Copying Locked Files

Using Windows Backup

For many years I have used the Windows Backup tool to save video files I had finished viewing in a browser. By taking advantage of the Windows “Shadow Copy” functionality, you can do this despite the files being copy-protected. You simply start Windows Backup, find the copy-protected .tmp file in Local Settings\Temp, backup that file and restore the backup to a new location – without security. The final step is to rename the file as xxxxx.flv. Then you’re done.

Using Firefox Extensions & Youtube Downloader

Of course now there are several Firefox extensions which allow downloading of Youtube videos, as well as the “Youtube Downloader” for the desktop. But given that we don’t always plan that far in advance, the Backup tool still provides a handy alternative method. [Installing Youtube Downloader also has the disadvantage that it screws around with your IE settings to steer you towards its site.]

Using Hobocopy

Still, though, the Windows Backup method does NOT work with Google Video. It doesn’t work because Google Video “locks” the file in addition to copy-protecting it. This causes Windows Backup to skip the file during backup.

So what to do?

One answer is to use a little program called “hobocopy”. This is a little backup routine developed by the “Wangdera Corporation” and available here. It copies files regardless of their state – locked or not, everything is copied. Depending on your previous configuration, you may also need to install a version of runtime C++, which is also provided on the same page.

Once you have the zip file, create a new folder in a convenient-to-access place. Then open up a DOS window and navigate to it. To save your locked video file, type something like this:

D:\Apps\Hobocopy>hobocopy c:\DOCUME~1\MYPROF~1\LOCALS~1\Temp\ D:\Temp\ flaF4.tmp

Note: This example assumes that the user profile is called “My Profile”. Folder names longer than 8 characters are abbreviated as above, with spaces ignored.

This will copy the locked .tmp file to your folder D:\Temp, where is can be renamed and accessed normally.

One other note: If you have a TrueCrypt drive open, you will need to close it before hobocopy will work, even if the file concerned is not on the TrueCrypt drive. Otherwise hobocopy will simply produce a “DoSnapshotSet failed.” error. Thanks to for pointing this out.

Additional useful information on hobocopy can be found here:

Just in case that disappears one day, I’ll include an excerpt here:

Using HoboCopy to Backup/Copy a Single File

The syntax is a little weird, because HoboCopy is really meant to be used for backing up an entire set of folders. We can use it to backup a single file by passing in the filename argument at the end.

Note: on Windows Vista you will need to launch an Administrator mode command prompt by right-clicking on the Command prompt in the start menu and choosing Run as Administrator.


hobocopy c:\directoryname\ d:\backupdirectory\ <filename>

For example, I want to backup my c:\users\geek\mail\outlook.pst file to d:\backups\outlook.pst. Here’s the syntax that I’d use:

C:\> hobocopy c:\users\geek\mail\ d:\backups\ Outlook.pst

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4 Responses to Copying Locked Files

  1. Rudi says:

    Useful information about copying locked files ! I wonder if I will need to do that in the near future. Commonly I don’t mess up with such complicated methods, popular browser plugins are available to avoid messing up with temporary files. Which, of course, are locked and in misterious folders. Orbitz Downloader solves most of problems for these kind of tasks ( ).

    I also have a geek side, but it’s useful to keep in mind what is the task and what do we want to use as a tool. I’ve been recompiling my kernel all weekend as a hobby, but when I want to download a video, I use Orbitz..

  2. two_worlder says:

    simpler one step solution: i have used for years – no install required – supports google video, youtube and other sites – one step download (requires java).

  3. Craig Andera says:

    I wrote hobocopy – glad you found it useful!

  4. don says:

    I have been using hobocopy for a week or so to copy some user folders that are always in use and have found it to work almost perfectly. It sometimes skips many directories but states at the end that is copied a similar amount of folders compared to the previouse copy. When looking in the backup folder the skipped are nowhere to be found.

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