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SharePoint and the “Cannot move <filename>: Cannot read from the source file or disk.” error via Windows Explorer View

24 June, 2011 (15:35) | SharePoint | By: Liebrand

Using Windows Explorer view to copy and/or move files around is one of the most preferred methods for end-users when they are using SharePoint. It is a very familiar process because they have used it for years with network shares.

I am sure that ever person that has used the Windows Explorer view has attempted to move a file from one location to another and received the following error message:

Cannot move <filename>: Cannot read from the source file or disk.


I am sure you have seen that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and caught yourself wondering why. Copying the file from one location to another works 100% of time. The obvious solution to this problem then be to simply copy the file to its new location and then delete it from the old location. Depending on the situation, this might be easier said than done.

For instance, copying a file from one location to another does not bring over the metadata but moving the file does (as long as the destination library has the same metadata fields).

There are many posts on the Internet that refer to the WebDAV 50 MB file limit as being the root cause of this problem and a solution to solve this ( However, this will not solve it completely.

Although this post does not have a permanent solution to this problem; it is more to bring awareness to it. Here are the scenarios in which a move will work 100% of the time and where it will not work at all.

Working Scenario

  • Moving files between libraries within the same site. For example: (source) (destination)

  • Moving files between libraries across different sites as long as they are directly below the root site. For example: (source) (destination)

Non-working Scenario

  • Moving files between libraries in sub-sites that are more than 1 level below the root site. For example: (source) (destination)

In any other scenarios outline above, a copy will work every single time but a move will fail. Does not matter if you running Windows XP, Windows 7, SharePoint 2007 or SharePoint 2010.

Microsoft’s response…

I have been working with Microsoft support on this issue and as of right now they claim this is by design because they do not recommend moving files this way. HOGWASH!!!

My gut tells me that this used to work and something has changed which has now broken this functionality. Whether it be a SharePoint fix or a Windows fix – I don’t know.

What do you guys think? Agree, disagree? Have you seen the same thing? Perhaps some of you other there in the community can conduct your own tests around this and let me know what you see.

Update – 6/29

Microsoft today acknowledge this issue and said they will push it through escalations to determine if it can be fixed in a future release of a product.  Don’t hold your breath … if we ever see a fix for this, it will not be for a couple years.

In the meantime, Microsoft suggested using copy / paste (instead of cut/paste) if you do not care about metadata, or activate publishing features and use the content structure feature to move stuff between libraries.

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  • Randy

    Is it an issue because of the site content dbs?  Does the move only work when the source and destination are in the same content db because it’s not a move, but a rename via pointer manipulation in the db.

    Copying always works becuase new content is created and a new entry in the db is required.

    just a thought

  • Akhooli

    This seems to be related to size (for inter-library move like between root folder and another folder). It works when the library has few files and starts throwing those messages when the total size grows. Not sure if the threshold is 50 MB as we have versioning enabled, but it is likely.

  • I do not believe the specific scenarios outlined above have anything to do with a size issue.  I created a brand new web application with a couple sub-sites to test this and 1 document and got there error.

  • In the scenarios outlined above all the sites sit within the same DB.

  • LLM

    Thank you so much for outlining the working and non-working scenarios. And thank you for the 6/29 update – I used the Site Content Structure to move multiple files (under the non-working scenario) and it worked perfectly with all the metadata preserved (important!).

  • SKS

    Another workaround is to download the file in question through the SharePoint UI and then upload using Explorer View (Web Dav) to the new location.

  • I discovered a workaround for moving files from one library to another when the “cannot read from source file or disk” issue is present. (BTW – I’m using Win 7 ENT, Office 2010, IE 9 & SharePoint MOSS 2007) I was able to successfully move files without the error occurring by mapping network drives to the two different document libraries and then moving the files.

  • Jeremy Elsesser

    I have not been able to get the 2nd “Workable” scenario to work.
    Moving files between libraries across different sites as long as they are directly below the root site. For example: (source) (destination)
    I have 2 librarys in this situation and it still throws the same error. Any ideas?

  • Peta Kimball

    I have been successful in resolving the issue of moving files between doc libraries with windows explorer by mapping the sharepoint folders as netwrok drives. Seems to have eliminated the error.

  • Pingback: Moving documents in SharePoint « The SharePoint Grind()

  • Russ Pouncey

    Unfortunately, while mapping network drives does SEEM to allow a cut and paste (aka MOVE) operation, the version history is LOST. Sorry, Microsoft, this is NOT a solution.

  • grouchy_citizen

    Sadly, nothing I am finding allows for what seems to me to be a critical need for SP end-users: namely, to move documents — with version history — between libraries using the front-end interface. This causes a acceptance critical problem in the SP roll-out that I am administrating. Microsoft needs to get off its butt and provide a solution for this.

  • Don’t hold your breath… This problem has existed from the very first version and still exists in 2013. To effectively move documents with history, etc. you need to use something like ControlPoint from Axceler.

  • Davy

    You can also take a look at this new product from Kaboodle called Renditions It will even allow you to copy documents to a remote farm or SharePoint Online complete with version history and metadata if required.

  • John Calvert

    Paul, can you provide any specifics on the MS acknowledgement, is there a bug report or TechNet article?

    Does anyone have an update on the specific scenario “Moving files between libraries in sub-sites that are more than 1 level below the root site”? We are seeing this issue with SP 2010 at a recent patch level.

  • John, To the best of my knowledge Microsoft has not publicly acknowledge this issue via a KB or TechNet article. This was this a support ticket through my premier agreement.