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Fixing Annoyances: Stop Windows from Copying Files Accidentally When Ctrl-Click Selecting

Have you ever tried to select a bunch of files in Windows Explorer while holding down the Ctrl key, and then all of a sudden there are duplicate copies of all of those files sitting in the folder? Really irritating, so how do we fix it?

To illustrate the problem, you try and select a number of files by holding down the Ctrl key and clicking on each one… and then suddenly you’ve got a ton of copies of all your files. This gets even more annoying in a large directory, because now you’ve got to remove the copies.

image

The reason this happens is because you moved your mouse more than 4 pixels while clicking down on a file, so Windows assumes you’ve dragged the files and want to copy them, and is happy to litter your folder with duplicates.

Fixing Copy Annoyance in Windows XP

If you are running Windows XP, you can use Microsoft’s free Tweak UI utility to configure the drag setting easily. What we’ll do is tell Windows not to assume that we’re dragging until we’ve move more than 4 pixels, which should eliminate this problem, but still make drag and drop work fine for regular operations.

Just click on Mouse on the left-hand side, and then change the value under “Drag” to something more than 4 pixels.

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I wouldn’t set the value too high, because then it will make it difficult to drag things the way you normally would. Somewhere between 10-20 should help stop the accidental copying, but you might need to set it higher. You can test the effect by dragging the test icon around.

Fixing the Annoyance in Windows Vista

Unfortunately Tweak UI doesn’t work in Windows Vista, so you’ll have to make the registry setting manually, or use the downloadable registry hack file I’ve provided, which will set the drag size to 20 pixels.

Open up regedit.exe through the start menu search or run box, and then browse down to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop

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On the right-hand side you should see two values, DragHeight and DragWidth. Just double-click on them and change the value to something higher. You might have to experiment to get it right for you, but I’d start with somewhere between 10 and 20.

Note that you can pretty much disable drag and drop by setting it to a really high value.

Download Registry File (Vista or XP)

This registry hack file will set the values to 20 pixels, which may or may not be right for you. You can always just edit the file if you want different values.

To install, extract and double-click on the StopDragDroppingAnnoyance.reg to enter the information into the registry. There’s a reset file that will change the setting back to the defaults as well.

Download StopDragDroppingAnnoyance Registry Hack

For extra credit: you can also enable checkboxes in Windows Vista’s Explorer for easier file selecting.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 05/2/08

Comments (24)

  1. brian

    Thanks for this, happens to me all the time and now I know why.

  2. Patti

    Thank you! I often try to move photos I want to another folder and if I don’t watch it closely I start getting copy2, copy3, etc and end up having to delete all the copies which is very annoying. It is great to know there is a way to fix this.

  3. Frank

    Great tip with easy fix. This happened to me a lot, but it won’t anymore.
    Thank you.

  4. Kate

    Thanks a lot! This has always annoyed me. You’re great.

  5. Joe

    Thanks for this, happens to me all the time and thats why i have purchase Duplicate Finder to clean up my duplicte files.

  6. Mark

    You are the man. And like Joker in the movie Batman, I’m left wondering “Where does he find those wonderful toys?” Thanks (again) for a(nother) great find!

  7. RonCam

    “The reason this happens is because you moved your mouse … while clicking down on a file, so Windows assumes you’ve dragged the files and want to copy them, and is happy to litter your folder with duplicates.

    The Geek just says “clicking” but I think he means, “left-clicking”? Yes, if you “left-click and drag” and your finger is unsteady after moving a few pixels, you do get this problem.

    Do you need TweakUI and Regedit to fix this? I would use “right-click and drag” instead. Then, if your clicking-finger wobbles a bit, instead of an accident, a menu appears where you can select ‘Copy Here’ or ‘Create Shortcut Here.’ Other programs may leave other optional actions on this menu. And if the “drop” was an accident, you can abort by selecting ‘Cancel’ at the bottom. Then there are no copies.

    Anyway, this is how it works on Windows 2000 Pro. Hope it wasn’t removed … but this is too simple … perhaps I misunderstood the problem?

  8. Jesper Ginge

    Does this altso work on XP???

  9. The Geek

    @Jesper

    Yes, read the section about Windows XP.

  10. Angie

    You can also do Edit > Undo Copy, and it will delete the duplicate files created.

  11. RonCam

    @Angie
    Probably the best suggestion of all, even better than “right-click and drag”, because most Windows users by force of habit will forget and use the “left click”.

  12. The Geek

    @RonCam

    The problem is yes, left-clicking, but not when you are trying to drag the files. The problem is when you are trying to select multiple files and accidentally move the mouse slightly while clicking down to select a file. The problem can be compounded by slow computers or other things causing the mouse movement to “hiccup” while you are doing this.

  13. RonCam

    @The Geek

    Thanks for the careful explanation. I understand now, and was able to duplicate the problem. I did follow your advice and made the recommended changes with TweakUI, to prevent future problems.

    Incidentally, your TweakUI and Regedit (same Registry locations) methods seem to work identically for the entire NT family, at least with 5.0 and up, except for Vista, as explained in the article.

  14. catie

    I will live longer due to your intervention.
    I am a PC abuser. Yes. My name is Catie and I am an abuser of Microsoft components and operating systems. I liked the 1st mouse. Lots. Win 3.1 = yippie! and 3.2 was better!
    They pulled the plug on actual improvements after Windows 3.2. The bandages are quite pretty, now. They slap stuff together and then keep trying to fix it. It is nuts. Do these guys own Mac stocks?

    Microsoft is driving me insane by ?gimproving?h its products continuously. Vista + 2 more OS intros and a Wizard will ask you if you would like to follow the yellow brick firewall to absolutely nowhere. The screensaver will be breathtakingly beautiful.
    I want my pc to do what I ask. Not more, less or what someone in Redmond WA wants it to do or thinks I should want it to do.
    USER FRIENDLY = Stuff that I don?ft ask for, hate and can?ft stop.
    Do I feel friendly? I think it is user hostile. I am the user. I do not like my box to do a single thing unauthorized by me.
    [Programming bites. Typing is a drag. But I am going to build my own beast one day...]

    They act like there is no true user; all things automated or always off.
    So, if the user cannot push buttons, why do these things come with keyboards? Who will be watching or listening to the Auto play whatever?

    Anyway….Thanks for the ?gCtrl ? I want 2?h fix.
    Why would it be ?guser friendly?h to duplicate folders/files? What were they thinking? It was killing me.
    You are my savior.
    Live long, dance the Cha-Cha on Tuesdays, laugh at lawyers and practice good posture.

    Love, sweat and beers Catie

  15. catie

    [....Lost in translation....]
    Anyway….Thanks for the [Quotation marks] Ctrl [does not equal] I want 2 [Close quotation marks] fix.

  16. Bob

    ctrl+z is undo. That’s for if you aren’t in an explorer window where you can do Edit | Undo as Angie said.

  17. The Geek

    Angie’s suggestion is definitely a good one… I might modify the article to include it. :-)

  18. NKA

    OMG, thanks so much for this little fix. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me, but no longer! Thanks.

  19. catie

    Angie has a brilliant future.
    Some may wish to undo rather than Tweak U or I and have another program onboard.
    Aye.

  20. ADKR

    Great fix to a many year nagging problem. Thanks.

  21. Ginny

    THANK YOU! I’d Googled all over the Net looking for an answer to this and only you had it. I’m signing up for the newsletter. Thank you very much for your generosity in sharing your knowledge freely

  22. stephen

    that happens to me all the time. very frustrating. how can i fix it with 7?

  23. Edward

    Thank you for your help, much appreciated.

  24. susan

    Thanks for the tip. An easy way to delete all the files you have accidentally copied, especially those pesky photo files, is to do a Search, specify photos, search for all containing word ‘copy’. All copies will pop up and you can then delete all of them.

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