Drag & Drop Not Working in Mac OS X? Simple Troubleshooting Tips
Drag and drop is an essential feature on the Mac that is used frequently for interactions in the OS X Finder and throughout other applications, so obviously if drag and drop stops working seemingly out of the blue, you’ll want to resolve that fairly quickly. While this is a somewhat rare issue, a failure of drawing and dropping capabilities does happen frequently enough that we get questions about it, and it’s thereby worth covering. You’ll find that if you can’t drag and drop at all, troubleshooting the issue is the same regardless of whether you use a trackpad or mouse with a Mac, so read on to resolve the issue.
For best results you’ll probably want to try these in order, they’re arranged in order of simplicity to slightly more complex.
WAIT! First, Check the Hardware for Gunk & Grime!
Before we get started with any of the software based troubleshooting tips, check to see if there is any material, gunk, or grime buildup on the surface of the trackpad, or in the tracking surface of the mouse, and in the buttons. If there is, clean that off first, as physical obstructions can definitely cause weird behavior with input interfaces. If you’ve done that and you’re certain it’s not the cause of an inability to drag and drop, carry on with the tips below.
1: Forcibly Restart the OS X Finder
If drag and drop is failing in file system interactions, often the easiest solution is to simplyrestarting the Finder, which is quite easy:
- Hit Command+Option+Escape to bring up the “Force Quit” menu
- Choose “Finder” from the list and click on ‘Relaunch’ to quit and re-open the Finder app
- Close the Force Quit menu
Try using drag and drop again, does it work? It should work fine now, but if it doesn’t we have a few other troubleshooting trick…
2: Reboot the Computer
Rebooting often works to resolve drag and drop issues when restarting the Finder has failed. This is particularly true if you’re one of us who basically never reboots their Mac.
- Go to the Apple menu and choose “Restart”
- When the Mac boots up again, try to use drag and drop as usual
Drag and drop working in Mac OS X now? Great! If not… well we have yet another solution, so fear not!
3: Trash Related plist Files & Reboot
If you have already forced the Finder to relaunch and rebooted the Mac but you’re still experiencing issues with dragging and dropping, it’s quite likely the problem comes down to a preference file. Thus, we’ll trash the preferences and start anew, which is an effective technique for troubleshooting strange behavior for a Mac mouse and trackpad, and then reboot the Mac again.
You’ll be deleting some user level preference files here, it’s a good idea to complete a back up of the Mac first just in case you break something:
- From the OS X Finder, hit Command+Shift+G to bring up the ever useful “Go To Folder” screen, specifying ~/Library/Preferences/ as the destination and click Go
- Locate the following plist file(s) from the user Library Preferences folder:
- Delete those preference files and reboot the Mac again
Once again, try using drag and drop where you were experiencing the original failures in OS X, it should work just fine at this point.
Keep in mind that if you trash preference files you will lose any customizations you had set for those devices, so in this case you may lose a customization to tracking speed, force touch, mouse clicks, and whatever else you adjusted for a mouse or trackpad.
Did this work for you? Do you have another solution or fix for when drag and drop stops working in Mac OS X? Let us know in the comments!