I need to copy a file gdb from my local machine to a server using a remote desktop connection. I have been doing this using a simple copy/paste operation in Windows Explorer. I know that it is best practice to do this using ArcCatalog, but in this situation I can't.

What I would like to know is how risky this procedure is. I know there is a chance that there may still be locks on the datasets, or other processes accessing it, which could cause the data to be copied partially/incorrectly. I have indeed noticed this where just having ArcCatalog open on my local machine (and not inside the folder the containing the gdb) could cause the paste to fail/complete incorrectly.

What I have found is that it is quite inconsistent. Yesterday I had an mxd open which was referencing the file gdb. I then copied it through Windows Explorer and pasted it on the server. I was able to work with the contents on the server without a problem.

Today, the first thing I did after logging in was to copy and paste the same file gdb onto the server again. When I tried to open it in ArcMap, it was identified as a normal folder test.gdb and not an actual geodatabase with the name test.

Would using something like TeraCopy help in this case, or do I just have to hope that all the data will get carried over each time? I see a similar question noted that ArcCatalog is the safest for moving the gdb (I agree, I would not dare to cut and paste the gdb through Windows).

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    Can you just set up a mapped folder pointing to a folder on your server? Then you could just use ArcCatalog on your Desktop machine to copy the GDB using standard ESRI tools. Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 19:01
  • @RyanDalton No I can't unfortunately, my machine is on our corporate network and the server is on a different network, and I really shouldn't even be copying things over anyway, it's just that it's unavoidable for now :-/ Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 6:46

1 Answer 1


From ESRI:

Although not recommended, it is possible to copy a file geodatabase to another location by copying the folder to another location (if you are using a Windows Vista operating system, you also need to change the extension of the new folder to .gdb; otherwise, ArcGIS cannot recognize it as a file geodatabase). Only copy a file geodatabase with Windows Explorer when you are certain there are no other processes accessing the data. The problem is that it can be difficult to tell whether other processes are accessing the data. You might think there are no other processes; however, a process on your computer or another one could be accessing it. If you happen to copy the folder when another process is accessing the data, the data may not copy properly. An improper copy operation is often not apparent—you might not notice any problems until you access a certain part of the new copy a few days later.


Your best bet is to script this using ArcPy if possible. Essentially, anything other than an ESRI product to do this will probably lead to problems. You may be able to write a script using ogr2ogr with filegdb support that could copy all the feature classes in the gdb, but I dont believe you can copy the whole thing at once.




Copy file geodatabase using Python?

  • Ja it does seem that the safest way is just to use ArcCatalog. Thanks Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 6:48

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