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Copy And Paste Not Working On Mac, Get 7 Quick Solutions!

Updated on Thursday, May 16, 2024

iBoysoft author Anna Yuan

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Anna Yuan
Professional tech editor

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Jessica Shee

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Mac Copy And Paste Not Working, Why & How to Fix - 7 Ways

You use copy and paste on your Mac all the time. When Mac won't copy and paste or display the "Sorry, no manipulations with clipboard allowed" error message, your workflow is interrupted and productivity takes a hit. When you encounter copy and paste not working on Mac, you can't paste images to a text document or can't paste commands to a Terminal screen, forcing you to type everything manually.

To help you regain this essential functionality, we've tested and identified 7 effective methods to address the issue of copy and paste not working on your Mac computer. Let's explore these solutions to keep your productivity on track.

copy and paste not working on Mac

Why is my copy and paste not working on Mac?

Before delving into solutions to restore the normal functioning of the copy and paste feature, let's take a moment to understand why the Mac copy-paste is not working.

To know the reason why the copy and paste feature on your Mac stops functioning, you need to know how it works on your Mac behind the scenes. All the data you copy like text, files, folders, or images on your Mac are stored in a special buffer space called a clipboard.

The clipboard is a piece of software integrated into the macOS package. When the clipboard malfunctions, normal copy and paste operations become impossible on your Mac or MacBook.

Possible reasons for the Mac clipboard not working:

  • Bugs and conflicts in the macOS system prevent the clipboard from loading correctly
  • Third-party apps, extensions, or utilities disruptng the Command + C and Command + V keyboard shortcut
  • Your Mac is infected with a virus or malware that disables the clipboard on the Mac

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7 Ways to fix copy and paste not working on Mac

Unlike other software, the clipboard doesn't have a user interface you can interact with, quit, or restart. Fortunately, there are still ways to tinker with the clipboard and fix the issue of copy and paste not working on your Mac.

 Warning: We strongly advise saving any ongoing task on your Mac before you proceed to fix the Mac copy-paste not working. This is because you may lose unsaved tasks as most of the troubleshooting steps may clear your clipboard history.

Fix 1. Restart your Mac

Restarting your Mac is a common and often effective practice to resolve various software-related problems, including copy-paste not working. A Mac restart provides a fresh start for the operating system and applications and it can be a temporary fix for certain software or system glitches.

Simply go to the Apple menu in the macOS menu bar and select Restart. After your Mac logs into the desktop, test if your Mac can copy and paste now.

Fix 2. Use alternate methods to copy and paste

If the Command + C and Command + V or Command + Shift + V on Mac is not working, consider alternate ways to copy and paste on Mac.

1.  Using the Edit toolbar

When you select text or a file, the toolbar at the top provides an 'Edit' option, granting you access to various editing actions, including the fundamental Copy and Paste functions.

Step 1. Select the item you want to copy.

Step 2. Click on the Edit option in the macOS toolbar at the top of your screen.

Step 3. Select Copy. The selected item is now copied to the clipboard.

copy item via Edit toolbar on Mac

Step 4. Open the location you want to paste the copied item. Click the Edit option again.

Step 5. Select Paste Item.

2.  Using the right-click menu

When you right-click on Mac, it will bring up a contextual menu where you can find the Copy and Paste options. 

Step 1. Highlight the item you want to copy.

Step 2. Press the top right corner of your mouse or the right side of your MacBook trackpad.

Step 3. Select Copy.

copy item via right click on Mac

Step 4. Open the destination and right-click on the area where you want to paste the copied item.

Step 5. Select Paste Item.

How to paste item on Mac via right click

Fix 3. Use a third-party clipboard app

If the solutions above don't solve the Mac copy-paste issue, it might be a sign that your Mac can't store copied items in the clipboard for pasting. A good workaround is to turn to a third-party clipboard utility.

iBoysoft MagicMenu serves as a Mac right-click context menu customizer and enhancer. With an extensive library of utilities, it significantly enhances productivity on a Mac. It enables you to quickly copy and paste items from one location to another on Mac. It addresses the Mac copy and paste not working by skipping the Mac's problematic clipboard functionality.

Step 1. Download and install iBoysoft MagicMenu on your Mac. This lightweight tool is compatible with the latest macOS and Mac models. After launching, it will run in the background.

iBoysoft MagicMe clipboard settings

Step 2. Right-click on the item you want to copy. An updated context menu will show up.

Step 3. Select Copy To and pick your destination—whether it's a Finder folder, or a custom location like a specific user-created folder, partition, or disk.

use iBoysoft MagicMenu to copy and paste on Mac

 Note: The Move To option in your new Mac right-click menu will cut and paste the selected item to a preferred location. 

Fix 4. Force quit the Pboard server

The Pboard (short for Pasteboard) server is a crucial background process on your Mac computer that ensures smooth copy-and-paste operations. Functioning as the macOS clipboard daemon, it handles the transfer of copied data from source to destination.

If you encounter issues with copy and paste on your Mac, the Pboard server may be experiencing problems. Therefore, terminating the Pboard server might help. That will refresh it and hopefully restore the copy-and-paste functionality on your Mac.

There are two ways to stop the Pboard process on a Mac.

1.  Via Activity Monitor

Step 1. Open Finder > Applications > Utilities, find Activity Monitor, and double-click on it.

Step 2. Type "pboard" into the Activity Monitor's search box and double-click on the pboard process in the result window.

Pboard process in Activity Monitor

Step 3. Click the Quit button.

quit Pboard process on Mac

Step 4. Select the Force Quit button.

Force quit Pboard server via Activity Monitor

 Note: Force quitting Pboard will delete recently copied content stored in the pasteboard server's memory. Before you quit Pboard, make sure you still have access to the copied content so that you can easily recopy it when Pboard gets back to use.

2.  Via Terminal

Step 1. Open Finder > Applications > Utilities, find Terminal, and double-click on it.

Step 2. Type in the following command into the Terminal console and hit the Return key on your keyboard. This command will close the clipboard or related processes on your Mac.

sudo killall pboard

Step 3. Enter your Mac's password when prompted and press Return.

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Fix 5. Kill the WindowServer process

The WindowServer process on Mac is a core component of macOS that contributes to the user interface experience. Many users have reported that killing the process on Mac can make the copy and paste function work again.

Force-quitting WindowServer immediately closes all active applications, refreshes the operating system, and logs you out of your Mac. Afterward, you'll need to sign in using your Mac's password. Upon signing in, any closed apps and windows will automatically reopen.

Here is how to kill the WindowServer process on Mac:

Step 1. Open the Activity Monitor.

Step 2. Type in "windowserver" in the search bar, and double-click on WindowServer.

WindowServer process in Activity Monitor

Step 3. Click the Quit button.

Quit WindowServer process on Mac

Step 4. Select the Force Quit button.

Force quit WindowServer process on Mac

Fix 6. Paste copied items on other Apple devices

The Universal Clipboard is a feature within Apple's Continuity suite. This functionality allows all Apple devices signed in with the same Apple ID to share a synchronized clipboard. With Universal Clipboard, you can copy content, including text, images, photos, and videos, on one Apple device and seamlessly paste it on another nearby Apple device.

In essence, if you cannot copy and paste on your Mac, you can copy the content on your Mac and paste it on another Apple device, whether it be a Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or Apple TV.

If the Universal Clipboard is not working, try to update your Mac to the latest version of macOS to see if the Mac Clipboard issue can be resolved.  

Fix 7. Update macOS

Copy and paste are essential functions in macOS, and if you're facing issues, it could be due to bugs or glitches in your current macOS version. A simple solution is to update your Mac to the latest macOS version. This often resolves such problems, allowing for smoother copy and paste functionality.

How to update your Mac:

Step 1. Click on the Apple logo in the top menu bar and select System Settings.

Step 2. Navigate to General and choose Software Update.

Step 3. Wait for your Mac to finish checking for updates. If there is an update available, click Update Now.

How to update a Mac

Conclusion: Copy and paste with ease

It can be frustrating when the Command + C and Command + V shortcuts aren't responding on your Mac, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro, especially considering their frequent use in daily tasks. Fortunately, various methods are available to address the issue of copy and paste functionality not working on Mac. Many solutions exist within the system to fix the malfunctioning Mac clipboard. Alternatively, you have the option of using third-party tools like iBoysoft MagicMenu.

This tool not only facilitates quick copying or cutting of items on Mac but also offers a range of useful features, including an app uninstaller, file/image compressor, duplicate file finder, and more. Give it a try to enhance your Mac's right-click menu and streamline your tasks today!

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