How to Copy Locked Files in Windows Using Shadow Copy

Sometimes when you are trying to copy some files, Windows throws up a File in Use warning saying that the file or files you want to copy are currently in use by some other program. This means that the files you want to copy are currently locked by some program and you are not allowed to perform any action on those files as long as that program is active. Sometimes it also shows the the name of the program that has locked the program.

Copy Locked Files in Windows Using Shadow Copy

One obvious solution is to close or kill the locking program and then copy those files. But it is not always possible as sometimes the locking programs are system applications and closing them is not an option. If you try to close them, then Windows might hang up or shut down. Fortunately, there is a much simpler and easier solution – Runtime’s Shadow Copy. Shadow Copy is a freeware application that makes use of the Microsoft’s Volume Shadow Copy service to copy the locked files no matter where they are. This way you can actually copy the contents of an entire hard disk to another disk including the system files locked by Microsoft Windows.

You can download Shadow Copy from the Runtime website. The download is a setup program of size around 1 megabytes. After the installation you can run Shadow Copy from its Desktop shortcut. The Shadow Copy interface is very simple and straightforward. You have to select the source and target folders. You can also choose file mask which decides what kind of files should be copied. For example, a file mask of *.jpg would copy only the JPEG image files. In the Options section, you can choose various settings like copying sub-folders, ignore errores, overwrite existing files etc.

Copy Locked Files in Windows Using Shadow Copy

Finally, you can click on the Copy button to start copying the files. Now Shadow Copy would create a shadow copy for the source hard disk volume (partition) and then start copying the files. In the end, it would show a message that file copying was successful. Now you can go and check the target folder and use the copied files which are not locked by any program.

In case, you get an error that Volume Shadow Copy Service is not running, then you can start the service prior to running Shadow Copy. To start this service, click on the Start Menu (blue orb in the bottom-left corner) in Windows and type services.msc and press Enter. This would open the Services window. In this window, scroll down and select the Volume Shadow Copy service and then click on the green play button in the toolbar to start it.

Copy Locked Files in Windows Using Shadow Copy

Runtime’s Shadow Copy is a nifty little tool that helps you copying locked files no matter which program has locked them down. It works in Windows 7, Vista and XP. You can run it from the command line as it supports various switches. This also enables you to create a batch file so that you can create regular backups of some files that might be locked by Windows.

You can download it from :


  1. I figured out the easy way to do it. Many people suggested me to use shadow copy or robocopy and other software but what all these software lacks-the stability and simplicity which I found the best in GS RichCopy 360. After using it for copying more than 500TB of data without any loss I am writing this. It never disappoints me!!

  2. I’m using Windows XP.
    I got the error message that “..Volume Shadow Copy Service is not running”.
    I made sure it was running but still got the same error message again and again until I gave up on this piece of crap. You’d be crazy if you bought anything from Runtime Software if this is what they give away as a sample of their work.

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