Copy Files

Most people first realize that something is wrong with Vista when they try to copy or move files, and they see the little green progress window shown in Figure below. It’d be understandable to see this window on screen for a minute or two if you’re copying a lot of data, but should it really take three full minutes to move one small file, or eight minutes to delete another?

I guess you might have seen the below (screen shot) window a lot lately? This tiny “Green Ribbon of Death” is one of the signs that not all is right in the world of Vista.

This is one of two “Green Ribbons of Death” in Windows Vista, the other being the larger progress bar—the one dissected in my other post that appears at the top of the Windows Explorer window in the address bar/path box. So, what’s going on?

It turns out that several things can cause Windows Explorer to take a long time copying, moving, or deleting files, and some of them are actually legitimate. First, Windows Explorer takes time to examine the files and folders you’re copying, moving, etc., and checks—ahead of time—to see whether there are any conflicts, such as existing files in the destination folder or security issues that need your attention. That’s why you’ll see Vista’s nifty confirmation window (Figure) just once for many conflicts, rather than (many)  individual confirmations you’d have to endure in earlier versions of Windows.

Figure: This handy new confirmation window lets you deal with all the conflicts at once, rather than having to click through a bunch of windows, but it ends up causing other problems (Please notice "do this for all conflicts")

The confirmation window in the above figure is actually quite nice because of all the choices you get. If you’re copying media files (e.g., photos, videos, PDF documents), you’ll see thumbnail previews to aid your decision; you can even right click the thumbnails directly in this window if you want to work with the files without interrupting the file operation. What’s more, you can choose to copy or move the file without replacing the original, renaming it instead to avoid the conflict.

The downside is that Explorer must delay your file operation while it prepares the confirmation window; depending on what it encounters along the way, this can take forever. One of the main reasons for the delay is a side effect of User Account Control, the same security “feature” that turns the screen black for an moment before asking your permission to make a change to your system.

Naturally, Vista has to examine each file you’re copying to make sure you have permission to copy it, and then examine the destination to make sure you have permission to put the file there. See “Control User Account Control,”  for some ways to ease up the restrictions. Likewise, if you’re copying files over a network, Windows has to do some security reconnaissance, and depending on the speed of your network connection, this can take even longer.

But security checks alone aren’t responsible for Vista’s abysmal performance in this area; there’s also the matter of thumbnails. As described in “Green Ribbon of Death” , there are a few common problems that can cause Windows Explorer to hang or even crash, and if one of these things hobbles the instance of Explorer you’re using, the progress dialog (shown in First Figure) can just sit there for what seems like an eternity.

Once you’ve fixed the problems outlined in Green Ribbon of Death, the copying, moving, or deleting should go much faster.


About bench3 -

Haja Peer Mohamed H, Software Engineer by profession, Author, Founder and CEO of "bench3" you can connect with me on Twitter , Facebook and also onGoogle+

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