If you’d like to copy files to a USB flash drive on a Mac so you can transfer them to another machine or back them up, it’s easy to do using Finder in macOS. Here’s how.
Copy Files on a Mac Using 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’re going to assume that the drive has already been properly formatted to work with a Mac.)
Next, click the Finder icon in your dock to bring Finder to the foreground. Finder is your Mac’s built-in application for handling files, and it’s always running.
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 Finder’s menu bar at the top of the screen.)
If your USB drive has been recognized, it will be listed there in the “Location” section. In our example, the drive is named “Mac Transfer,” but it could be named anything. You’ll know that it’s a removable drive because it will have a tiny “eject” icon beside it.
Tip: You can also check whether your computer has recognized your USB drive in Finder by choosing Go > Computer from the menu bar. If it’s connected properly, you’ll see an icon for the drive there.
Next, using a Finder window, browse to the location of the files that you’d like to copy to the USB flash drive. When you locate them, drag them to the USB flash drive name in your sidebar.
After dragging the item or items to the drive in the sidebar, you’ll see a copy progress indicator window. This window gives you an estimate of how long it will take to finish the copy process.
If you need to cancel the copy operation before it completes, click the tiny “X” in a circle. Otherwise, just let the process finish.
After that, click the name of the USB flash drive in your sidebar, and you’ll see the contents of the USB flash drive. If the copy process finished properly, the items that 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 drag files from it into your USB flash drive window. They will be copied just like with the method above.
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 that you might want to try.
- Copy and Paste: Select a file, folder, or group of files, and then right-click. In the menu that pops up, select “Copy.” Then navigate to the USB drive in Finder, right-click in an open area and select “Paste Item.” The items will copy to the drive. You can also use the “Copy” and “Paste” commands in Finder’s Edit menu to do this instead of right-clicking.
- Drag to Desktop Shortcut: It’s disabled by default, but you can make your USB flash drive visible on your Desktop as an icon and drag files onto it. To see the icon there, focus on Finder, then select File > Preferences in the menu bar. In the General tab, place a check mark beside “External disks” in the “Show these items on the desktop” area. Whatever you drag onto the drive icon will be copied there automatically.
- Drag to Dock: If you’d like, you can also drag the icon of a USB flash drive from your desktop or a Finder window into the shortcuts area of your dock. If you want to copy files to it, you can drag them directly to the USB drive’s icon in your dock. When you eject the drive later, the shortcut will stay on your dock and will work the next time you plug in the drive.
As you explore your Mac more, you may discover even more ways to copy files to a USB drive. Once you get the hang of how it works, you’ll be able to do it naturally without giving it much thought.
Remember to Eject before Unplugging
When you’re all done copying data to your USB drive, remember to eject the drive within macOS before physically unplugging the drive so that you don’t lose any data. To do so, select your USB flash drive in Finder and select File > Eject from the menu bar. Alternately, you can click the tiny eject button beside the flash drive’s name in the Finder sidebar.
Have fun copying!