How to Fix Drag and Drop Not Working on Mac

Start moving files on your Mac again with these 15 quick fixes

Drag and drop not working properly on your Mac? This guide will walk you through a series of solutions to fix your Mac’s cursor problems whether you’re experiencing them when using your trackpad or mouse.

Why Is My Click and Drag Not Working Mac?

A Mac’s drag and drop function not working properly can be caused by the incorrect settings being selected or by using an out-of-date operating system, software, or firmware. Mouse and trackpad preferences can also often cause confusion as there are a number of options users can select to customize how an item is selected and moved via a Mac’s mouse cursor.

How to Fix Drag and Drop on a Mac

Here’s all of the best ways to get drag and drop working properly on your Mac. It’s best to work through this list in the order presented as the easiest tips are listed first while the more complex fixes are placed at the bottom.

  1. Try a different trackpad finger combination. Some users find it easier to use a thumb to select an item and an index finger to drag and drop it. Others use both their left and right index fingers.

  2. Restart your Mac. Restarting your computer can fix a variety of problems.

  3. Update your Mac's software. Your Mac may need a software or firmware update to fix some bugs associated with your mouse or trackpad.

  4. Clean your Mac’s trackpad and mouse. Some dirt or oils may be interfering with the mouse’s functionality.

  5. Try a different surface. A firm, non-reflective surface usually works best for mouse gestures.

  6. Change or charge your mouse’s battery. A flat battery can affect how well a mouse works with a Mac.

  7. Switch USB ports. If you have the option, try connecting your mouse to a different USB port to see if this fixes the problem.

  8. Check your multi-button mouse’s settings. If you’re using a multi-button mouse, you may need to adjust its settings to get it to drag and drop properly on your Mac.

  9. Adjust the cursor and click speed. If you’re having trouble with moving the mouse cursor and clicking on files and icons, try changing the speed settings to suit your own personal style.

  10. Change your Mac’s left-click settings. You can adjust the left-click settings for both your Mac’s trackpad and your mouse to make it easier to drag and drop content.

  11. Change your right-click settings on your Mac. Similar to the above tip, you can also change the right-click settings on your Mac to suit your own style and workflow. If the default mouse settings don’t work for you, choose an option that does.

  12. Enable three finger drag. Select Apple > System Preferences > Accessibility > Pointer Control > Trackpad Options > Enable dragging and then select three finger drag. This will let you drag and drop on your Mac by tapping three fingers at once on the trackpad. Some people find this easier than the single finger default.

  13. Disable Force Click and haptic feedback. Select Apple > System Preferences > Trackpad and uncheck the box next to Force Click and haptic feedback. Some people find drag and drop easier with this setting disabled.

  14. Refresh the Mac’s mouse and trackpad files. Back up your Mac and then select Finder > Go > Go to Folder, type ~/Library, select Go, and then delete the following six files. 

    • com.apple.AppleMultitouchMouse.plist
    • com.apple.driver.AppleBluetoothMultitouch.mouse.plist
    • com.apple.driver.AppleHIDMouse.plist 
    • com.apple.AppleMultitouchTrackpad.plist
    • com.apple.preference.trackpad.plist
    • com.apple.finder.plist 

    When done, restart your Mac. This process will refresh the above files by recreating them.

  15. Visit an Apple Store. If none of the above fixes worked, it may be worth heading into an Apple Store and asking an employee for advice.

How Do I Enable Drag and Drop on a Mac?

Drag and drop is a feature which allows you to move files from one location to another on a Mac computer. This functionality is enabled by default due to it being a common function of mouse and trackpad usage so you shouldn’t need to enable it.

To drag and drop on a Mac, click on an item and then drag your finger on the trackpad, or move your mouse, to move the file. Release your finger to place the file in its new location.

Why Can’t I Drag and Drop Files on My Mac with Universal Control?

Apple’s Universal Control feature is a form of drag and drop that lets you use a single keyboard and mouse with up to three Apple devices. Once connected, Universal Control can be used to seamlessly move a single mouse cursor from one screen to the other and even drag and drop files between connected devices. 

If you’re having trouble getting Apple’s Universal Control drag and drop feature to work properly, make sure your devices are running at least either the macOS Monterey or iPadOS 15 operating system and is at least one of the following.

  • iPad Pro
  • iPad Air (3rd generation)
  • iPad (6th generation)
  • iPad mini (5th generation)
  • MacBook Pro (2016)
  • MacBook (2016)
  • MacBook Air (2018)
  • iMac (2017)
  • iMac (5K Retina 27-inch, late-2015)
  • Mac mini (2018)
  • iMac Pro
  • Mac Pro 2019

Any Mac or iPad that matches, or is newer than, the models in the above list should support Universal Control drag and drop.

FAQ
  • How do I drag and drop multiple files on my Mac?

    Press Shift while selecting multiple files on your Mac located next to each other or Command while clicking files that aren't close together. Another option is to use the Command+A keyboard combination to select all files in a folder. Then use your mouse or trackpad to select and drag the files to a new location.

  • How do I drag and drop on a Mac trackpad?

    To drag and drop on a Mac using the trackpad, click or tap to select an item > press and hold the trackpad while moving the selection > and let go of the trackpad to reposition the file or files. If you want to change trackpad dragging behavior by turning drag lock on or off, visit System Preferences > Accessibility > Pointer Control > Mouse & Trackpad > Trackpad Options. Check the box beside Enable dragging and choose with drag lock or without drag lock from the drop-down menu.

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