Is MacOS Copying Your Files Instead of Moving Them?

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This problem frequently puzzles MacOS users. Thankfully, there's an easy solution that may work for you.

Are Your Files Locked?

Do you see a small lock next to the file or files that you are trying to move? It’s really small, so look carefully before saying no! Make sure you are viewing your files in icon or gallery mode in Finder so that the lock is more visible.

An image of a locked file in MacOS Sonoma.

If there’s a lock, MacOS will only copy the files rather than moving them when you drag and drop them to another folder or drive (ie., MacOS copies and pasts them instead of cutting and pasting them).

So, in order to fix this problem, right-click on the file(s) you need to unlock, and click Get Info. If you need to unlock more than one file, you can do them all at once by selecting them and holding down Control ^ while you right-click one of the selected files, and clicking Get Summary Info.

Holding control + right-clicking one of the selected files allows you to access Get Summary Info and mass edit the selection.

Then, inside either Get Info or Get Summary Info (Multiple Item Info), you will see a checkbox marked Locked. If the files are locked, it will be checked.

To unlock the file(s), simply uncheck the Locked option.


In Get Info, uncheck the box marked Locked.

Once you have unchecked Locked, close Get Info.

Now look at your files in Finder. You will find that the locks have disappeared. Now, try to move your files again via drag-and-drop. Now that the files are unlocked, MacOS will default to moving the files (cut-and-paste) rather than copy-and-pasting them, which will be a faster transfer and save hard drive space.

I hope this tutorial has been helpful! Thank you for visiting

Robert Jansen is an Apple Certified Support Professional.

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