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Is there a difference between dragging and dropping a file vs. copying and pasting in Windows Explorer? I read on a forum that dragging is more reliable than copying. Is this true? Can copying create a file that is not bit-identical to the original?

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The only reliability I can see is the question of knowing reliably where you are going to drop the file. If your hands are steady, they are equivalent. If you have difficulty with releasing the mouse button without moving the mouse, you might occasionally drag and drop to a neighboring folder.... when that happens, remember that Ctrl+Z will undo the file move. –  RBerteig Mar 2 '11 at 10:12
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4 Answers

There is no difference other than you have more options when you drag a file.

Holding

  • Shift - force moves the file
  • Control - force copies the file
  • Alt - creates a shortcut to the original file

You can also drag using the Right Mouse button. This provides a menu after dropping giving you these options as well.

If you have installed custom handlers such as TeraCopy or NTFS Junction makers.

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And as @jamason1983 says the Default action is different. (But can be forced via the Right click drag or pressing a Modifier Key - Shift, Ctrl, Alt)

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NTFS Junction maker displayed is "Link Shell Extension": schinagl.priv.at/nt/hardlinkshellext/hardlinkshellext.html –  modosansreves May 25 '12 at 21:25
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Reliabilty has nothing do do with it. Dragging and dropping from one folder to another on the same logical partition (both folders reside on lets say the C:\ drive) is actualy a file move not a file copy, but when dragging and dropping a file from a folder in one logical partition to another folder on a diffrent logical partition (moving a file from C:\ => D:) drag and drop will perform a file copy proccess. while copying and pasting will alwyes be a copy and past proccess.

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Drag and drop will move only security rights from original file. But in copy and paste- system will copy that file and paste on location and it will be copy all security rights from uper lavel and add in new file....

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In Vista and 7, files moved on the same partition will inherit the ACLs of their new parent directory if they were previously configured to inherit them from their old parent directory. This is a change in behavior from XP and older OSes. –  afrazier Nov 4 '11 at 2:34
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Can copying create a file that is not bit-identical to the original?

Yes.

I'm currently trying to investigate such a problem. However, I don't know if there is a difference between drag/drop and copy/paste.

Apparently, there are differences between different copy programs. I experienced corrupted copies with drag/drop in Windows Explorer, but not with another file manager (Total Commander). Have yet to test copy, xcopy and others. My problem is hardware related, but yes, Windows can, in some particular circumstances create non-identical copies, without realizing it and without showing an error.

I would have thought that any copy program would eventually end up using the same Windows internal copy routine, but apparently not. Still, it would be surprising if the same program (Windows Explorer) used 2 different copy routines depending on how the copy was initiated.

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