How To Copy and Paste Files In the Mac Finder

Instead of dragging and dropping files to move them in the Finder, you can simply use Copy and Paste. This will create a copy of the file in the new location. But if you hold down the option key, this moves the file instead. This is similar to cutting and pasting files in other operating systems. You can copy and paste multiple files.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: How To Copy and Paste Files In the Mac Finder.

A great way to move files around in the Finder is to use Copy and Paste. Now you probably know how to use Drag and Drop to move files and that's the standard way to do it. But dragging and dropping can be tough in some situations. Like instance here I've got some folders and let's say let's look in the Docs folder here. I've got a Milestones.rtf. Now let me go back here. Then say I want to move that into the Miscellaneous folder. So it's two different locations. So how do I drag and drop from inside this folder to inside that folder. Well, one way to do it might be to go in here. Then I'm going to create a new Finder window. Then I'll go here and now I can drag and drop between the two Finder windows. But you can see there are a lot of steps involved there.

An easier way to do it is to Copy and Paste. So I select this file here and I choose Edit, Copy or just Command C. Now I go to the second location here and I can put Edit, Paste or Command V. I paste it in and the file appears there. Now this actually performs a copy. If we go back here and look in Docs you can see it's still there. So what if we actually wanted to move. You'd think that the way to do that would be to use Cut and then Paste. That's the way it works in other situations like editing text or images. I think other operating systems have a cut command.

Well, you can't do that in Mac OS. It actually works a little bit better than that because cutting is kind of not a good idea. You're removing the file. What if you're interrupted and you never get to paste it somewhere. The file now doesn't exist. Let me go and delete this file here. We'll go back in here.

I'm going to go in here and Copy again. It's all I can really do is Copy. That's fine. So now I actually don't even have to decide at that point whether I'm going to Paste and make a new copy of it or Move it. When I go in here I go to Edit and I can go Paste. BUT if I hold down the Option key you can see it changes to Move Item Here. The keyboard shortcut instead of Command V is Option Command V. So you simply do Option Command V instead of Command V and there's that file. If you go back to the original folder you can see it's gone.

So you can Copy and Paste to copy a file to a new location. You can Copy and then Option Command V, Paste, to move it there. The great thing about copy and pasting to move files it just doesn't have to be one file. I can select a whole bunch of files. I can Copy those, move to another location and Paste those or Option Command V, Paste, to move them there.

It's a great tool. Once you start doing this you actually start doing this as the primary way to move files around in the Finder.

Comments: 8 Responses to “How To Copy and Paste Files In the Mac Finder”

    Mr. Luigi
    10 months ago

    Have you ever tried Yoink? It’s file management features are a huge boost to workflow on the Mac. I use it all the time.

    10 months ago

    Luigi: Looks interesting. I’ll have to check them out. Thanks,

    Steve Maynard
    10 months ago

    A question on basic file mechanics: If I copy and paste a file into a second (or third) folder, is the basic file itself copied or is there simply a new pathway connection to the basic file created? I ask because I sometimes want to have copies of the same document in two or more folders — but am concerned that in so doing I’m actually duplicating the basic file and therefore using up more HDD disc space.

    10 months ago

    Steve: Short answer is you are duplicating the files. You end up with identical files A and B. You change B, but A remains the same. You can use an alias to create a link to a file in a second location (A is the file, B is a link to that file). See
    You can also use tags instead as a form of organization if you want to do this often.

    10 months ago

    HI Gary,

    Very timely, informative and effective post.
    Thanks – I was wondering how to do this
    yesterday. It’d really be nice if it could be
    done via a context menu command.


    10 months ago

    Thanks,Gary ;-) I’ve been missing that command (move the item)since I left Windows for good and always wondering how on Earth Apple does not have something so useful.

    10 months ago

    Bob: You can do with with context menu commands too. Context menus on files bring up a “copy” option and then context menus on folders and blank areas in windows bring up “paste” or “move” if you hold down the Option key.

    Ian Leckie
    10 months ago

    i´d just like to second what Mr. Luigi said…Yoink is the most useful piece of software, tiny and so easy to use! Together with Copy & Paste one is covered for all situations! Well worth your time to have a look at it, and worth the ca. $8, imho! Here’s the developer´s site:

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