Duplicate Files in the Mac's Finder With These Tricks

Add version numbers to duplicate files

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Duplicating files in the Finder on your Mac is a simple process. Just select a file in the Finder, right-click it, and choose Duplicate from the pop-up menu. Your Mac appends copy to the duplicate's file name. For example, the duplicate of a file named MyFile is named MyFile copy.

Information in this article applies to Macs running macOS Catalina (10.15), macOS Mojave (10.14), macOS High Sierra (10.13), or macOS Sierra (10.12). It also applies to OS Leopard (10.5) through OS X El Capitan (10.11).

Selecting the Duplicate option in Mac Finder

That works fine when you want to duplicate a file in the same folder as the original, but what if you want to copy the file to another folder on the same drive? ​If you select the file or folder and drag it to another location on the same drive, the item is moved, not copied. When you need a copy in another location, make use of the Finder's copy/paste capabilities.

Using Copy/Paste to Duplicate a File or Folder

As is the case with most things involving the Mac, there's more than one way to duplicate a file or folder. You can use the familiar copy and paste process to create a duplicate.

  1. In the Finder, navigate to a folder containing the item you want to duplicate.

    Finder window showing files
  2. Right-click or Control-click the file or folder. A pop-up menu appears that includes a menu item named Copy "[Selected File Name]". For example, if the file you right-clicked is named Yosemite Family Trip, then the pop-up menu contains an item named Copy "Yosemite Family Trip." Select Copy "[file or folder]" from the pop-up menu.

    Path to copy a file in Finder on a Mac
  3. Navigate to any location in the Finder—the same folder, another folder, or a different drive. After you select a location, right-click or Control-click to bring up the Finder's contextual menu and select Paste Item from the menu items.

    Pasting a copied file to a different location

    Make this task easier by picking an empty area in the Finder when you bring up the contextual menu. If you are in List view, you may find it easier to change to icon view to find an empty area within the current view.

  4. The file or folder you previously selected is copied to the new location.

    Pasted file in new location in Finder on Mac

If the new location doesn't have a file or folder with the same name, the pasted item has the same name as the original. If the selected location contains a file or folder with the same name as the original, the item is pasted with the word copy appended to the item name.

You can also force the Finder to append a version number instead of the word Copy to a file or folder.

Use a Version Number When Duplicating a File

There are various ways to append a version number to a file you duplicate. Many applications, such as word processors and image manipulation programs, can be set up to do that automatically. There are also a number of third-party utility apps for the Mac that can add and manage file versions, but you can use the Finder to append a version number to a duplicate.

Working directly in the Finder may cause you to pause and wonder how a version number can be added, short of duplicating a file and then manually renaming it. Fortunately, there's an option in the Finder that performs this task.

Try this simple tip to duplicate a file and append a version number all in one step.

  1. Open a Finder window to the folder that contains items you want to duplicate. Select the items you want to duplicate to a new position in the same folder to highlight them.

    Selection of files in Finder on a Mac
  2. Hold down the Option key and drag the selected files to a new position within the same folder.

    Finder window showing three files being dragged
  3. Release the cursor to copy the files.

    Copied files in Finder with version numbers attached

Your Mac dutifully adds a version number instead of the word copy to the file name. Each time you create a new duplicate, your Mac adds an incremental version number to the copy. The Finder keeps track of the next version number for each file or folder. The Finder also decrements the next version number should you delete or rename a versioned file.

If you're in list view when you create versioned duplicates, you may have trouble dragging the file to an empty place in the list. Try dragging the file until you see a green + (plus) sign appear and then release it.