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Windows offers many ways to copy and move files. We’ll show you all the tricks for File Explorer, and how to use them in Command Prompt and PowerShell. You can even add “Copy to” and “Move to” to File Explorer’s context menus.

When you copy a file or folder in Windows 10, a duplicate is made of the selected item and saved in a destination folder of your choosing. However, when you move a file or folder, the original item moves to the destination folder instead of sending an identical copy.

How to Copy or Move Files with Drag and Drop

One of the most common methods to copy or move a file or folder is to drag and drop it into the destination folder. By default—depending on the location of the destination folder—File Explorer might move it instead of copying it, or vice versa. However, there’s a hidden method that overrides Windows’ default behavior.

Open File Explorer by pressing Windows+E and navigate to the file you want to copy.

Open File Explorer to the files you want to copy.

When dragging files from one folder to another, you can use either the pane on the left or open another instance of File Explorer to navigate to the destination folder. For this example, we’re going to use a second File Explorer window to copy files.

Open a second File Explorer window by pressing Windows+E, and navigate to the destination folder.

Open a second File Explorer and select the files to copy.

Windows has two default actions when you drag and drop a file or folder into a new destination: copy or move. Copying happens when you drop the file or folder into a directory on a different drive. Moving occurs when you drop it on the same drive, as we’ll do below. However, there’s a hidden trick that forces Windows to perform a specific action.

To copy files over to a different drive, highlight the file(s) you want to copy, click and drag them over to the second window, and then drop them.

Drag the files over to the second window and drop them.

If you’re trying to copy the files to a folder on the same drive, click and drag them over to the second window. Before you drop them, though, press Ctrl to trigger the Copy mode.

If you want to copy a file onto the same drive, press Ctrl before dropping it into the window.

To move files to a different directory on the same drive, highlight the file(s) you want to move, click and drag them over to the second window, and then drop them.

Click and drag the files over to the second window.

If the destination folder is on a different drive, click and drag them over to the second window just like before, but this time press Shift to trigger the Move mode.

To move files to a a folder on a different drive, click and drag them, but before you drop, press Shift.

How to Copy or Move Files Using Cut, Copy, and Paste

You can also copy and move files with the clipboard, the same way you cut, copy, and paste text.

Open File Explorer by pressing Windows+E and navigate to the file you want to copy.

Open File Explorer and navigate to the folder with files you want to copy.

Highlight the files you want to copy, and then click “Copy” in the File menu or press Ctrl+C on the keyboard to add them to the clipboard.

Highlight the files and click "Copy" from the Home tab.

If you’d rather move items instead, highlight the files you want to move. Then, click “Cut” in the File menu or press Ctrl+X to add the files to the clipboard.

Select the files and click "Cut" from the Home tab.

Navigate to the directory to which you want to move the files, and then click “Paste” in the “Home” tab or press Ctrl+V. Depending on whether you click “Copy” or “Cut,” your files will be copied or moved, respectively.

Navigate to the destination folder and click "Paste" from the "Home" tab.

Copying or Moving Files and Folders Using the Context Menu

The Windows 10 Context menu with "Copy to" and "Move to" included.

When you right-click a file or folder, Windows has a couple of hidden context menu functions that let you add two options: Copy to or Move to. Adding these two functions to the context menu gives you a way to either copy or move items in just a few clicks.

RELATED: How to Add "Move to" or "Copy to" to Windows 10's Context Menu

How to Copy or Move Files Using the Command Prompt

One of the fastest ways to open a Command Prompt in the desired directory is from File Explorer. First, open File Explorer and navigate to the destination. Click the address bar, type “cmd”  and press Enter.

RELATED: 10 Ways to Open the Command Prompt in Windows 10

From File Explorer, type "cmd" in the address bar and press Enter.

To copy a file, you can use the following command syntax (if you’re copying a folder, just omit the file extension):

copy "file name.ext" "full\path\to\destination\folder"

The quotes in the command are only important when the file name or folder contains spaces. If they don’t have spaces, you won’t need to include the quotes. In the example below, neither the file name, nor the folder contains a space, so we didn’t need to use them.

The file gets copied to the destination folder.

You can also use the copy command to duplicate multiple files at the same time. Just separate each file with a comma, and then specify the destination folder as you normally would.

Separate multiple files with a comma to copy them over.

To move a file, you can use the following command syntax (if you’re moving a folder, just omit the file extension):

move "file name.ext" "full\path\to\destination\folder"

Just as with copying, the quotes in the command are only important when the file name or folder contains spaces. If they don’t, you don’t have to include the quotes. In the example below, neither the file name, nor the folder contains a space, so we didn’t need to use them.

The command moves the file over.

However, if you try to move multiple files, as we did with the copy command, Command Prompt will throw a syntax error.

Using a comma to move more than one file does not work and Command Prompt will throw an error.

There are a couple of other ways to move more than one item at a time using Command Prompt without throwing an error. Each method makes use of a wildcard character to move multiple files within one instruction.

First, if you want to move all of a specific file type, you can use the following syntax to relocate the files:

move *.ext "full\path\to\directory"

Use a wildcard to move all files with a specific extension type.

The second method involves moving everything inside the source directory, regardless of the file type. You can use the following syntax to complete the move:

move * "full\path\to\directory"

Move every file that's inside the folder.

How to Copy or Move Files Using PowerShell

Windows PowerShell is even more powerful and flexible than Command Prompt when it comes to copying or moving files and folders in a command-line environment. While we’ll only scratch the surface, you can do some really powerful things with cmdlets.

The quickest way to open a PowerShell window at your desired location is to first open the folder in File Explorer. In the “File” menu, click “Open Windows PowerShell,” and then select “Open Windows Powershell.”

RELATED: 9 Ways to Open PowerShell in Windows 10

Click File > Open Windows PowerShell > Open Windows PowerShell.

To copy a file or folder in PowerShell, use the following syntax:

Copy-Item "filename.ext" "path\to\destination\folder"

Although they aren’t mandatory, the Copy-Item cmdlet only requires quotes around the filename and directory if they contain spaces.

For example, to copy a file from the current directory to another, you would use the following command:

Copy-Item Lex.azw D:\Downloads

Type the command and the file will copy over to the destination folder.

The real power of PowerShell comes from the ability to pipe cmdlets together. Say, for example, we have a folder with a bunch of subfolders with ebooks in them that we want to copy.

Instead of changing the directory and running the command again, we can get PowerShell to scan through each folder and subfolder, and then copy all of a specific file type to the destination.

We could use the following cmdlet:

Get-ChildItem -Path ".\*.azw" -Recurse | Copy-Item -Destination "D:\Downloads"

The Get-ChildItem part of the cmdlet lists all the files in the current directory and all of its subfolders (with the -Recurse switch) with the AZW file extension and pipes them (the | symbol) to the Copy-Item cmdlet.

After you type the command, PowerShell searches all subfolders copies anything within the specified file extension.

To move files instead, you can use the following syntax to relocate anything you want:

Move-Item Lex.azw D:\Downloads

The item has been moved.

Move-Item follows the same syntax as the Copy-Item cmdlet. So, if you want to move all the specific file types from a folder and all its subfolders—as we did with the Copy-Item cmdlet— it’s almost identical.

Type the following cmdlet to move all files of a specific file type from a directory and its subfolders:

Get-ChildItem -Path ".\*.azw" -Recurse | Move-Item -Destination "D:\Downloads"

Moving files in PowerShell.

Brady Gavin Brady Gavin
Brady Gavin has been immersed in technology for 15 years and has written over 150 detailed tutorials and explainers. He's covered everything from Windows 10 registry hacks to Chrome browser tips. Brady has a diploma in Computer Science from Camosun College in Victoria, BC.  
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