Drag and Drop in Windows 10/8/7 explained

Have you noticed that sometimes, when you drag and drop files or folders from one location to another, on your Windows 10/8/7 computer, they get copied – and sometimes they get moved?

Although this has been the default behavior of Windows since 1989, this can be pretty confusing for many. One could keep wondering – will the drag-and-drop action result in a ‘Copy” or ‘Move’!?

Drag and Drop in Windows 10

In this post, I will explain how the drag-and-drop operation works in Windows 10/8/7 and give you a few tips on how to modify its default behavior.

When will a drag-and-drop operation Copy the file

If you are moving the file from a location on one drive to ANOTHER DRIVE, then the operation will result in a COPY.

If you drag and drop a file from one partition to a network drive, the operation will result in a COPY.

Dragging a file from or to a DVD or CD will always result in a COPY.

When will a drag and drop operation Move the file

If you are moving the file from one location to another on the SAME DRIVE, then the operation will result in a MOVE.

Modify default drag and drop behavior

If you wish, you can change this default behavior. If you hold down Shift while carrying out the operation, then the operation will result in a MOVE.

If you hold down Ctrl, then the operation will result in a COPY.

Make the drag and drop operation create a shortcut

If while carrying out the drag-and-drop operation, you hold down Ctrl+Shift or Alt, then the operation will create a link or shortcut to the destination folder.

If you drag a system file or object like say Control Panel, the operation will always result in creating a shortcut. Also, dragging to the Start Menu or any Toolbar will also always create a link or shortcut, for obvious reasons.

Control Drag and drop Behavior

If you do not want to go through the trouble of remembering all this or if when you are very busy, you are just unable to keep track of the source and the destination drive, what you can do is, carry out the drag-and-drop operation using the RIGHT-CLICK.

Instead of using the left-click to carry out the operation, as we normally do, use the right-click to drag-and-drop the file.

Drag and Drop in Windows 10

When you reach the destination folder and drop the file or folder, you will be presented with the above menu, which will allow you to copy, move or create a shortcut in the destination folder. This will give you maximum control over the drag and drop operation.

You cannot drag and drop files into the left navigation pane, but you can drag and drop folders there to create their shortcuts.

Drag and Drop Icon changes

Have a look at the images above again. You will notice something else. Whenever a Copy is being carried out, a plus+” icon is displayed. When a Move is being carried out, an arrow pointing to the right side ->” icon is displayed and when a shortcut is being created an arrow pointing to the top-right corner is displayed.

Drag and Drop not working in Windows

If you are facing drag and drop problems in Windows 10/8/7, this forum post of ours titled Drag and Drop not working in Windows is sure to help you out. This post will tell you how to Enable or Disable drag and drop in Windows by tweaking the Registry.

Bonus Tip: You can also add a confirmation box or change Drag and Drop sensitivity.

Posted by on , in Category Windows with Tags
Anand Khanse is the Admin of TheWindowsClub.com, a 10-year Microsoft MVP Awardee in Windows (2006-16) & a Windows Insider MVP. Please read the entire post & the comments first, create a System Restore Point before making any changes to your system & be careful about any 3rd-party offers while installing freeware.

9 Comments

  1. Keep us posted …. 🙂

  2. abma321

    I got a new windows 8 machine. Sometimes when I try to browse between folders in explorer it seems windows become slow and mostly around those times, it starts to drag folders. typically i see shortcuts being created. a shortcut to the old folder to the new folder. Old folder is the foder from where i came to the new folder. I have to keep looking if windows is creating shortcuts. Does this sound familiar? Is there solution to this? Thanks.

  3. Folders will not create shortcuts on their own. Maybe you clicked somewhere inadvertently. Have a look at https://www.thewindowsclub.com/optimize-make-windows-7-folders-display-contents-faster and see if it helps you.

  4. Bad Horse

    This is incorrect. I have a single directory in Windows 7 that contains two .exe files. If I try to move them one at a time into a subdirectory, one of them will be moved; the other will have a link created to it. The second file does not have a “move” menu option. I have the same privileges on both files. I was only able to move the 2nd file by selecting it and the first file at the same time and moving them both to the same place.

    Ah, the joys of Windows 7.

  5. Del

    I just want to be able to select for example 5 files, then left click and “drag” then to “copy” them to another folder. Instead, WIN 8.1 “moves” the files. Is there a way to reverse this behavior?

  6. wsw1boss

    how to make add menu in list “copy here to new folder” using drag right-click

  7. mchan1

    “If you are moving the file from one location to another on the SAME DRIVE, then the operation will result in a MOVE.”
    ^
    That explains it!

    I have Windows 7 on a desktop PC but when I ‘move’ files from Desktop to D:Foldername, Windows treats it as a ‘Copy’ of a ‘Move’.

    I have a second hard drive [D:] for the Desktop which stores all the files while the primary drive [C:] contains all the software including the OS.

    When I do the same function on a laptop PC with Windows 7, the
    action ‘Moves’ Not ‘Copies’ the file from Desktop to C:Foldername. There’s only one hard drive in the laptop.

    Thanks!

  8. John Tomecek

    I realize that this thread on dragging and dropping is back to 2014, but I still have a question about it. I am teaching a person how to drag and drop and she is having trouble. She is getting confused and ends up moving when she should be only copying. Is there a way to protect the source folder with a security option in the properties but still copy the files?? My other alternative was to use a thumb drive and when she drags to the thumb drive is will only copy, but then there is additional work to to copy/move to the thumb files back to the source location..

  9. Phil Reinie

    Make the source folder/files read only. (The folder is preferred otherwise the copied file may have to be changed back to read/write. I’m not sure how permissions copy.)

    Or select the files to be copied and use Ctrl+c (or right-click them and pick Copy). Go to where you want them to be copied and type Ctrl+v (or right-click and select Paste from the list). Be careful when pasting that you are not accidentally hovering over a folder or the files will be pasted into the folder – that’s an issue if you miss with the mouse while drag/drop too, but good if you want them in that folder.

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