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How to copy and paste in Windows

You can switch between mouse and keyboard methods whenever it's convenient.

Published onDecember 26, 2023

If you’re new to Windows, or desktop and laptop computers in general, one thing you’re going to have to learn quickly is how the operating system handles cut, copy, and paste commands. By the end of this guide, how to copy and paste in Windows should seem as easy as breathing.


To cut, copy, and paste in Windows:

  • Select text, a file, or an image.
  • Hit Control + X to cut, or Control + C to copy. Alternately, use options in the right-click pop-up menu.
  • Position your cursor where you want to paste an item, then hit Control + V or use the right-click menu.


Understanding the difference between copy and cut

Before we continue, an important reminder is that while cutting and copying both move an item (text, a file, an image, etc.) to the Windows clipboard so you can paste it in a different location, cutting is destructive, while copying creates a duplicate.

By destructive, we mean that cutting will remove an item from its original location. That’s useful in a lot of cases, but if you want to keep the thing in question, you’ll usually have to paste it somewhere else right away. Windows 11 does offer the option of saving multiple items to the clipboard (go to Settings > System > Clipboard) — but normally, if you cut one thing but then immediately cut or copy something else, that first item will be gone.

How to copy, cut and paste a file in Windows

For all three functions, you can use either a keyboard or your mouse/trackpad. Veteran Windows users will often switch between inputs on the fly, based on whatever’s convenient that particular second.

Using a mouse/trackpad

Copying a file in Windows 11
Roger Fingas / Android Authority
  • Select text, a file, or an image by clicking it directly or clicking and dragging over it. What you’ll need to do varies based on context (you’ll usually click and drag to select text, for example). Not all content can be selected.
  • Once you have something selected, right-click on it.
  • Click Cut or Copy in the pop-up menu. Sometimes these options are text, sometimes they’re buttons. Mouse over a button to see which is which.
  • Right-click on the area you want to put the item, then choose Paste from the pop-up menu if the app supports what you’re trying to insert.

Using keyboard shortcuts

  • Select text, a file, or an image.
  • Hit Control + X to cut, or Control + C to copy.
  • Position your cursor where you want to put an item, then hit Control + V to paste. In some cases you may need to click or use arrow keys to put the cursor where you want it.

How to copy, cut and paste multiple files in Windows

Copying mutliple files in Windows 11
Roger Fingas / Android Authority

One thing Windows does inherently better than Android or iOS is make it easy to select multiple items so you can cut or copy them all at the same time. This most commonly applies to files, but does sometimes work in other contexts.

  • Select the files by clicking and dragging a selection box over them. If they’re not clustered together, click on one item, then Shift-click on each additional item.
  • Cut or copy using the Control + X or Control + C shortcuts, or else by choosing Cut or Copy from the right-click pop-up menu.
  • Right-click on your destination and choose Paste, or position your cursor and hit Control + V. Your target usually has to be another folder in Windows, but some apps may support file input this way.
  • Alternately, you can right-click and drag selected items to a new location if that place is visible onscreen (as in the image above). You’ll get an option to copy when you let go of the mouse button.

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