How To Run Robocopy in Backup Mode

Robocopy is a powerful backup utility with plenty of switches to confuse even the savviest tech. Deep within the Robocopy programming is a function called Robocopy backup mode. This special mode is executed with the /B switch. That’s fine and dandy – but what the heck happens when you run Robocopy this way?

When Robocopy is executed in backup mode the software bypasses file permissions that would otherwise prevent a successful backup. This is useful for companies who have designated backup specialists that handle backups. Backup mode allows standard users to initiate backups while limiting their access to the files.

You must be an Administrator or a member of the backup operators group to run Robocopy in this way.


C:\>Robocopy C:\ E:\ /B

Reasons to use backup mode

You generally would not use backup mode unless you were a user with limited access and had the proper backup rights set by your Administrator. If you’re the Administrator of your machine the /B switch is not needed. Instead, refer to the other Robocopy command line switches to properly backup your machine. While backup mode sounds like the perfect mode to backup your system, it is only a useful switch for limited users who have been granted backup rights by an Administrator.

Common errors

When using the /B switch you may receive the following error:

You do not have the Backup and Restore Files user rights. You need these to perform Backup copies (/B or /ZB).

This error is easily solved by using an elevated command prompt. Simply right click the command console in Windows explorer and select run as administrator.

If you don’t have administrative access you will need to be added to the backup operators group to make backups of files that you do not own. Ask your Administrator to grant you this access.


Microsoft Technet  – Robocopy

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