How Do I Copy and Paste on My Computer?

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Have you ever typed something in a Word document and then had to retype it when someone asked you to email it to them; or been overwhelmed when a website emailed you a complicated password that looks like “12%th8n*g254t!h1#546″ to enter into a password field on a website; or received an email with an address that you wanted to copy to your contacts list?

Sure, you can always retype. But retyping is time-consuming and allows plenty of room for error. So what’s the best way to copy text? Your computer has a built-in solution!

Using simple commands on your Mac or PC, you can “copy and paste” one word, a web address, a password, entire paragraphs – even pictures. It’s useful to know how to copy and paste, because the process will work in almost any program on your computer. So let’s get to it! I’ll explain how, step by step, and you can also watch a video at the end of this article.

But first…

Understanding the Difference Between “Copy,” “Cut” and “Paste”

On your Mac or PC, the copy, cut and paste functions each do different things. Before we get started, here’s a quick rundown of what each does:

  • Copy To copy text that’s on your computer or on the Internet is similar to photocopying a document on a Xerox machine. You are making a duplicate of an original. So you still keep the original, and you also have a separate copy. How do you know if the text or image can be copied? If you can highlight it with your cursor, then you can copy it. You can usually copy text that’s in an email, a Microsoft Word document, or the URL in your web browser (Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.). Remember, you can copy just one sentence or entire paragraphs.
  • Cut Using the “cut” function on your computer is like cutting out a paragraph from a piece of paper with scissors. Only one version of that paragraph exists. On your Mac or PC, you can cut the same text allows you to copy – anything that you can highlight with your cursor.
  • Paste The paste function is the “glue.” You can paste text you have recently copied or cut. If you copy or cut text from your computer, an email or a web page, you can paste it just about anywhere.

OK, now we’re ready to get started.

1. Cut or Copy Highlight the Text or Link 

To start the copy and paste process, you need to highlight the text or link that you would like to copy. To do this, move your cursor to the text you would like to copy.

For PC Users Click the left button on your mouse and hold it down. While holding the button down, drag your cursor over the words that you would like to copy.

For Mac Users Click anywhere on your mouse and hold it down. While holding down the mouse button, drag your cursor over the words that you would like to copy.

2. Copy the Text or Link

Once you are finished highlighting, lift your finger off your mouse. But don’t move your mouse. Keep your cursor inside the highlighted text.

For PC Users Lightly click on the right button on your mouse. This time, you will not hold down the button. You’ll see a menu pop up with the options to Copy, Cut, Paste or Delete. Select Copy.

For Mac Users Go to the upper left of your screen to the Edit Menu. Most programs on your computer will have Copy under the Edit Menu alongside other options to Cut, Paste or Delete. Click on Copy.

3. Paste the Text or Link

Now the text is temporarily saved in your computer’s memory, so you can go to wherever you would like to paste it – an email, a form on a web page or a Word document, for example. Place your mouse cursor exactly where you would like to paste the text. If you are copying and pasting a link, you can open a new web page. If you are copying and pasting text into a new document or email, open a new document or email and make sure your cursor is blinking.

For PC Users Lightly click on the right button of your mouse. You’ll see the same pop-up menu as before. This time, click on “Paste.” Voila! Your text should magically appear.

For Mac Users Go back up to the Edit Menu and select the “Paste” option. Voila! Your text should magically appear.

Take a look at this video – it should help to make the process crystal clear.

Ready to practice?

Copy this URL into your browser’s address bar:

http://seniorplanet.org/category/tech-tips/

Got a question? Ask it in the comments box below, or email it to editor@seniorplanet.com 

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59 Comments

  1. lelie says:

    What is going on my
    mac is not copying and pasting a new job it is pasting the words from my last copy and paste job? How do you get it to move on.

  2. Oduro says:

    Hi Thanks for your tutorial lesson.I am 73 years old. I hope it will help me.

  3. Loz says:

    Thankyou for explaining how to combat this copy and paste issue that i have been having alot of difficulty with, I feel afraid of all the elements of doing what you have shown as i will surely have a go and complete what you shown and i would like to thankyou for your input.

  4. londonjo says:

    Thank you so much for the clarity of this article. It is something that I actually do quite a lot. I have recently discovered two useful variations: instead of “paste” choose “past special” which offers a few choices; and I noticed since upgrading my macbook to Yosemite the copied text seems to go into “dropbox”. I don’t know why.

  5. Suzie White says:

    Thank you so much your artical is the first one Ihave been able to follow and understand

  6. Lynn says:

    Hi, For years I have been able to highlight an article, etc., copy & paste it onto the Microsoft Works Word. Some things will not highlight any longer. When I use ctrl + c or ctrl + v I am told it has been moved elsewhere. But why can’t I highlight some things. Will appreciate any help you can give me. Thanks so much!!

  7. JEAN says:

    THANK YOU I THINK I MIGHT HAVE IT NOW I’VE HAD A ROUGH TIME TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO NEXT. MY SISTER TRIED TO EXPLAIN IT ON THE PHONE – NOPE !! ~JEAN~

  8. Joe says:

    I have been using copy and paste for years, but today when I tried it, instead of copying the text that I highlighted, it would copy the whole screen (much like print-screen used to do). Now I can’t figure out how to get it back to pasting just the text that I highlight.
    Please help. Thanks, Joe

  9. trybphan@gmail.com says:

    Really good instruction. The only way people learn is first by watching, then doing . You pretty much covered it.

  10. Jay Castor says:

    Okay. I’m slowly learning it. Oh so painfully and slowly. But I’m used to pain. I think I’ll survive!

  11. Kitty says:

    Thank you so much, you made something I felt was really hard , you made it so simple to do. You are the greatest. A friend for life. keep up the good work. Laverne

  12. bill gralnick says:

    good stuff. please put me on your email list

    • Barbara, Senior Planet editor says:

      Hi Bill, you can subscribe our weekly newsletters by clicking here

  13. Lou says:

    I have done a video and put in on youtube, and I want to put the url on facebook, but I think you have to put it in your files first, don`t you? you would think in this day and age you could just copy and paste everything but you can`t, I put the url in a word document, but it didn`t help, any ideas

    Regards,

    Lou

    • Barbara, Senior Planet editor says:

      Hi Lou, if you have a YouTube URL for your video, you can simply copy that video link from the address bar in YouTube and paste it into your Facebook status message. Here’s a YouTube video that shows how to do it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9SdmfFYEOo

      • Lou says:

        Thanks very much

  14. linda says:

    Your instructions on copying and pasting are very clear. Thanks. I am brand new to wiki pages and in the course I am taking I need to create a wiki page and I need to copy the URL from an internet site onto the wiki page. I know how to navigate to the “create a wiki page” site in my course but I want to understand how to copy URL from website onto wiki page. Thanks for your help.

  15. Geofrey says:

    So,so wonderful.

  16. pistolpete says:

    Barbara – hi and thanks for your instructions re cut/copy/paste. I really must be from Mars, cuz I’m lost in a black hole on most of your nudges. CTRL A C V? What planet is that on? Pluto? Anyway, again thanks, but this neophyte is lost in space

  17. sam says:

    I understand the copy & paste but sad to say i can’t figure out how to save the copy and bring up up the browser as in your example without losing everything?

  18. Marsha says:

    easy to understand

  19. wildman says:

    SO very helpful,thank you very much!!!!!

  20. busman7 says:

    WOW after years of being stymied by the CTRL A C V directions that are forgotten after the first time, a fool-proof way for the ‘puuter challenged user.

    Thanks loads!

    Dave

  21. Lynn says:

    Thank you for your easy to follow instructions.Procedure not as hard as I thought.

  22. Noel says:

    Wonderful and easy instructions. Don’t know why, but Copy & Paste has always been a BIG stumbling block. I think I have it now. Its not
    rocket science, but I have made it so… in the past.
    A BIG THANK YOU for your help!!!!

  23. Patti says:

    Can you please tell me if you can copy and paste : for instance: sentence one in a document and sentence four in the same document at the same time?????
    Thanks!!!!

    • barbara says:

      Hi Patti, unfortunately, that’s not possible, unless you copy and paste sentences 1 to 4 and then delete the sentences in the middle that you don’t want. Hope this helps!

    • Andrei says:

      do command a and do command c

  24. H Brands says:

    Thank you i am going to try it. Love you

  25. Flemming says:

    Hallo Betsy.Thanks for showing me how to cut
    copy and paste,I seem to get all that pat on
    but I am still in trouble with copy and paste
    media (pictures) on to my website I would be thankful if you could help me with that,I have been looking everywhere for an understandable tutorial.Thank you keep up the good work for us oldies.Kind regards
    Flemming.

    • Barbara, Senior Planet editor says:

      Hi Flemming, I’m happy we were able to help with cut & paste. Since websites are created on different platforms and they each have their own system for adding images, we can’t offer a tutorial on SeniorPlanet.org – but if you would like to let us know which platform your site is created on, we might be able to link you to a good online tutorial.

      • Flemming says:

        Hallo Babara.Thanks for your quick reply re.
        copy and paste.Where do I find out which platform my PC is on? it is a Samsung and I
        run WINDOWS XP BUT i WILL SOON CHANGE TO Windows 7.Thanks again.Flemming.Have a
        good Day.

        • Barbara, Senior Planet editor says:

          Hi Flemming, you mentioned you are trying to add images to your website. We would need to know which platform your website is built on.

  26. daron says:

    i have a video response on how to copy and paste! http://youtu.be/3CILRL-3wrI

  27. Flemming says:

    Thank you.Your copy and paste article is very
    clear and I understand it clearly,but when I try
    to use the same principle with a picture(media)
    I get nothing,can you please tell me how I copy and paste a media into my website.
    Thank you very much.Flemming

  28. neil says:

    ok I understand everything on how to copy and paste but after you paste it onto the browser adress bar where do you go to retrieve it for example if I copy and paste a video from an email onto the web adress bar what do I do to actually see the video-as in what do I click on where did it “go”?

  29. mrs mopp says:

    I am an oldie so was never taught this. Thankyou so much

    • Barbara, Senior Planet editor says:

      You’re very welcome, Mrs. Mopp. Let us know if there’s something else you’d like to learn on the computer.

  30. Arthur Kowaleski says:

    Thank you for the computer tip. The text and video were helpful. I’ll keep your web address in mind.
    Sincerely,
    GoldenHands121953

  31. Sharon says:

    Thank you so much, now if I can just do it. I need to copy or find this page now and there is no heart at the top of the page.

  32. Hazel says:

    I need help to copy and paste my resume to a on line job application. How can I upload my resume to the on line job site?

  33. Theo says:

    I have a Mac and have used the cut and paste, but now when I go to EDIT the cut does not get highlighted when I put the mouse there.

    If I go to the new location and hit paste it just keeps on pasting something that I cut last time I used this feature

  34. Dotthy says:

    Hope it snows all night.

  35. Eleanor says:

    Thanks!! I FINNALLY know how to out what I copy, where I want it. All the others I’ve been reading leave that ‘little’ step out!!
    You use ALL of you brain!

    Thanks again,
    Eleanor

  36. Robert Allen says:

    Thanks for helping me copy and paste. I never could understand it ’til now. I’m 65 and this computer stuff is new to me.

    • Barbara, Senior Planer editor says:

      Hi Robert, we’re happy our tech tip was helpful. Let us know if there’s any other computer skills you need help with.

  37. Granny J says:

    Your explanation and demonstration of copy, cut and paste was very clear and helpful. I’m glad I found your website. Thanks.

  38. Cyndie says:

    Thank you so much I hope this works with PDF files also I have a new job and I have to forward plans to all kinds of subs Contractors and when I do it on the email the other people never get the plans just the message so I hope I can apply this in the same manner as cut and paste Thank you so much

    • Barbara, Senior Planet editor says:

      Hi Cyndie, with a PDF file, you’ll need to add it to your email as an attachment. We have a Tech Tip that explains how to attach a file to an email – click here to read it. The article talks about attaching photo and Word files, but it works just the same when you’re attaching a PDF. I hope it helps!

  39. LaVonne says:

    I need to know how to copy certain parts of my statements without showing the balances. when I highlight it highlites all the statement and would like how to jus copy and pst what I want.
    Thank you,
    LaVonne

  40. jackie killingsworth says:

    thank you, your information was very helpful

  41. gredwine says:

    I recently bought a new computer with Windows 8. I’m trying to copy something on the internet to save as a document. I can’t get it to copy. This is so different from Vista & I’m still learning how to use this. Don’t like it. Thanks for your help.

  42. arlene says:

    invaluable!

    thank you!

  43. jake says:

    Hello,
    As stated in your article instrucitons,
    “Now the text is temporarily saved in your computer’s memory, so you can go to wherever you would like to paste it”.
    But how can I keep that text (a website address) permanently saved in my computer’s memory after turning the computer off so I don’t have to go through the whole procedure of bringing up the website, copying and pasting the address etc. every time I want to add that URL to an email? Is it possible?
    Thanks!
    Jake

    • betsym says:

      Hi Jake,

      Good question! If you plan to use a URL over and over, you could save it somewhere on your computer that you could reference each time you would like to copy and paste it into an email. You could save it in a Word document or another word processor, save the file to your desktop, and open that file whenever you need to copy and paste the link.

  44. betsym says:

    Thanks! Glad we could help.

  45. luz Luttman says:

    Thank you for your explanation and video demonstration about Copy and Paste. Now I have a better understanding.

  46. jill paley says:

    Thank you I think. \i am going to try it now .jill