Let's say I have a particular folder I want to move to a different drive. On that drive is a folder of the same name. Both folders have things inside them.

In Windows, when I move the folder, the things in the destination folder will not be affected, unless they have the same names as things in the folder that's being moved. After the move the destination folder will have everything that was in it before and everything that was in the source folder.

In OSX, moving folders is a dangerous thing. OSX will first erase the the destination folder before the move. So after the move, the destination folder will be an exact copy of the source folder, and everything that was in it before the move will be gone.

How can I move folders in OSX like in Windows? I don't want to lose what's in the destination directory.


This is a new feature in the upcoming OS X Lion:

Merge folders

When you try to combine two folders with the same name, the Finder now offers to merge them into a single folder.


Well you will never get this exact behaviour with a vanilla install of OS X Snow Leopard. It is a serious flaw with Finder that has been discussed for years at forums.macrumors.com.

Ways that you can accomplish this is by opening Terminal and using the following commands:

mv -n -v /current/location/myfolder /other/location/myfolder
cp -R -n ./source-folder/* ./destination-folder/

You could also use ditto. to get more information on these commands and their usage type the following:

$ man mv
$ man cp
$ man ditto

A better solution for what you are looking to accomplish would be a 3rd-party GUI application called Path Finder. Unfortunately it's not free but does give you a 30 day trial and you can at the very least try it and if it does the job it might be worth the $39.95.

  • 3
    DTerm is great for making this painful operation easier. Keeps you from having to open a Terminal window. decimus.net/dterm.php – Stephen Jennings Dec 1 '10 at 4:28
  • 3
    It's worth mentioning that the reason for this odd behavior is because merging bundles (like .app or .pkg files) would be a bad thing, and Finder isn't differentiating between moving a bundle vs. moving a regular folder. It's still bad UI, but at least there's a semi-valid reason for it. – Stephen Jennings Dec 1 '10 at 4:30
  • 4
    Serious flaw? OS X will never overwrite data without prompting first; in this case you'll get a dialog asking you if you'd like to replace the folder. But even without that, I would find folders that merged on their own to be very confusing. This difference makes sense if you consider that Windows started out as an extension of a command-line OS, but the Mac Finder was an entirely new thing designed to be like an actual desktop. Wouldn't it be weird if you put one document on top of another on your desk and all of a sudden they started melding together to become one document? – NReilingh Dec 1 '10 at 5:04
  • 1
    @NReilingh - My point was perhaps not so clear, but my reference has many end-users claiming it is a flaw and go into greater detail then I am willing to debate here. :) – ricbax Dec 1 '10 at 14:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.