This is started to be really annoying to me

If you have an original folder with 2 files and you copy something into it's parent folder where the folder name is the same, and, let's imagine you are copying 3 files and at the end you want to end up with 5 files, let's make an example, like:



Stuff you want to copy:


When you copy it into ~/User/abc/Documents/ you get this:

alt text

There is no option to COPY / MERGE ! if you press REPLACE you will end up with:


instead of


What is going on here? How can I simple merge the stuff I want with the existing one. Like Transmit asks

alt text

  • 2
    +1. Would love to know why. Of note this has been standard practice with Finder since the early 90s if not all the way back. cp on the command line merges just fine.
    – Chealion
    Sep 12, 2010 at 20:13
  • it's pretty sad isn't it? such a simple thing that can cause so many headaches... including destroyed data!!! I think the question is a litte too open-ended though. Maybe change it to something like "how can I copy with merge rather than replace?" Sep 12, 2010 at 21:28
  • Don't drag the folder—instead, drag just the files. That should give you the results you want.
    – Dori
    Sep 13, 2010 at 1:41
  • 5
    In general I think of this as a feature rather than a flaw. It seems very strange to me to expect that two folders will be merged seamlessly. As a programmer, I often want to remove old/obsolete files, and a merge would not do that.
    – Michael H.
    Sep 13, 2010 at 16:07
  • 2
    Yes, it's a feature. The reason I could think of is that some directories are actually containers (.app, .bundle, .kext) and "merging" by default would be catastrophic.
    – mspasov
    Mar 30, 2011 at 21:00

4 Answers 4


We (the OS X users) have been asking ourselves that question since the age of dawn.

Very well phrased question to a sad response: OS X doesn’t do that and can’t do it without 3rd party tools.

Of the 3rd party alternatives there are a lot, I’ll just go ahead and recommend what I think it’s the best alternative to Finder, but… your mileage may vary.

Path Finder by CocoaTech is not a free alternative (far from it) but it definitively addresses most of Finder shortcomings and adds a lot of nice things for the same price.

If you feel more adventurous, you can go ahead and see different alternatives and their prices right here.

Update: Back in September 2010 TotalFinder didn't exist, but it's a very nice add-on that brings Tabs, Cut, Folder Reorder, etc. to the Finder. Not free, but way smaller than Path Finder if that's what you're looking for.

Let’s hope that 10.7 brings a new paradigm where questions like these are not relevant anymore :)

  • Path Finder is really great, thank you for point it out, to bad thought that Apple is focus to much on mobile (witch is great, dont understand me wrong) and leave us desktop users with this kind of behavior :(
    – balexandre
    Sep 14, 2010 at 9:44

I believe it's because of Mac OS X way of handling certain packages.

For instance, an application. To the user, it's just an .app file, you double click it and it opens the app.
But really, it's a folder with .app extension, with a hierarchy like this:

safari app mac-ox-x

You can see that for yourselves by righ-clicking the app and choosing "Show Package Content".

The only reason I see for Apple not to allow merge on folder is that they didn't want to confuse the user. Like asking to merge when all you want is updating an application.
And since it's a standard way to represent packages on a Mac OS X system, they didn't bother trying to differentiate between packages and simple folders.

  • A valid reason, but other “exceptions” like that didn’t stop apple from ‘hardcoding’ the behavior into the Finder, so I don’t see how they couldn’t simply replace App bundles “behind the scenes”. Sep 14, 2010 at 21:42
  • I agree that Apple didn't want to confuse users, but I think the package argument is irrelevant... Folders and Packages are already handled differently. In fact a package is not the same as a folder. Both are directories, but they packages and folders are treated differently in the GUI.
    – Josh
    Dec 8, 2010 at 19:47

Most probably too late for all your replaced files, but copy the folder (Option ⌥ + C) and then paste the items (Option ⌥ + V), it will then ask to merge


Whip out your trusty terminal and and do:

prompt>cp -R locale ~/User/abc/Documents/

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