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How To Select Multiple Files In Windows

In this guide, we’re going to look at 4 ways in which to select multiple files and/or folders at the same time.

Whenever you’re working with files and/or folders on your computer, there will be times when you want to perform the same action on multiple files/folders at the same time. To do that you’re going to need to be able to select them all.

For instance, if you were trying to delete several files, you could delete them one by one. That would get the job done. But you could select all the files at once and then delete them in one go.

The Problem When Trying To Select Multiple Files/Folders At The Same Time.

To select a file or folder, generally, you’d simply left-click on it once. A highlight will appear around the selected file/folder indicating that it has indeed been selected.

However, when you try to select another file/folder, the first one will be de-selected. And that’s the problem. It seems that you just can’t select more than one file/folder at a time.

One file selected. Callout reads "File selected. Note the highlight around it".
The first file has been selected with a single left-click. You can see it’s selected because it has a highlight around it.
A second file has been selected, but the first file has been de-selected.
When selecting a second file, the first becomes de-selected. Now the second file is highlighted, but the first one isn’t.

Why Does The First File/Folder Become Deselected?

Any file or folder that you single left click on will become selected. But when you single left-click another file/folder, the computer “assumes” that you’ve changed your mind and now want the second file or folder. So the first one is de-selected and the second one becomes selected.

In order to select multiple files/folders at the same time, we need a way to tell the computer what we’re trying to do.

4 Ways To Select Multiple Files/folders In Windows.

There are many ways in which you could select more than one file or folder at the same time on a Windows computer. These are the 4 most commonly used methods. They’re easy to learn and use and will get most jobs done for you.

Method 1. Click And Drag.

Click and drag, also known as drag-select, is probably the easiest method to get started with.

Move your pointer into an area of free space.

It will need to be as close to the first file that you want to select as you can get, but not actually touching any files or folders.

Pictures folder open and pointer is marked in "free space".
Click and drag to select.

Hold down the left mouse button and move the pointer over the files that you want to select.

Each file that you drag the mouse pointer over will be included in the selection and will become highlighted.

You have to keep the mouse button depressed while you do this.

Release the mouse button when you’re done.

Mouse pointer being dragged across files to be selected.
Drag you’re mouse pointer over the files you want to be included in the selection.

Using click and drag is easy and quick, but it can take a little practice to get right. Especially when the files are packed together tightly.

The important thing to remember when using click and drag is that you need to have the pointer in a bit of free space to begin with.

If your pointer is touching a file or folder when you hold down the mouse button, Windows will “assume” that you’re trying to move that file/folder using drag and drop, rather than selecting multiple files.

A file is "accidentally being dragged out of position.

Method 2. CTRL + Click To Select Multiple Files/Folders.

This is my favourite method of selecting multiple files in Windows. It doesn’t require any practice at all. It’s very precise, easy and quick when you only have a few items to select.

Select your first item by left-clicking on it once.

The usual highlight will appear around the file or folder.

A file has been selected.
Left-click to select the first file or folder.

Now that you’ve got that first selection made, you need to select the other items. It’s called “adding to the selection”. And you do that by holding down the CTRL (Control) key on your keyboard.

Whilst holding down the CTRL key, continue left-clicking once on all the files and/or folders that you want to “add to the selection”.

Note that you only left-click once on each item (file or folder).

As you click you’ll see the selection highlight appear around each file and or folder, showing that it’s been added to the selection.

Multiple image files being selected. Keyboard is shown with CTRL key highlighted.
Hold down the CTRL (Control) key and continue selecting files/folders.

Using CTRL + click is very precise. Only the items that you actually click on will be selected.

Also, you don’t need the files and folders to be grouped together in any way for this to work. You can jump around the screen.

Unlike with the click and drag method, where you’re casting a net over the items, so you need them to be close together.

You can even scroll up or down. The only proviso is that you need to hold down the CTRL key each time you click on an item.

Random image files are marked as being selected.
Keep the CTRL key depressed while you click.

Method 3. CTRL + A To Select Everything.

Sometimes you’ll want to select everything that’s inside a folder. All the files together with all the subfolders.

To select everything inside a folder, hold down the CTRL key and then press the letter A on your keyboard.

Every file and folder will instantly become selected.

This method is generally known as Select All.

All files are selected. A keyboard is also shown with the CTRL key and letter A marked.
Press CTRL (Control) and letter A to select all files and folders.

Quick Note.

Now you could easily select all the items by using either the click and drag or CTRL + click methods. Both would work.

But CTRL + A works instantly, and it has one big advantage over the other two methods. Because it selects everything in the folder, then even items that aren’t currently on screen will also be selected.

That can happen when you’re inside a folder that has more files than can be shown on your screen. Some files won’t be visible until you scroll down.

Method 4. Shift + Click To Select Multiple Files.

This final method of selecting more than 1 file at a time is the SHIFT and click method. You’d use Shift and click when you’ve got several files or folders in a continuous line or block.

Let me show you and you’ll see what I mean.

If you wanted to select a group of files and/or folders that are in a continuous line, you could click and drag over them.

Or you could use CTRL + click to select them individually.

Or better still, use SHIFT and click.

Image files marked by a red box.
If all the files and/or folders are in a continuous block, then you can use SHIFT and Click to select them.

To use Shift and click, left-click once on the first file or folder that you want to select. It becomes highlighted as usual.

Now hold down the SHIFT key on your keyboard and then left-click once on the last file or folder that you want to be selected.

First file is selected.
Select the first file by left-clicking on it once.
First and last file in the sequence are highlighted. Also a keyboard is shown with the Shift key marked.
Then hold down the Shift key on your keyboard and left-click once on the last file.

Every file and folder between the first and last file/folder will be become selected.

A red box indicates the selected files.
All files between first selection and last selection are selected automatically.

The items don’t necessarily have to be in a straight line for this to work for you.

They simply need to be in an unbroken sequence from the first file to the last.

Files selected in a continuous but irregular pattern
The files can be selected by clicking on the first one, holding down the SHIFT key and then clicking on the last one.

How To De-Select A File In Windows.

There is just one last thing I want to share with you on the subject of selecting multiple files in Windows, and that is, how to deselect a file or folder.

When you’ve got multiple files/folders selected, you can de-select any number of them by holding down the CTRL (Control) Key and then left-clicking once on them.

When you use CTRL + click on a selected file or folder, then that file or folder will be deselected.

All files are selected. Keyboard is shown with CTRL key marked whilst mouse pointer hovers over just one file.
To deselect a particular file or folder, hold down the CTRL (Control) key and then left-click on it once.
The file has been deselected while all the others remain selected.
Only the file or folder that you clicked will be deselected. All the others will remain selected.

Selecting Multiple Files/Folders – Summary.

Whether you want to delete, cut, copy or whatever, selecting multiple files and or folders just makes life that little bit easier.

  • Click and Drag – casts a “net” over a group of items to select them
  • CTRL + Click – to add items to the selection
  • CTRL + A – to quickly select everything inside a folder
  • Shift + Click – to select items in a continuous line or group
  • CTRL + Click – to de-select a previously selected item

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