How to Move Files and Folders in Mac OS X Lion

By Bob LeVitus

You can move Mac OS X Lion files and folders around within a window to your heart’s content as long as that window is set to icon view. Just click and drag any file’s icon to its new location in the window.

You can’t move icons around in a Mac OS X Lion window that is displayed in list, column, or Cover Flow view. Well, you can move them to put them in a different folder in list, column, or Cover Flow view, but that’s not moving them around, really.

As you might expect from Apple, you have choices for how you move one file or folder into another folder. You can use these techniques to move any icon (folder, document, alias, or program icon) into folders or onto other disks.

  • Drag an icon onto a folder icon. Drag the icon for one folder (or file) onto the icon for another folder (or disk) and then release when the second icon is highlighted. The first folder is inside the second folder. Put another way, the first folder is a subfolder of the second folder.

    This technique works regardless of whether the second folder’s window is open.

  • Drag an icon into an open folder’s window. Drag the icon for one folder (or file) into the open window for a second folder (or disk).


If you want to move an item from one disk to another disk, you can’t use the preceding tricks. Your item is copied, not moved. If you want to move a file or folder from one disk to another, you have to hold down the Command key when you drag an icon from one disk to another. The little Copying Files window even changes to read Moving Files.