Copying Files or Folders

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 11, 2019)

Windows is, as you probably know, an operating system. This means that it provides a way for you to "operate" your computer. As part of filling that function, Windows allows you to store information in files and organize those files in folders or directories. (The words "folder" and "directory" are virtually synonymous in an operating system such as Windows. Most people refer to them as folders these days, because Windows uses an icon that looks like a file folder to represent what used to be called a directory.)

There isn't a day that goes by when I don't have a need to make a copy of either a file or a folder. Usually I need to make a copy so that I don't disturb the originals, but I often need to make copies that I can give to other people. I've found that the easiest way to make copies is to use some of the same shortcut keys I regularly use to copy things in programs such as Word or Excel:

  1. Click once on the file or folder you want to copy.
  2. Press Ctrl+C. This copies the item to the Clipboard.
  3. Display the window where you want the item copied.
  4. Press Ctrl+V. The copy is created in that window.

You can also use the mouse to make your copies:

  1. Open the window that contains the file or folder you want to copy.
  2. If you want to copy the file or folder to a different location, open a second window for that location.
  3. Click once on the file or folder and hold down the mouse button.
  4. Drag the file or folder to the location where you want it copied.
  5. As you drag the file or folder into the destination window, you should see a small plus sign appear next to it. If you don't, then hold down the Ctrl key as you drag.
  6. Release the mouse button. Your copy is made.

It is important that you pay attention to step 5. If the plus sign doesn't appear, then you are only moving the file or folder, not copying it. In general, the plus sign will appear automatically if the destination is on a different drive than the original location of the file or folder. If you are trying to copy to another location on the same drive, then you'll need to press the Ctrl key to let Windows know you are copying and not moving. Finally, if you make a copy of the file or folder into the same location as the originals, then Windows appends the word "Copy" to the file or folder name.

 This tip (5661) applies to Windows 7, 8, and 10.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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