Moving Files or Folders

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 14, 2016)

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.)

The mere fact that files can be organized into folders (and folders can be further organized into other folders) implies that the operating system must provide some way to move those files and folders around. Windows excels at providing this basic capability, giving you a couple of ways you can easily move things about.

Perhaps the easiest way to move files or folders is to use some of the same shortcut keys I regularly use to move things in programs such as Word or Excel:

  1. Open the window that contains the file or folder you want to move. (This is referred to as the source window.)
  2. Click once on the file or folder you want to move.
  3. Press Ctrl+X. This "cuts" the item to the Clipboard. (You won't see any change in the selected object; just trust that it's been cut.)
  4. Display the window where you want the item moved. (This is referred to as the target window.)
  5. Press Ctrl+V. The item appears in the target window and is removed from the source window.

You can also use the mouse to make your copies:

  1. Open the window that contains the file or folder you want to move. (Again, this is the source window.)
  2. If you want to move the file or folder to a different location, open a second (target) 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 moved.
  5. As you drag the file or folder into the target window, you should see a small arrow appear next to it. If you don't, then hold down the Shift key as you drag.
  6. Release the mouse button. The file or folder is moved to the target window.

It is important that you pay attention to step 5. As you drag the file or folder, the arrow will only appear as you drag it over a different window (the one you opened in step 2) or over a different folder or drive. It will not appear as you drag the object within the same window. If you are moving the object within the same window, just drag it and drop it; that's the end of it. It is when you move it to a different target area that you need to be concerned about the small arrow.

In general, the arrow will appear automatically if the destination is on the same drive as the original location of the file or folder. If you are trying to move the object to a different drive, then you'll need to press the Shift key to let Windows know you are moving and not copying.

 This tip (5850) 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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