Command drag files to move them between drives


Command drag files to move them between drives
Mac Tip #535, 09 May 2012

Sometimes you plug an external drive into your Mac — for example, a USB stick — and want to move files onto it, rather than copying them. The Command (⌘) key works that magic for you. Here’s how.

Quick start

  1. Drag a file to another drive to copy it. Or use the Copy and Paste commands from the Edit menu.
  2. Hold down the Command (⌘) key while you drag the file to another drive to move the file.

The default is to copy files

On the Mac the default behaviour is to Copy a file to another drive. Suppose you plug in a thumb drive and drag a file across to it. The original file stays where it was and a copy appears on the thumb drive.

Note that as you drag the file to a different drive the icon shows a green + symbol to indicate the file is being copied.

The green + symbol shows the file is being copied not moved.

The green + symbol shows the file is being copied not moved.

The same happens if you instead select the original file and choose Copy from the Edit menu then open the thumb drive and choose Paste from the Edit menu.

That can be handy if you want the file in both places, but if you no longer need the original you then have to go back to select it and Trash it.

Command drag to move files

If you no longer need to keep the file in its original location hold down the Command (⌘) key while you drag the file to the thumb drive. The file will move to its new location instead.

Lack of the green + symbol shows the file is being moved not copied.

Lack of the green + symbol shows the file is being moved not copied.

Not just thumb drives

This works the same for USB sticks and external hard drives too.

So next time you intend to move a file to a new drive hold down the Command (⌘) key while you drag it.

Let us know how this Tip helped you. To leave a comment if you’re reading this by email or RSS feed please visit the Tip at the MacTips website. There should be a link from the title.

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