How to Copy, Cut, and Paste on a Windows PC

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Copying, cutting and pasting are three basic things that every Windows user should know by heart. The concepts behind them apply to almost every application you will ever use. Here’s how they work.

Understanding the clipboard

When you copy or cut something (such as a text block, image, or link), Windows temporarily stores the data in a special memory location called the Clipboard. Think of it as a temporary enclosure. When you paste the information that you copied, Windows retrieves the contents of the Clipboard and places them where you want them.

Typically, the contents of the Clipboard will reset when you restart your PC, although it is possible to pin items to clipboard in Windows 10 using an opt-in feature called Clipboard history. Then you can quickly call them back as many times as you want by pressing the Windows + V keyboard shortcut.

In Windows 10, you can even sync your clipboard between devices using the cloud. But it is an optional parameter that you must activate in the system settings.

RELATED: How to enable and use clipboard history on Windows 10

The difference between copying and cutting

When you copy something, Windows creates a copy of the information you want on the Clipboard and also leaves it in its original location. On the other hand, when you perform the cutting operation, Windows copies the information to the Clipboard but also deletes the information from the original location.

This means that you usually use the copy to duplicate information and cut it to move information from one location to another. These basic concepts apply to almost all applications. So let’s see the different ways to copy, cut and paste in Windows.

How to copy, cut and paste using keyboard shortcuts

Microsoft Cut, Paste and Copy IconsMicrosoft

It is important to know the three basic keyboard shortcuts for Copy, Cut and Paste that have been included in Windows for decades. Microsoft has borrowed these shortcuts from the Mac, which still uses them with the Mac’s special command key instead of Ctrl.

Copy: After selecting one or more items using your mouse or keyboard, press Ctrl + C. The information will be copied to the clipboard.
Cut: After selecting one or more items, press Ctrl + X, and the information will be copied to the clipboard and deleted from the original location.
Dough: Select a destination by clicking on an area (or placing your cursor where you want the information to go), then press Ctrl + V.

These shortcuts now work in Windows 10 command prompt, as well.

Alternative keyboard shortcuts for copying, cutting and pasting

If you need to copy to a program that interprets Ctrl + C as a break character (such as a terminal emulator), you can use Ctrl + Insert instead. To cut, use Shift + Delete. To paste, press Shift + Insert. These shortcuts are not commonly used today, but they are still almost universally recognized in Windows.

How to copy, cut and paste using right click

In many programs, you can copy, cut and paste using the right button of your mouse. First, select an item from a document (such as a web page), then right-click and you will likely see a context menu that includes Copy or Cut commands.

Right-click copy in Google Chrome for Windows 10

You can then right-click in a destination document and select Paste to place the contents of the Clipboard in this location.

The same principle works in file explorer and on your desktop. Select a file, folder or group of files that you want to copy or cut. Right-click on the files and you will see a pop-up popup menu. Select “Copy” if you want to duplicate the file elsewhere. Select “Cut” if you want to move the file to another location.

Select Cut or Copy from the context menu

Then navigate to the new location and right-click on the location where you want to place the files. The destination right click can be inside a folder window, on the desktop, a drive on your computer, or even directly on a folder icon itself.

Select “Paste” from the context menu that appears.

Select Paste from the Right Click menu

The files you just cut or copied will appear in the new location. Very useful!

How to copy, cut and paste using application menus

You can also copy, cut and paste by selecting menu items with a mouse or touch screen. In programs with Ribbon style interface, you will usually see a notepad or an edit block containing Copy, Cut and Paste buttons.

Copy, cut and paste into a typical Windows ribbon interface

In programs with compressed or hamburger menus (like Chrome and Firefox), you can often find the Copy / Cut / Paste functions in a section called Edit.

Copy, cut and paste in the Chrome menu

In addition, many older Windows programs include a series of drop-down menus at the top of the application window. Among them, you will often find a menu called Edit (which you can often call by pressing Alt + E). In this menu you can usually find Copy, Cut and Paste commands.

How to empty your clipboard

To clear the contents of your clipboard, just copy something new. Simply copying a word to a web page or document will replace the contents of the clipboard with what you just copied. You may want to do this after copying something sensitive like a password or credit card number, making sure you don’t accidentally paste it into another application.

If you want clear your history data from the clipboard, you can manually delete it yourself. Open System Settings, then go to System> Clipboard. Find the section called “Clear data from clipboard” and click the “Clear” button.

You can also create a custom shortcut which will erase your Windows clipboard.

Clearing data from the clipboard in Windows 10 settings

RELATED: How to clear your clipboard history on Windows 10

Now that you know more about Copy, Cut and Paste, we hope you have fun duplicating and moving your data with ease.

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