[Tips] Change the drag and drop behavior of Windows

Move Folders

Dragging and dropping files, folders, apps, and anything else you can think of is one of the many ways to make your life easier in Windows. In fact, dragging and dropping can be seen as one of the final steps in the evolution of the standard Windows user which starts by right-clicking and selecting the “Copy” and “Paste” options to using drag and drop functionalities as well as keyboard shortcuts. Still, not many people know that the behavior of this function can easily be changed, both temporarily and permanently which can benefit different uses of a PC.

Default drag and drop actions

The standard settings found in every Windows system define what happens when you drag and drop something in various circumstances. More specifically, these are the default behaviors:

Always copy:

  • Dropping files from one drive to a second one.
  • Dropping items from a local location to a network location.
  • Dropping files and folders from CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays. This is one of the two actions that cannot be changed as the discs are not flexible with their content so you cannot just delete items on the spot.

Always move:

  • Dropping items from one location to another, on the same drive.
  • Dropping items you wish to discard onto the Recycle Bin. This is the second action that cannot be changed as copying items to the Bin would be absolutely useless.

Temporarily altering drag and drop behaviors

The easiest way to affect the above behaviors is to drag and drop files while pressing a certain key.

  • Ctrl + Drop to create a copy.
  • Shift + Drop to move.
  • Alt + Drop OR Ctrl + Shift + Drop to create shortcuts.

Permanently altering drag and drop

Most users should be content with the above shortcuts as they offer plenty of flexibility and control in all situations. However, there is a way to affect the behaviors in a permanent way by modifying the Registry so that the default action is always to copy, move, or create a shortcut.

All file types

Drag and Drop Default

  1. Open your Start Menu, type regedit.exe and press Enter to launch the Registry Editor.
  2. In the window that opens, navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*. This is the very first folder so it should not be had to miss.
  3. With the “*” key selected, right-click on an empty space on the right-side pane and create a new DWORD (32-bit) Value named DefaultDropEffect.
  4. Double-click on the newly created DWORD and set one of the below values:

0 > Default actions.
1 > Always copy.
2 > Always move.
4 > Always create a shortcut.

  1. After you enter your choice, click on OK to save the changes. Then, navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\AllFilesystemsObjects and create the same DWORD with the same value.
  2. Once you have completed the changes, feel free to close the Registry Editor. You might need to restart Windows Explorer before the changes take effect.

Specific file types

Drag and Drop ISO

It is also possible to alter drag and drop settings for specific file types. All you have to do is find the file type in HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT and add a DefaultDropEffect DWORD like we show above. For instance, to change the behavior of drag and drop for ISO files:

  1. Go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Windows.IsoFile.
  2. Add a new DWORD (32-bit) Value and name it DefaultDropEffect.
  3. Change the value to one of the above.
  4. Click on OK to save the settings and continue.