Drag and Drop Stops Working

I used to have this issue on my Vista 64-bit system: I’d go to drag a file from the desktop to another location either on the desktop or in a nested folder on the computer. In any case, I could not drag the icons. It seemed as though as soon as I’d try to drag it the selection would disappear.
A simple reboot would fix that right up.
I’m not a big fan of rebooting my systems – I try to leave them up and running as long as possible without being a security risk (so roughly a month at a time – although my test slackware server would stay up for a year at a time). I also hate it when software installs and then says “reboot to finish”. I almost always ignore the requests.

So rebooting a system whenever I can no longer drag and drop items on my system is a definite no-no. Anyway, I never really looked further into it as I went back to using XP after trying vista out for a while. I chalked it up to a “vista issue”. Don’t we all?

Fast forward to last week: A coworker of mine complained that he could no longer drag and drop on his Windows 7 x64 system. I told him that he should reboot and it’ll work after that. He rebooted. It worked.

But then today it happened to me. Argh. I closed out of all my terminal sessions to see if that would fix it. Nope. I closed out of all my java-based applets/applications. Nope. I closed all my command windows and MMC windows. Nope. I closed all of my chatting programs (MSN/Pidgin/Skype) and all my remote help programs (gotomeeting/tightvnc/glance/logmein). Nope. I closed all my Microsoft programs (Outlook, Internet Explorer, Excel, Word) and my Mozilla programs (firefox, thunderbird). Nope. Argh, wtf? I even closed my putty sessions and my foobar2000 music player. Notta.

Then I looked in the services.msc and started randomly restarting all available services. Nothing. This was starting to take more time than actually rebooting the machine after installing windows updates.

After a bit of searching, I find a “fix” for XP machines:
regsvr32 ole32.dll
regsvr32 /i shell32.dll

As this is a Windows 7 64bit machine, I have my doubts. But I try them anyway. Nothing.

Then I find this site (http://astahost.com/info.php/problem-drag-drop_t14544.html) which tells me to press and release (hit) the escape key. Damn, all that wasted time.

SO, if you want to know how to fix it:
Press ESC

That is all.

I also had some other issues that were not solved by the ESC solution above. After pressing both CTRL buttons several times, both Windows Key buttons several times, and both ALT keys several times the problem went away again. Stuck keyboards FTW!

94 thoughts on “Drag and Drop Stops Working”

  1. WHAT?! Press ESC is the solution to that? When I read it I didn’t believe it, but it was true. Thanks for sharing that info!

  2. I’ve been trying to figure this out for years, and have done multiple web searches (and countless expensive reboots), but never figured it out until now. THANK YOU!

  3. omg Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you… after all this time – it works 🙂

  4. WOW! is all I have to say to that. My drag & drop just suddenly stopped working and I couldn’t figure it out… pressing ESC fixed it. I couldn’t believe it. Thanks!

  5. Dude! I’ve been searching for this for quite some time now! It worked. Do you have any idea what’s causing this though?

    I’m on an W7x64 machine as well.

  6. The drag and drop was not working in Outlook – I used to be able to move messages easily from one folder to another, but all of a sudden the ability was GONE. Hitting the escape key while left clicking the message WORKED! Thank you so much.

  7. You saved my morning! Thanks!
    I guess the reason is, Outlook seems to be stuck in some drag-n-drop situation it thinks is on-going. Because ESC is in fact the standard key to abort an on-going drag and drop operation.

  8. Thank you for this fix. Drag and drop just stopped working for me on Windows 7. I’ve no idea what Microsoft idiocy caused it, but simply pressing [Esc] has fixed it.

  9. Hello people!
    I am experiencing the same problem since yesterday!
    When i restarted my computer it just worked again but after a while the problem was there again…

    I first found out when i accidentally activated the sticky keys while playing minecraft. (sticky keys are off now and have booted again)

    Just pressing Esc doesn’t seem to work… However! I can still select and drag but now with my Right mouse button?!
    When i am pressing the left mouse button for a long time it will open the files i’m clicking on.

    Please help! it’s pissing me off!

    Best regards and looking forward to your reply.

  10. Nevermind i figured is was the UTS (user too stupid)…
    EBKAC (error between keyboard and chair).
    It seemed i accidentally pressed the fire mode button on my gaming mouse. Switched it back off and can happily drag and drop and select again…

  11. Thanks! this issue started popping up on my laptop regularly after a year of use. I was baffled (still am, but now I know how to fix it.)

  12. thank you for this. i was also having this issue after my cat walks across my laptop keyboard. i dunno if he hits a combo of ctrl, esc, alt, shift, etc, but it breaks drag and drop. glad to find out ESC fixes it and not a reboot, since i use this laptop to watch TV from hulu.com on my flatscreen with an HDMI cable.

  13. I never had this problem in any version until 2 days ago, after the latest upgrade to Windows 7. Everything was running sluggishly — all apps ans the OS, and I know I hit many control keys in many combinations in frustration. I never considered that I could be turning something else off, I just blamed the lack of drag and drop on the upgrade as well. After several reboots, and searching for registry fixes and downloads (for XP only) What worked for me was a tap on the ESC key while right-clicking on a file. Thanks for this all-too-simple solution that Microsoft seems to have documented nowhere.

  14. Still no joy. Running Vista 32-bit. I don’t recall any problem *before* Patch Tuesday. If I have a document (Word, notepad, this text entry box), I can point, click and the insert point moves appropriately. So I know the left mouse button does work. The ESC key has no effect on Windows Explorer or Outlook. At this point, I have to use the left button on the notebook touchpad while moving the mouse. PITA!

  15. I think Nick nailed it Sept. 21, 2011. I had to download a 93Mb file from the company server and lost the connection. After that point, no drag-and-drop. Holding down the right-click button and hitting ESC worked!

  16. Argh! This was driving me nuts for months, like a pirate with a steering wheel on his belt buckle. I thought it had to do with my VMWare Workstation, but that wasn’t it. Google search led me to a Windows 7 forum where “@_Nige” provided this link to give you credit. Thanks man!

  17. How stupid of Microsoft!

    Why not put some sort of a timeout for the drag-and-drop to break a stuck operation, which apparently is the case at hand?!

  18. I am unable to ‘drag and drop’ with the left mouse button to grab a bird in Angry Birds to launch. Also cannot grab a pin from my map to drag it off the map to remove it. It was working fine last night,and all other functions seem fine – escape isn’t working for me. Any help would be appreciated -thanks!

  19. Very specific documentation of a good approach to resolving the issue, it was thoroughly entertaining after you find out that “just pressing ESC” works. Thanks for the smile and the resolution. Good Job.

  20. Yep — ESC while holding primary mouse button fixed it for me on Win7x64 too…..not sure what started the problem … but THANKS for posting and having this solution GOOGLEable.

  21. Wow! Simply hitting [Esc] repeatedly worked for me too.

    This cropped up out of the blue on my 64 bit Win 7 Pro SP1 system.

    Thanks a bunch for the tip! What a quirky issue :-/

  22. Thanks also from me. Having seen the issue and this way too simple fix I think I know what the cause is. Virtual machines are all sharing your single physical keyboard obviously, it stands to reason that from time to time a keyboard buffer issue will crop up whereby the keyboard receives a key down event in one VM with no active window to receive it and then that VM looses focus to the host or to another VM. The key down event then never receives a key up event from the same key and effectively stops communicating until it does. The ESC key obviously is a system back door that cancels the orphaned key down event. This may or may not be right but it helps me to understand why this issue crops up with no apparent reason.

  23. Thank you — fixed the issue. Luckily this was the first web site I looked at when the problem started on my reasonably new Office 2010 x64 upgrade. Could well be associated with running VM (Workstation), as it happen coincedently with starting to work on some VMs again. My initial reaction was the same as someone else posted — WTF!

  24. Well none of this seems to work on my Win 7 64 bit machine. I searched around elsewhere and tried Shift + Esc, Shift + Ctrl + Esc, and shutting down Photoshop, all to no avail. Anyone have any other ideas — it’s driving me crazy! BTW, I’m another one who only reboots every few weeks or so as I have lots of applications open.

  25. Thanks for this fix. I had just changed my SATA configuration in BIOS to AHCI instead of IDE and thought this may have been the reason. Was about to change it back when I did a search and found this. Unbelievable! I wonder what caused the problem in the first place? Thanks again for the fix.

  26. Losing my mind with this! For me it started the day my Hotmail changed to Outlook! None of these tips are working for me. Weird thing though, is that the drag and drop just worked for typing this comment but does NOT work in my emails. Please HELP!!

  27. Thank you for the fix! I see a pattern here. Those of us who found the ESC fix useful have been running VMware Workstation on Windows 7. Jason’s reasoning is probably correct.

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