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When you drag and drop a file in Mac's Finder, it moves the file by default. To copy the file(s) you must hold down the opt-key while you perform the action.

I found myself in a situation where I have to copy a lot of files, and it doesn't feel very "superuser" having to hold the opt-key down for the whole time. Hence, my question is if I can change the default drag and drop behavior to copy instead of move?

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FYI, you only need to hold the Option key down when you drop the set of files that you're dragging. As soon as the copy starts you can let go. And you can Shift-click and Cmd-click to select multiple files to drag, so you shouldn't usually have to do a lot of separate drags. Use outline list view with the triangles toggled open and then Cmd-click all the different files you need and copy them at once. – Spiff Aug 16 '11 at 21:12
Doesn't apply to my situation. Thank you though, for sharing this utterly basic information with us. – 0sh Aug 20 '11 at 9:25

The default to move between drives is to copy, so if you have a sufficiently large external disk (or you make a sufficiently large disk image), you can copy in and out without holding option.

Otherwise, no. I have never heard of a way of changing that default, as it has been the same since the Classic Mac OS in the nineties.

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Good to know, but unfortunately this doesn't help me. I realize this can't be done anywhere in the preferences - but perhaps there is something one could do with defaults write ...? – 0sh Aug 16 '11 at 16:56
I've not heard of any such flag, and I suspect that the authors of the Finder have been using it this way for so long that they wouldn't think to put in an option. – CajunLuke Aug 16 '11 at 17:33

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