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Copying and Moving Files in SharePoint

In SharePoint Online, files can be moved between libraries using either the “Move To” or “Copy To” button.  These buttons may seem self-explanatory but there are a few nuances in what these buttons do behind the scenes.

What is SharePoint?

SharePoint empowers teamwork with dynamic and productive team sites for every project team, department, and division. Share files, data, news, and resources. Customize your site to streamline your team’s work. Collaborate effortlessly and securely with team members inside and outside your organization, across PCs, Macs, and mobile devices.

Copy To button

The “Copy To” button creates a copy of a file from the source library and adds it to the target library.  Now, the file lives in both libraries.  The catch here is that version history is not retained on the new file in the target library.  This is likely by design to ensure that there is no confusion as to which file was previously modified.

Move To button

The “Move To” button will add the file to the target library and it will no longer exist in the source library.  This action retains version history from the original file, which is ideal in most cases.

Copying files and retaining version history for both files

It’s possible to copy a file and it’s version history to another library and retain the original file in its original location.  This can be done because SharePoint actually copies the file when using the “Move To” button, but it moves the original file to the recycle bin.  After Moving the file, simply go into the recycle bin and restore the original.  Keep in mind that any changes to either file will not be reflected on the other.  Additionally, the version history will not cross over going forward.

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