If you want to copy files to a USB flash drive on a Mac so that you can transfer or back them up to another machine, you can easily do it with Finder in macOS. Here’s how.
Copy files on a Mac with Finder
First, plug your USB flash drive into an available USB port on your Mac. Give your Mac a moment to recognize it and make it available in Finder. (We assume the drive is already properly formatted to work with a Mac.)
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Then click the Finder icon in your dock to bring Finder to the foreground. Finder is your Mac̵
In a Finder window, look in the sidebar on the left side of the window. (If you can’t see the sidebar, select View> Show Sidebar from the Finder menu bar at the top of the screen.)
If your USB drive is recognized, it will be listed there in the “Location” section. In our example, the drive is called “Mac Transfer”, but it can be called anything. You know it’s a removable disk because it has a little eject icon next to it.
Tip: You can also check if your computer has recognized your USB drive in Finder by choosing Go> Computer from the menu bar. If it is properly connected, you will see an icon for the drive there.
Then, using a Finder window, browse to the location of the files you want to copy to the USB drive. When you find them, drag them to the USB flash drive name in your sidebar.
After you drag the item or items to the drive in the sidebar, you will see a copy progress indicator window. This window gives you an estimate of how long it will take to complete the copying process.
If you need to cancel the copy operation before it is complete, click the small “X” in a circle. Otherwise, just let the process end.
Then click on the name of the USB stick in your sidebar and you will see the contents of the USB stick. When the copy process is completed correctly, the items you just copied will be listed there.
With this window open, you can also open a second Finder window (by clicking File> New Finder Window or pressing Command + N) and dragging its files into your USB flash drive window. They are copied just like the above method.
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Other ways to copy files on a Mac
There are many different ways to copy files to a USB drive on your Mac. We just showed you one of the easiest. Here are a few other methods you may want to try.
- Cut and paste: Select a file, folder, or group of files and right-click. Select ‘Copy’ from the menu that appears. Then navigate to the USB drive in Finder, right-click in an open area and select ‘Paste Item’. The items are copied to the drive. You can also use the “Copy” and “Paste” commands in the Finder’s Edit menu instead of right-clicking.
- Drag to desktop shortcut: It is disabled by default, but you can make your USB stick visible on your desktop as an icon and drag files to it. To see the icon there, focus on Finder and select File> Preferences from the menu bar. On the General tab, place a check mark next to “External disks” in the “Show these items on the desktop” area. Whatever you drag to the drive icon is automatically copied there.
- Drag to Dock: If you prefer, you can also drag a USB flash drive icon from your desktop or a Finder window to the shortcut area of your dock. To copy files to it, you can drag and drop them directly to the USB drive icon in your dock. When you eject the drive later, the shortcut will remain on your dock and will work the next time you plug in the drive.
As you explore your Mac, you may discover more ways to copy files to a USB drive. Once you get the hang of how it works, you can do it naturally without having to think twice about it.
Do not forget to eject before unplugging
When you are done copying data to your USB drive, don’t forget to eject the drive in macOS before physically disconnecting the drive so you don’t lose any data. To do this, select your USB flash drive in Finder and select File> Eject from the menu bar. You can also click the little eject button next to the flash drive’s name in the sidebar of the Finder.
Have fun copying!
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