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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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