The Truth about the ‘Estimated Time Remaining’ Dialog in Vista

While carrying out a file operation in your Vista system, the Estimated Time Remaining dialog is something that everyone is familiar with. It pops up as soon as you give the command for a file copy, move, delete, or for unzipping of an archive, or anything else like that. It initially starts out as Calculating time remaining… and then it changes (ideally) to something like Time remaining: 2 Days and 12 hours or Time remaining: 2 hours and 43 minutes, for example.

A common feature that most users note is that the progress bar takes some time to actually show a meaningful “Time Remaining” and even after the task gets over; it does not go away easily. Sometimes the progress bar shows an unbelievably impractical estimated time for the file copying/moving such as About 10645 Days and 12 hours! And in the worst cases, the progress bar dialog simply freezes and stays on indefinitely even when the task is completed. It almost seems as if the time to calculate this duration takes up a considerable amount of time and slows down the file operation.

However, this is not true. While the progress dialog is being displayed, and Vista is supposedly still calculating the required time to complete the task, the actual operation of file copying, moving, deletion or file unzipping is already started. In fact, it is quite unlikely that the calculating algorithm behind the progress bar dialog is responsible for the file operation to slow down.

Although it is not possible to turn-off/uninstall this feature in Vista, several workaround strategies can increase the speed of basic file operations. You can try them if this is becoming a serious problem.


  1. Completely wrong, it never starts the copying as it’s claimed here and on other Microsoft support pages, we’re not idiots, we can see the target and see that there’s nothing there. What a bullshit.

  2. I can tell you from experience that in Win7 you can just hold down “Control” while you drag and drop, and it skips the calculating part.

  3. However, this is not true.

    Try that on a USB drive with limited bandwidth and you can measure the performance hit. The hit may not be as bad with a faster interface but it is there because going through the tree is not a free operation.

  4. This post is completely incorrect. If you use a DOS shell to copy files the copy starts instantly. Same with FastCOPY. If you use Windows Explorer it will calculate for extended periods of time before doing anything. This advice is totally wrong.


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