How to Move Files in Mac OS X

Handling files on a Mac isn’t particularly complicated. For example, if sharing your files between your PC and smartphone is a skill you need to learn, learning how to move files on Mac is an easy intuitive process.

Usually, you just select the file you want to move with your cursor, and then drag and drop it to a location of your choice. However, depending on your desired destination, your Mac may be able to copy or move the entire file.

Here, we’ll take you through all the different methods of handling files on a Mac, including moving them on the same drive and to another, and moving and copying files yours to the cloud.

How to move and copy files on the same Mac drive

Understanding how the file handling system in Mac OS works will help you make your workflow more efficient. After you learn the different ways to move files, backing up files on your Mac should be easy.

Drag and drop files on Mac

Let’s start with the most basic step when it comes to file handling. Drag and drop a file on the same drive on your Mac. When you do that, your computer will automatically move that file instead of making a copy of it.

  1. Click the file you want to move to select it.
File dropped in new location
  1. Hold down the mouse button while you drag the file to a new location.
File moved to new location
  1. When you drop it in the new folder, you’ll see that the file has moved from its original location to its new destination.

If your goal is to keep the file in its original location, as well as having Copy in the new destination folder, you’ll need to use this keyboard trick to do it.

  1. Click the file you want to move to select it.
  1. Hold Right to buy key (or Alt) on the keyboard while moving the file to a new location.
The file is moved with the option key held down

You’ll find that instead of moving files, your Mac automatically Copy it to the new destination directory. You can now see that two identical files exist on your computer.

How to transfer files to another drive

Your Mac’s default file handling behavior changes when you transfer files between your Macintosh HD and another drive. Regardless of whether it is an external drive or an internal drive, the system’s automatic response is Copy a file than move it. That’s because your Mac assumes you’re backing up your files.

Drag files to an external drive
  1. Click the file or folder to select it.
Folder selected
  1. Move it to another location by drag it to another drive.
The test file is dragged to another drive
  1. When you drop it, you will see that the Mac will create Copy its in the new drive instead of moving it there.

If you just want to keep the newly created copy of the file, you can garbage original to remove it. Or you can use this trick to move your file to another drive in the first place instead of copying it.

The test file is still on the external drive

Before you drag and drop your file, hold cmd (Request) when you select the file. After you drop it in the new destination, you will see only one file on your computer now. This saves you time and memory space.

How to move and copy files from Mac to iCloud

If you’re choosing to transfer and store your files online, it’s important to know that your Mac is equipped with a great alternative to services like Google Drive, DropBox, and others. iCloud Drive is a built-in option that you can use to store and access your files with other iOS devices under the same Apple ID. Also, since it’s already part of the Mac, it doesn’t require any third-party logins or downloads.

Moving and copying files to and from iCloud Drive is as easy as transferring your files elsewhere on your Mac.

Audit file in iCloud Drive

When you drag and drop a file from Macintosh HD to iCloud, your computer’s default response will be move it’s that.

The Option key is held down to make a copy of the file

If you want to keep the original file, as well as have a copy of it on iCloud Drive, hold down Right to buy key (or Alt) on the keyboard while moving the file to a new location. That way you will Copy your files to iCloud.

Use file handling shortcuts

A great way to upgrade your user experience and become a more efficient Mac user is to learn the essential Mac keyboard shortcuts. When it comes to file handling, two shortcuts will quickly turn you into a proficient user.

The last keyboard shortcuts that most users will know from the first day of using the computer. You can use it to Copy and paste any file anywhere on your Mac without touching the mouse or trackpad.

  • Cmd + SIZE & Option + Cmd + DRAW

This shortcut is a little less known. Just add Right to buy key for the second part of the copy-paste action and you will move your file to its new destination instead of making a copy of it.

Easy file handling

Moving your files on Mac is pretty straightforward. Once you understand how it works, you can move on to learning how to move files between different devices. A useful skill when you need to move files from Windows PC or transfer your data from Android to Mac.

Have you had trouble moving files to and from your Mac in the past? Share your experience with us in the comments section below.

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