Copy or move library files by using Open with Explorer

Managing files and folders can often be easier when you work outside SharePoint, using Open with Explorer. With Open with Explorer (File Explorer), you can copy and move multiple files and folders between folder as you would on your desktop.

SharePoint Open with Explorer uses ActiveX controls, so it's only supported in Internet Explorer. Open with Explorer doesn't work in Windows with Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, or Mozilla FireFox, or on the Mac platform. The ActiveX control is only needed when you're working with files in Windows File Explorer. Once you're done with File Explorer, you can then use any supported browser with SharePoint.

Overview

Software requirements for using the Open with Explorer command

If you experience problems using the Open with Explorer command make sure that pre-requisite software is installed and running on your client computer:

  • Internet Explorer 10.0 or later. In addition, ActiveX controls must be enabled.

  • The Web Client service, which must be running. If you are using Windows Server 2012 or 2016 as the client computer, then you must install the Desktop Experience feature from Server Manager.

Follow these steps to enable the web client service.

  • Press the Windows key + R

  • Type services.msc and press Enter.

  • Scroll the list to find WebClient. You might want to click the Name heading to reverse sort the column..

  • Right-click WebClient, and then click Automatic. If it currently say's Manual (trigger start), you're ok too.

  • At this point, try Open with Explorer in SharePoint. WebClient should automatically start and you'll see Running in the status column.

    If it doesn't start, right-click WebClient, and then click Start.

    Services.msc with WebClient highlighted

  • Not using a browser that supports ActiveX controls.    Open with Explorer works only in Internet Explorer 10 or 11. For Windows 10, Edge is the default, but Internet Explorer 11 is also installed. Open with Explorer does not work with Edge, Chrome, or FireFox. You can use Internet Explorer to do your file transfers, and then go back to using your preferred browser (if not IE).

  • Internet Explorer has ActiveX controls or Add-ons are blocked.    In Internet Explorer 11, press ALT+Ton the keyboard. In the Tools menu if there's a check next to ActiveX Filtering, then press X to turn it off. You can also click Tools, click Safety, and then click ActiveX Filtering.

  • You're using 64-bit version of Internet Explorer.    ActiveX controls are a 32-bit only technology. They don't run in the 64-bit version of Internet Explorer. In Internet Explorer 11, there is only one browser and it automatically switches to 32-bit for ActiveX controls. However, if you're using the 64-bit Internet Explorer 10, switch to the 32-bit version. To check your version, press ALT+H, and then press A for About Internet Explorer.

  • The SharePoint add-ons aren't installed.    In Internet Explorer, click Tools, and then click Manage Add-ons. Depending on the version of SharePoint, you should see one or more of these add-ons installed and enabled when you start Open with Explorer.

    Name

    Publisher

    Status

    SharePoint Export Database Launcher

    Microsoft Corporation

    Enabled

    SharePoint OpenDocuments Class

    Microsoft Corporation

    Enabled

    SharePoint Stssync Handler

    Microsoft Corporation

    Enabled

  • The Windows WebClient isn't running    Windows WebClient provides the support for Windows and the ActiveX control talk to SharePoint libraries. By default, it's on and running in Windows. If it isn't running, you may have problems using Open with Explorer. The WebClient is part of Internet Explorer. If you are using Windows Server 2012 R2 or 2016 as the client computer, then you must install the Desktop Experience feature from Server Manager. To check the WebClient, follow the steps above.

Moving or copying files with File Explorer

Note: Your version history is not copied when you use sync or Open with Explorer. Only the latest or published versions of documents are copied or moved. For more info, see Why doesn't sync or Open with Explorer copy or move my versioning info?.

File Explorer is the Windows file management system you use on the desktop. You can open SharePoint libraries in File Explorer, and move or copy files and folders from your desktop folders to SharePoint. You can also open multiple SharePoint libraries in File Explorer, and copy or move between folders between them.

Note: If you have Check out required enabled, you may need to temporarily disable it to download multiple files. For more info, see Set up a library to require check-out of files.

  1. In SharePoint, open the document library with the file or folders you want to move or copy.

  2. Do one of the following:

    • In SharePoint Online, click the View menu and then click View in File Explorer.

      All documents menu with Open in File Explorer highlighted
    • In SharePoint Server 2016, SharePoint Server 2013, or SharePoint Server 2010, click the Library tab, and then click Open with Explorer.

      SharePoint 2016 Open with Explorer in IE11
    • In SharePoint Server 2007, click Actions Menu image , and then click Open in Windows Explorer.

      The Open in Windows Explorer menu option under Actions

    Note: View in File Explorer, Open with Explorer, and Open in Windows Explorer only work with Internet Explorer 10 or 11.

  3. In addition to opening in File Explorer, SharePoint Online may also open the library in another tab in Classic SharePoint experience. You can ignore or close this library window.

    You may see a pop-up asking if you'd rather sync the library. This is up to you. When you open a library in File Explorer, the folder on your desktop is temporary. If you use sync, you'll get a persistent folder that stays in sync with the document library. For more info, see Get started syncing SharePoint sites with the new OneDrive sync client.

  4. If you get an Internet Explorer Security dialog, click Allow. You can optionally click the Do not show me the warning for this program again checkbox.

  5. Open the destination document folder, and repeat step 2. This can be a different folder or library on the same site, or a library on a different site and site collection.

  6. Now that you have both document libraries open in File Explorer -- the source and the destination-- you can copy or move files and folders between them.

    You can arrange the two windows so you can copy or move between them. You can display both on the screen with these steps:

    • Click the source window, and press the Windows key Windows 10 start button + Left arrow. The window should dock to the left side of the screen.

    • Repeat this with the destination window but press Windows key Windows 10 start button + Right arrow to dock it to the right side of the screen. Both windows should now be visible.

      Placing Explorer folders side by side

    You can also just resize the windows and overlap them.

    Overlapping folders in Windows
  7. Do one of the following:

    • To copy, select the folders and files in the source , right-click, and select Copy, or press Ctrl + C to copy.

      Right click, select copy
    • To move, select the folders and files in the source, right-click and select Cut, or press Ctrl + X to cut.

      Right click and select cut to move a file

      If you're moving files, you can also select and drag the files from one File Explorer window to another, rather than using cut and paste.

    Note: If your library uses versioning, you only get the published or the most current documents. You can't move or copy previous versions. For more info, see Why doesn't sync or Open with Explorer copy or move my versioning info?.

  8. In the destination folder, right-click and select Paste, or press Ctrl + V..

    Right click and select Paste

    Note: If you don't see Paste, return to the source folder, highlight the files and folders you want, right-click and select Cut or Copy.

    copying files between two File Explorer windows
  9. When you've copied or moved all the files you want, close both File Explorer windows. Any file or folder changes you've made are automatically uploaded to SharePoint.

  10. Return to the destination library in SharePoint. If the new files, folders, or changes haven't appeared yet, refresh the page.

    Empty library

    Before copying files

    Library with files copied from file explorer

    After copying files

In addition to using Open With Explorer, you can also sync the library with your desktop. When you sync, you get a persistent copy of the SharePoint library on your desktop. You can save files directly to the synced folder, and they are automatically uploaded in the SharePoint library it's synced to.

You can sync either or both your source and destination libraries and work between them as well. For more info, see Get started syncing SharePoint sites with the new OneDrive sync client.

To learn how to upload files, see Upload a folder or files to a document library.

When you copy or move documents from one library to another, properties that are stored with the file and viewable in the file's Properties dialog box, such as Title, Subject, and Author, are preserved when you copy or move files between existing libraries. However, library-specific information, such as views, settings, and versions are not preserved.

Versioning is part of a SharePoint library. The versions and tracking is stored in the SharePoint data itself, and not in the files. Rather than overwrite older files when you check in a new version, SharePoint stores the older files as well as the newer ones, and differentiates between them with version numbers. The files are still separate, and are tracked in the library, but the versions are only in the SharePoint library.

Versioning storage diagram

Sync and Open with Explorer work with files which contain only the metadata that's needed for that single file, such as modified date or author. When you copy using Open with Explorer, it can only copy or move files and their immediate info. The additional information and other files in SharePoint aren't included.

If you're using SharePoint Online, the Move to command does move the versioning history, as it is working inside the library. Move to retains versioning because only one copy of the file and structure exists. When SharePoint Online moves a file between folders or libraries with Move To, it includes versions and tracking information.

The SharePoint Online Copy to command, however, only copies the latest file. This prevents splitting the history between two locations. You can make updates to either file, but the changes are only reflected on that file.

If you're copying files to keep a backup, and want to preserve the versioning, consider using a SharePoint server based backup rather than manually copying. That way if something happens to your current files, the backup of SharePoint can be retrieved.

You can also preserve library information if you copy a library by using a template with preserve data set. For more info on this, see Manage list templates.

Both sync and Open with Explorer connect a SharePoint library with a folder on your desktop, though there is a difference. Open with Explorer uses a temporary folder that opens in File Explorer. That folder only lasts until you close it and the content is saved to SharePoint. Using Open with Explorer is good method when you just want to do a one time file or folder copy, and don't need an ongoing local folder.

Sync uses the OneDrive for Business sync client to create a more permanent folder that you can use on a daily basis. All content that you put into, edit, or remove either from the library or the desktop folder automatically syncs with the other location. For example, once you sync a library, you can save directly from Word or Excel to the local folder, and everything is automatically uploaded to the SharePoint library. If you're working offline, sync will update the SharePoint library as soon as you're back online.

For more info on sync, see Get started syncing SharePoint sites with the new OneDrive sync client.

More info

Get started syncing SharePoint sites with the new OneDrive sync client

Upload a folder or files to a document library

Set up a library to require check-out of files

Backup a SharePoint server search on TechNet

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Updated on April 18, 2017.

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