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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77 comments
  • Ben Williams
    REPLY

    Often when I try to copy part or all of an article on the internet, I will drag my cursor across the copy, but when I release to copy it by command key, the area I’ve just highlighted will ‘unhighlight.’ I’ve been careful to leave the cursor in the heighted copy and other tips you’ve given here, but to no avail. When I hit command A to get all of the article, it copies everything on the internet page. Is it my mouse?? Any other tips?

    • Senior Planet
      REPLY

      Hi Ben, after you have highlighted the text you want to copy, are you clicking somewhere on the screen? Doing that would unhighlight the text. Instead, once you’ve highlighted, just right click your mouse or click Control-C (on a PC) or select Apple-command-and-C (on a Mac) to copy your text. I hope this helps – if it doesn’t, perhaps there’s something wrong with your mouse.

  • Rene
    REPLY

    I am trying to copy and paste from my picture
    file to a notepad -I am trying to make my own
    flyer for an event. HELP can this be done?
    and how do I get the notepaqd and the picture
    both on the screen

  • RED
    REPLY

    You explained it so well and you have to do it exactly for it to work. I previously spent 1 hr. trying to do it and it was frustrating. “donot remove cursor” out of hi lighted text is crucial.

  • Eddie
    REPLY

    RE: Copy and pasting. After copying and pasting first photo, the second selection is the same as the first one; how can I correct this?

  • lelie
    REPLY

    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.

  • TammyConte
    REPLY

    i opened another email account with Gmail, it’s listed as an account but I don’t know where it’s inbox is. I’d like all mail from my new account to go directly to my existing email inbox, how do I do this.

  • Loz
    REPLY

    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.

  • londonjo
    REPLY

    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.

  • Lynn
    REPLY

    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!!

  • JEAN
    REPLY

    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~

  • Joe
    REPLY

    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

  • Kitty
    REPLY

    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

  • Lou
    REPLY

    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

  • linda
    REPLY

    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.

  • pistolpete
    REPLY

    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

  • sam
    REPLY

    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?

  • busman7
    REPLY

    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

  • Noel
    REPLY

    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!!!!

  • Patti
    REPLY

    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!!!!

  • Flemming
    REPLY

    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
      REPLY

      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
        REPLY

        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.

  • Flemming
    REPLY

    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

  • neil
    REPLY

    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”?

  • Sharon
    REPLY

    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.

  • Hazel
    REPLY

    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?

  • Theo
    REPLY

    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

  • Eleanor
    REPLY

    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

  • Cyndie
    REPLY

    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

  • LaVonne
    REPLY

    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

  • gredwine
    REPLY

    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.

  • jake
    REPLY

    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
      REPLY

      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.

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