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How do I move a file from one location to another?

Most modern computers with a GUI (Graphical User Interface) such as Windows or Mac OS X allow you to move or copy files using drag-and-drop via the mouse. However, the effect of doing so varies, depending upon the relationship between the source and the destination.

If the source and destination are on the same Volume (a term used to describe a single accessible storage area such as a hard drive or USB memory stick), a simple drag-and-drop will move the file from one location to another.

If the source and destination are on different Volumes, a simple drag-and-drop will copy the file from one location to another, leaving the original intact.

It is strongly recommended that in general files files should be copied from one location to another, the original only being deleted (if necessary) once the integrity of the copy has been confirmed. This is especially important when copying very large files as if the process is interrupted data may be lost.

To force copying even when dragging and dropping within the same Volume:

  • on Windows: hold down the Ctrl key whilst doing so
  • on Mac OS X: hold down the Alt key whilst doing so

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This is question number 2563, which appears in the following categories:

Created by Chris Limb on 24 April 2013 and last updated by Chris Limb on 17 June 2014