Copy Paste Not Working on Mac? Here’s How to Fix a Stuck Clipboard

Feb 2, 2018 - 50 Comments

Fix copy and paste not working with a Mac keyboard

Using copy and paste is a routine part of most peoples Mac workflow, so if suddenly the Copy and Paste feature stops working or the clipboard appears stuck, you can imagine why that’s annoying.

Don’t stress out, most issues with nonfunctional clipboards and copy and paste on the Mac can be resolved with a series of fairly simple troubleshooting steps.

These tricks work the same on all versions of macOS and Mac OS X, they work by targeting the clipboard daemon and forcing it to relaunch. This resolves nearly all instances of a stuck clipboard or other issues where copy and paste stop working. We’ll show you two different approaches to this, one using Activity Monitor and another using the command line.

How to Fix Copy & Paste Not Working, Stuck Clipboard on Mac OS

One way to force the Clipboard to relaunch itself in Mac OS via Activity Monitor:

  1. Quit out of the Mac app(s) where copy/paste are not working as expected
  2. Open “Activity Monitor” application, it is found within the /Applications/Utilities/ folder or you can hit Command+Spacebar and type Activity Monitor to launch it via Spotlight
  3. In the Search box of Activity Monitor, type “pboard”
  4. Fix a stuck clipboard on Mac to remedy copy paste issues

  5. Click on the ‘pboard’ process and then click the (X) in the Activity Monitor tool bar, then click on “Force Quit” button
  6. How to fix a stuck Mac clipboard

  7. Exit Activity Monitor

Open a Mac app again where copy and paste was not working as expected, and try using the copy and paste commands again and it should work as expected.

If the commands are not working, next try using the “Edit” menu approach of manually selecting Copy and Paste. If that approach works, it suggests something is going on with the keyboard rather than the clipboard. Sometimes that can mean Mouse Keys is enabled, or that some other app is conflicting with the standard keyboard shortcuts.

If for whatever reason copy and paste is still not working after this trick, go ahead and restart the Mac by going too the  Apple menu and choosing Restart. Restarting the Mac can often resolve issues like this, including some issues where Universal Clipboard may suddenly stop responding as expected, but obviously if you can remedy the problem without rebooting the Mac then that is preferable to most users.

Fix Stuck Mac Clipboard via Terminal

If you prefer to use the Terminal to remedy the problem, do the following:

  1. Open the Terminal application, found in /Applications/Utilities/
  2. Type the following command exactly:
  3. killall pboard

  4. Hit Return

This will terminate and relaunch the pboard process, which is the clipboard daemon for Mac OS. If you’re savvy with the command line you can immediate test if the clipboard is working as expected with pbcopy and pbpaste, the command line tools that work with the clipboard on the Mac.

Again if this approach doesn’t work, just reboot the Mac.

If you know of another approach to resolving copy and paste problems in Mac OS and Mac OS X, share them with us in the comments below.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Chris Quirk says:

    Or you could just reboot…

  2. Becky Lewis says:

    rebooting not worked. nor have any any of the fixes. any other ideas?

  3. Bob Hass says:

    I believe your tip to get clipboard functioning again worked partially. However, I still cannot paste from any docs to my GMail email program. It suddenly stopped working.

    I use:

    iMac, OS 10.11.6, El Capitan (do not want to update to Sierra)
    Safari 11.0.3

    Any suggestions?

  4. Lucy says:

    Copy & Paste not working for me after updates this morning. Have tried rebooting, Force quitting the pboard from Activity Monitor and from Terminal. Still no luck.

  5. Pascal says:

    Run this command in terminal and reboot.

    sudo update_dyld_shared_cache

    This fixes the problem.

  6. May says:

    Did what Pascal said, but with restarting it seems to be frozen…staring at Apple logo for 40 minutes now!!!!

  7. Tb says:

    I entered my password after the sudo and it just does nothing

    • Romeo says:

      Follow the instructions for fixing the stuck clipboard, you have to hit the RETURN key after entering your command, password, or anything else at the command line. That’s why the return key is also called the “enter” key, it “enters” the command into the computer.

      If you are not familiar with the command line, don’t use it, it is aimed at advanced users with understanding of the more complex operations of a computer.

      • Elena says:

        I am doing the sudo command. After entering it, the computer is asking for a password. I have entered it and it is saying Sorry, Try again. Thoughts?

  8. Matt Rock says:

    Force quitting pboard in Activity Monitor worked for me. Thank you!

  9. Jake says:

    Pascal’s solution did not work for me, nor did any of the solutions above. Any other suggestions?

  10. Kevin says:

    I still have a non-functioning clipboard. Last night’s update killed it.

  11. christy says:

    The force quit pboard in Activity Monitor works but this problem happens at least 2x a week. It is ridiculous that you would have to keep doing this all the time just to use the computer. :(

    • AJ says:

      Exactly, although this happens to me 3-5 times a day. Maybe because I copy HTML code all day long? At any rate, Apple needs to fix this now.

      • RG says:

        I’m with both of you – this is extremely frustrating. Like AJ, I copy/paste code, text, etc. all day and I have to keep Activity Monitor open in the corner of my screen so I can force quit at least 10+ times a day.

  12. Michael says:

    Are you sure Mouse Keys can affect the clipboard’s correctness?

    Thank you.

  13. Lucas says:

    Works perfectly, thank you!

  14. Lucas says:

    It works perfectly, thank you!

  15. James says:

    “pboard” force quit worked. Many thanks

  16. Peter says:

    Thank you so much the sudo command works for me.

  17. Les Coles says:

    I’m a writer and editor, so you can guess how much I use the copy-and-paste function. Force quitting “pboard” solved what was becoming an exasperating probem for me.

  18. Deb says:

    Thank you!

  19. Federico says:

    Thanks! been stuck for a few days with this!

  20. Linda says:

    Thank you

  21. JC says:

    I’ve had the same problem when copying code in Dreamweaver and pasting into constant Contact in Chrome.

    I believe the issue may have appeared when I upgraded my mid 2011 iMac to High Sierra, but I can’t be sure.

    Interestingly, when copying from Dreamweaver and pasting into Text Edit, it still worked, yet when pasting into Chrome it pasted old clipboard material.

    I then tried the pboard command, and indeed it works for me (so thank you OSX Daily!).

    But, like others, I have to do this frequently. What is happening and why is it happening? Is there not a permanent fix….Apple?

    • JC says:

      just to clarify above, I typed pboard into the Activity Monitor and ‘force quit’ the process. I didn’t bother shutting down Chrome after that. The copy/paste then worked (until later when it didn’t again).

  22. Simon says:

    I have the same copy and paste problem but only in two particular Numbers files. A new file is fine, other apps are fine. Deleteing the pboard preference didnt work.
    These two files also often refuse to open:

    [“file name” can’t be opened for some reason.
    To open this file, restore it to a previous version.]

    Restoring it to a previous version still leaves the copy/paste functions inoperative. Other key shortcuts such as cmd-x & cmd-z seem to work as expected. Other apps work fine.

    OSX 10.11.6 on iMac 20-inch early 2009, and another similar machine.

    • laptopleon says:

      I have *exactly* the same problems.

      Tried deleting and reinstalling Numbers and did a re-install of OS X, but it didn’t help.

    • laptopleon says:

      OK, I had exactly this problem and I found a fix. It’s not the preferences or the OS, it’s the files itself that are corrupted, even though the same files work fine on my 10.12 (!) they don’t on my Mac Pro 2008 with 10.11.

      Here’s the fix: Put the .numbers file back from the time machine / other backup if they won’t open or just open them on a 10.12 Mac. Export as Number ’09 file. Close the file. The exported file will open and edit without a problem. Numbers asks if you want to convert it to a newer version, just click OK.

  23. Jeru says:

    It works… I usually don’t write.. but I want to say thank you!!
    It was annoying but know, it works! I won’t waste more time :D

  24. mj says:

    thank you!!!

  25. kim says:

    THANK YOU. Super helpful.

  26. A Larkin says:

    My copy and paste is pasting 5 copies of everything I paste – I’ve tried your excellent suggestions (thank you!) and using the Paste feature of the program from its menu does not cause the problem. Still, this is the only keyboard I have! would it just start out of nowhere? any suggestions?
    Thank you!

  27. Heidi says:

    Thank you!

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