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 Drag and Drop not Working on Mac, How to Fix?

Updated on Friday, June 21, 2024

iBoysoft author Anna Yuan

Written by

Anna Yuan
Professional tech editor

Approved by

Jessica Shee


Summary: This post includes a comprehensive guide about how to fix drag and drop not working on the Mac issue and common frequently asked questions about it.

drag and drop not working on Mac

Using the drag and drop feature on Mac computers has become a part of our daily life. This feature aids interaction in the Mac Finder and other applications. However, if drag and drop not working on your Mac, you have to seek a solution to it because of its essence to your Mac's functionality.

Though drag and drop stopping functioning on your Mac is not a regular problem, certain unlucky macOS users have been encountered this terrible situation indeed. And this post will help you find out why you can't drag and drop files or photos on Mac as well as give a guide on how to fix Mac drag and drop not working issue.

Basic check before fixing Mac drag and drop not working

Before we go any further on fixing the drag and drop not working issue, having some basic check first is necessary.

  • Check the connection between your trackpad or mouse with your Mac. If you are using a Bluetooth trackpad or mouse, try to switch it off and then switch it back on. That's to fix the Apple mouse not working issue.
  • Check the surface of the trackpad to see if there is dirt or gunk on it. Also, check the tracking surface of the mouse. Clean any dirt and sticky material if there is as it is a physical obstruction to cause abnormal behavior with input interfaces.
  • Check if your drag-and-drop not working problem happens after you've changed something on your Mac, like a system update, new hardware, or a new application. If so, you can use a Time Machine snapshot to roll back your Mac to before that change was made.

If the drag and drop not working issue still exists on your Mac, then try the solutions below.

Mac drag and drop not working: Restart the Finder app

Have you noticed if drag and drop not working on Mac between some apps but works fine with others or does it happen everywhere? When only certain applications don't work correctly with drag-and-drop, you should look for solutions related to the specific software.

But when drag and drop not working issue happens everywhere on Mac, it seems to be a system-level issue. Then you can force quit the Finder utility on Mac to fix it. And restarting Finder is easy to handle:

  1. Press Command + Option + Esc key combo.
  2. In the Force Quit Applications list, select Finder.
  3. Click the Relaunch button. 
    force quit Finder

Now just wait a second and Finder should restart automatically. If you're lucky enough, the drag and drop issue should be resolved now.

Drag and drop not working on Mac: Restart your Mac

If restarting the Finder is useless for solving the drag and drop not working problems, and you can't move items on Mac desktop and anywhere else, then restart your Mac completely by simply clicking the Apple logo, then select Restart from the Apple Menu and check the drop and drag.

Drag and drop not working on Mac: Reset your Trackpad settings

Sometimes the magic trackpad on MacBook may go out of whack for no reason. And this also can cause drag and drop not to work on your Mac. So check its sensitivity and other settings, taking them back to default or more sensible levels if something seems out of whack.

To open Trackpad, hold Command + Space keys to launch Spotlight Search. Then, type trackpad and hit the Return key. If Spotlight not working, just click Apple logo, then select System Preference > Trackpad.

And there is another option named Force Click and Haptic Feedback in Trackpad settings, this sometimes interferes with some apps and features on your Mac device, including Drag and Drop. So you need to disable/uncheck the settings for Force click and haptic feedback as well.

reset trackpad settings

If drag and drop still not working on Mac, try to reset Trackpad dragging options in Accessibility.

  1. Open Apple Menu and Select System Preferences.
  2. This time select Accessibility and click on Pointer Control. If you are on an older version of macOS, click Mouse & Trackpad.
  3. Click Trackpad Options and check to Enable dragging and select three-finger drag and click OK. Now check the drag and drop again. (Check this guide to learn the steps on macOS Ventura or earlier: How to Enable Three Finger Drag on Mac?)
    reset trackpad options

Mac drag and drop not working: Delete plist files

If none of the above-mentioned solutions work, then you may have to try the following technical fix. macOS uses the plist files to store your preferences for various aspects of the Mac, including mouse and trackpad. So to fix drag and drop not working on the Mac issue, you should delete those files related to the mouse and trackpad to force macOS to rebuild and reset the preference to default.

 Note: You'd better make a Time Machine backup of your Mac before deleting plist files to ensure that you can always undo things if something goes wrong.

  1. First, launch Finder and then hit Command + Shift + G key combinations to display the "Go to the folder" screen. Then type in "~/Library/Preference/" and click Go.
    Preference plist files
  2. Then navigate to Preferences folder, locate the plist files below: 
    delete trackpad plist files on Mac
  3. Delete these files, reboot your Mac, and check whether drag and drop now work as intended.

Mac drag and drop not working: Update macOS

Some macOS bugs may also lead to various problems, including Apple Mouse not scrolling issue or drag and drop not working problem. For example, drag and drop not working on Sierra or Big Sur is always hotly discussed on some forums.

To fix this problem, you may have to download and update macOS since macOS updates improve the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac, and updating Mac might also resolve the drag and drop issue.

Hope one of the aforementioned methods helps you solve the drag and drop not working problem. Ensure to follow any of the steps or procedures accordingly and try the solutions one after the other when one doesn't work. If unfortunately, none of the solutions works, you may have to send your Mac to a local Apple store for repair.

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