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Visual Clues when Copying or Moving Files in Vista

I can never remember which key to hold down to copy or move a file when I drag a file from one location to another. Vista comes to the rescue with visual clues when you drag a file.

For example, when you drag a file to the desktop normally, you’ll see this (note that the mouse pointer was hidden by the screenshot utility)

Here’s the recap of the drag and drop commands:

Drag file = Move File

Ctrl + drag file = Copy File

Alt + drag file = Create Shortcut to File

Note that dragging a file only moves the file if the destination is on the same drive. If you drag a file to a second drive it will be copied instead.

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 01/9/07

Comments (5)

  1. Azymn

    Shift + drag file = Move File

    This is important if moving files between different hard drives or network locations, as Copy is the default action in those instances.
    Also, the old combo for Create Shortcut still works too:

    Ctrl + Shift + drag file = Create shortcut to file

  2. JacobHaley

    I always right-click drag files. Then I can chose what I want to do. Try it.

  3. assive2007

    I like the right-click one, very easy.

  4. jd2066

    Actually before Vista there a one visual clue. If during the drag and drop it was going to be a copy a + would appear and for a shortcut a shortcut icon would appear.
    The real improvement here is that in Vista the clue says where the file will go. Helpful when dropping to a subfolder in a folder to make sure it goes in the subfolder and not the folder.
    Also your “Drag file = Move File” is incorrect, when just dragging the end action is determined my certain things.
    * Drag file from drive to same drive is move
    * Drag file from drive to different drive is copy
    * In certain cases Drag executable file is create shortcut

  5. Dan

    Is there a way to change the default so if you drag a file into a shortcut folder, it moves it instead of copying it? Rather than having to use shift or right-click drag?

    Cheers, Dan

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