Copying files, folders, texts, images, or any other file type is something we do hundreds of times when using a Windows PC. Although the copying, cutting, and pasting functions are a piece of cake, some users don’t know many of the tricks that can enhance overall productivity when using these functions. This tutorial shows how to easily carry out these functions on Windows.
Good to know: copy and paste function not working for you on Windows? Learn how to take care of it.
The context menu on Windows appears when you select an item and right-click your mouse. Most people use this method to copy and paste files or text.
- Find and right-click the item you want to move to show the context menu that includes the “Copy” and “Cut” options. (In Windows 11, you’ll need to click on “Show more options” first.)
- Selecting “Copy” creates a duplicate of the same file or folder in a different location. “Cut,” on the other hand, moves the file or folder to that spot and removes the original from the initial location after it’s pasted.
- Navigate to the location where you want to move the file or folder and right-click an empty area. Select “Paste.”
- When dealing with text, links, images, or other types of data, select or click what you want to copy or cut first, then right-click and choose the option you need from the context menu. In the case of images, look for “Copy image;” for links, click on “Copy link.”
How to Copy and Paste Using Shortcuts (Hotkeys)
Many users rely on Windows keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste, due to the added convenience. Follow these steps to use hotkeys:
- Locate the file or folder and press Ctrl + C to copy it and Ctrl + X to cut it.
- Navigate wherever you want to move the file or folder and press Ctrl + V.
- There are other helpful shortcuts that you can use, like the Ctrl + A combination, which lets you select all the text or files before copying or cutting them.
Tip: did you know that it’s possible to copy and paste within PDF files as well? We detail various methods of doing so.
How to Undo Copying or Cutting a File
If you mistakenly copied or cut a file or folder, you can undo the action immediately without manually cutting or copying the file back to the previous location.
- Right-click an empty space, and select “Undo Copy” or “Undo Cut.”
- If you right-click the mouse again, you’ll see the option to “Redo Copy.”
- It’s also possible to use shortcuts to do the same operations. To undo pasting a file, press Ctrl + Z, while the Ctrl + Y shortcut will redo whatever you’ve just undone.
How to Copy and Paste Several Items at Once
Windows has a built-in clipboard manager, a tool that collects everything you copy or cut (up to 25 items). It allows you to copy several things at once, then easily paste them anywhere.
Note: this doesn’t work for files or folders on Windows, but it does for text and images.
- Open the Settings app by pressing Win + I, and go to “System -> Clipboard.”
- Ensure that “Clipboard History” is activated, and opt whether you want to sync its content across devices.
- Copy your text or images.
- Navigate to where you want to paste the content – for example, Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Press the Win + V keys, and Windows will instantly display the items you previously copied. Click any of them to paste it.
Note that the clipboard doesn’t delete the items after they are pasted. If you need to easily access a copied item, perhaps multiple times, click on the pin button to have it show at the top of the Clipboard.
Tip: if you’re looking for more advanced options, check out this list of third-party Windows clipboard managers.
How to Copy and Paste Files Using CMD
The Command Prompt (cmd) is one of the most essential tools in Windows, and as it turns out, it also allows you to copy and paste files.
- Type “cmd” in Windows Search, and launch it as administrator.
- Use the following code to copy a file from one location to another. Make sure you replace [File source] with the exact path to the file in question. For instance, “c:\MTE.txt.” As for [Destination], replace it with the path to the folder where you plan to copy the file (such as “d:”).
copy [File source] [Destination]
- You can also use a command like the one below, which will copy ALL the files of a certain type in a specific location. Replace [Source] with the folder path of the folder you are copying from and [Destination] with the destination path of the target folder. Also change [EXTENSION] to any extension, such as “.TXT.”
copy [Source]\*[EXTENSION] [Destination]
- With cmd, it is possible to use Xcopy commands to copy groups of files from one location to another. Type the following command and replace [Source] with the path to the folder you are copying from and [Destination] with the path to the folder that will receive the copies.
Xcopy [Source] [Destination]
- You can also add additional parameters for this command (at the end).
/E– copies all subdirectories, including the empty ones
/H– copies files that you’ve hidden or that have system file attributes
/C– will continue the progress, even if there are errors
/I– always assume that the destination is a folder if unsure
- As an example, the following command will copy the “MTE” folder with all of its hidden files (without subdirectories and empty files), while ignoring errors. The command will also create the folder if it doesn’t exist:
Xcopy C:\MTE D:\MTE /H /C /I
Tip: learn how to enable copy-paste in Command Prompt. It can be really useful when dealing with login commands.
How to Copy Multiple Files to Multiple Directories
We sometimes need to copy various files to multiple directories simultaneously. In such a case, a third-party app like Copywhiz may help finish this task quickly.
- Download and install Copywhiz to your PC. (It offers a seven-day free trial.)
- Select all the files you want to distribute. Right-click the selection, and choose “Copywhiz -> Copy (Add to queue)” from the context menu.
- Launch the app. All files you’ve selected will be listed. You can add more files or folders using the “Add Files” and “Add Folders” options.
- Select the destination from the “Paste” section. Select several folders at once by clicking the “Add” button.
- Opt whether to copy or cut by clicking the drop-down menu.
Tip: explore these useful registry hacks to optimize your Windows experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I copy and paste without formatting?
When you select “Copy” from the context menu (or press Ctrl + C), the text gets copied with its formatting, which includes color, bold and italic attributes, and more. To paste it later without this format, just press Ctrl + Shift + V instead of Ctrl + V. Additionally, you can click the “Paste Without Formatting” option from the context menu.
Can I copy a file from the Recycle Bin?
No, you can only move (cut) files and folders from the Recycle Bin to your desktop or other drives. If you want to copy a file from the Bin, restore it, make a copy, and re-delete it later.
Can I copy and paste from Windows to iOS or Android?
Can I paste a file after deleting it?
No. You need to restore the file, then copy and paste it regularly. To restore a deleted file in Windows, navigate to the Recycle Bin, locate it, right-click it, and select “Restore.”
Image credit: Flaticon & Unsplash. All screenshots by Mustafa Ashour.
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