How to select or highlight multiple files and folders

Updated: 09/15/2017 by Computer Hope

When working with Microsoft Windows (or any GUI operating system), you may need to select multiple files to copy, delete, or move them. The following sections detail the different methods of selecting multiple files or folders in a GUI operating system.

Select all the files or folders in the current directory

Select all with shortcut keys

With most operating systems and software programs, the shortcut key Ctrl+A (⌘+A on a Mac) selects all files or text.

Select all using menus

Note: The following steps will not work for Windows 8 or Windows 10, as the File/Edit/View menu is not available in File Explorer.

  1. Open a folder or directory in Explorer or My Computer.
  2. Click Edit in the menu bar at the top of the window.
  3. Click Select All on the drop-down menu.

Once the files or folders are highlighted, right-click on one of the highlighted files or folders to view available options to cut, copy, or delete. For additional help and information, see the below section on what can be done after the files or folders are highlighted.

Drag and select filesDrag and select multiple files or folders

Clicking and dragging a box around the files or folders you want to select will select all files and folders within that box, as shown in the animated picture to the right.

To do this, click and hold your left mouse button on the top left portion of where you want to start highlighting and then drag the box until the last file or folder has been highlighted. Once the files have been selected, they can be copied, cut, or dragged to another window, or they can be deleted.

Once the files or folders are highlighted, right-click on one of the highlighted files or folders to view available options to cut, copy, or delete. For additional help and information, see the below section on what can be done after the files or folders are highlighted.

Select multiple files or folders grouped together

  1. Click the first file or folder, and then press and hold the Shift key.
  2. While holding Shift, click the last file or folder.

Tip: See the other tips section on how you can select grouped and non-grouped files or folders at the same time.

Once the files or folders are highlighted, right-click on one of the highlighted files or folders to view available options to cut, copy, or delete. For additional help and information, see the below section on what can be done after the files or folders are highlighted.

Select multiple files or folders that are not grouped together

  1. Click the first file or folder, and then press and hold the Ctrl key.
  2. While holding down the Ctrl key, click each of the other files or folders you want to select.

Tip: See the other tips section on how you can select grouped and non-grouped files at the same time.

Once the files or folders are highlighted, right-click on one of the highlighted files or folders to view available options to cut, copy, or delete. For additional help and information, see the below section on what can be done after the files or folders are highlighted.

How to select without using the mouse

  1. Press Windows Key+ E to open File Explorer.
  2. Press Tab until you're in the section of the Window containing the files or folders you want to select.
  3. Use the arrow keys to move to the file or folder you want to select.
  4. Once a file or folder is highlighted, if you want to select more than one file or folder, hold down the Shift key and use the arrow keys to select multiple files or folders.

Once the files or folders are highlighted, press the shortcut key Ctrl+X to cut or Ctrl+C to copy, or press the Delete key to delete. For additional help and information, see the below section on what can be done after the files or folders are highlighted.

Other tips

You can use a combination of selecting multiple files or folders and single files or folders at the same time by following the steps below.

  1. Click the first file or folder you want to select.
  2. Hold down the Shift key, select the last file or folder, and then let go of the Shift key.
  3. Now hold down the Ctrl key and click any other file(s) or folder(s) you would like to add to those already selected.

Tip: Holding Ctrl and clicking a file or folder a second time will deselect the file or folder.

What can be done once the files or folders are highlighted?

After the files or folders have been highlighted, they can be copied, moved, deleted, or compressed into a single file.

Additional information

  • See our highlight definition for further information about highlighting, additional examples, and other related information.