Usually, if you hold down command while dragging a file (or folder), the Finder will move it rather than copying. This works if you want to quickly move something between volumes (the default is to copy.) However, if you're dragging from a folder you can't write to, command has no effect.

Is there a way to make the Finder always try to move something if you hold down command, or an equally fast way use the Finder to move an item out of a read-only folder?

1 Answer 1


No, this is an implicit feature of the permissions system. Moving a file out of a folder is effectively deleting it from that folder, which is a write operation, by the permission system's logic, hence it's forbidden if you don't have write permissions.

Read-only access is typically used in situations where users need to access files, but shouldn't be allowed to modify or delete any. Being allowed to move files (potentially to locations where other users couldn't access them) would break that paradigm.

If you want to move that file, you could do so from the Terminal, using sudo mv file destination (sudo means perform the command as the super-user, i.e. a user that has write permissions), or you can change the folder's permissions from the Get Info window (in the right-click menu, file menu, or press ⌘I).

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    Then again, you can copy files to folders you don't have access to—the Finder will tell you you don't have access, but will give you an Authenticate option. IIRC, you used to be able to authenticate in this way and override the permissions when moving items to folders you don't have access to. I know about sudo; I was hoping for a hack or a hidden preference—something that would enable me to use the Finder to move things in this context. It's faster when long paths are involved and I happen to have source and destination open already. :) Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 1:37
  • Yes, I'm not quite sure on the rationale behind that. You could always file it as a bug/feature request on <bugreport.apple.com> and see what turns up. Checking the Finder defaults plist doesn't turn up anything pertinent to this. The best I can suggest is that you can always drag and drop the files into Terminal and it will insert the proper paths for you.
    – robmathers
    Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 2:05
  • Personally, I prefer zsh's tabcomplete ;) But okay. Anyway, I'll submit an enhancement request… Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 2:07
  • Blast, missed the edit window. Oh well. Proper link for posterity: bugreport.apple.com
    – robmathers
    Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 2:12

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