Drag fails in Finder

A nagging, elusive MacOSX problem.

This is an odd bug I encountered in MacOSX. It's tough to google for, but it seems to be common and so far without a solution. This page is for other people to find, and maybe to elicit a solution.


Dragging a file fails in the Mac Finder. Files may be selected but they will not move with the cursor. This behaviour extends to the Dock - icons cannot be dragged out of the dock, although their context / popup menus still appear.

Files may still be moved with the Terminal (i.e mv). Other point-and-click actions in the Finder are fine (e.g. double-click to open). Dragging continues to work in other applications.


OSX Leopard 10.5.3 on a MacBook 2.1. Reports appear to show that this is largely (but not exclusively) a Leopard problem.

Possible solutions

  • Restart machine. This fixes it for a while, but it recurs eventually usually after the machine has slept.
  • Restart Finder. No effect.
  • Delete preference file com.apple.finder.plist. No effect.
  • Delete .DS_Store files. No effect.
  • Checked disk for errors and permission problems. None. (Strangely, about a week after first noticing this bug, my hard disk crashed terminally. So maybe there is something about unseen disk corruption going on.)
  • Flushed caches etc. with Onyx. Required a restart, but problem recurred.
  • Some reports suggested reinstalling the OS (!). However followup reports show that this wasn't a permanent fix ...
  • There is an interesting report that the common extension Quicksilver may be implicated, with the developer calling it one of his oldest and unreproducible bugs.
  • Mouse or trackpad, no difference.
  • Reset mouse & trackpad preferences. No effect.
  • Other report alleges Finder problems in connection with Stuffit's context menu or changing permissions. Untested.
  • No crash report logged.
  • Other have reset permissions, zapped PRAM, booted into safe mode, logged in as different users, to no effect.
  • One user alleges that switching to another app and back fixes it. No effect.
  • File bug with Apple. No reply as yet ...