How to Fix Copy and Paste on Windows

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If you do any amount of, well anything, on your PC then you probably use Copy and Paste to speed things up occasionally. You most likely already know that the shortcut for them is CTRL-C (copy) and CTRL-V (paste).

But equally, you might have also noticed that occasionally, for no obvious reason, Copy and Paste stop working, at least until you reboot your machine. Then they seem to magically work again, and you forget all about it until the next time it fails for you.

The Copy / Paste error on Windows is one you think should have really been patched out by now. But in truth, it can actually be caused by several things, so it may not be as simple to eradicate as it sounds.

The worst is, you may not actually notice it isn’t working until you come to paste it from your clipboard.

I have done things before where I have copied something I needed for later from a webpage with CTRL-C, carried on reading and browsing, changed pages, and then gone to CTRL-V to a document only to get absolutely nothing. I didn’t even know there was a problem until I had a problem.

Had I used the right-click context menu, I would have noticed that the Copy command was greyed out and been alerted to the issue, but with no visual indicator to my CTRL-C command. I was left to backtrack and repeat my actions. Not the end of the world, but definitely a large amount of annoying.

There is also another annoying possibility that you copy something, and it appears to be fine, but when you come to paste it pastes the wrong thing! Usually, something you had copied to the clipboard earlier. Yes, that’s annoying too!

How To Fix Copy And Paste Not Working On Windows

The Windows clipboard is generally accessible to all programs that you might have installed.

Occasionally, however, it may become locked by certain DRM (Digital Rights Management) such as if you are playing an encrypted video.

This can disable the copy and paste functions, and while you may be unlikely to be copying and pasting away while watching a video. It’s possible you might be watching something in a window while working, or have left the video paused in the background.

Either way, this simple check should be something you do first.

Just try closing any video players (VLC or whatever you might have playing). Even if you have been watching Netflix in a browser window, make sure you close it.

Allow the system a few seconds to recognize it no longer needs the DRM and try again to see if that resolves your issue. It gets no simpler than that.

If not by the same rule of thumb, you can sometimes find that another program has somehow locked the clipboard so close to anything you have running.

By now, chances are that Copy and Paste are back to their happy, functioning selves. If not, we aren’t out of options yet!



Try the Command Prompt

This next thing to try is especially useful if you have come across the error where your pesky clipboard is pasting the wrong thing. It could be as simple as your clipboard is full. This is likely to have happened if you have been copying large swathes of text or large image files.

Anyway, this one is a little more involved and involves the Command Prompt, but it’s easy enough.

Type CMD into the Windows Search box, then right-click on Command Prompt before selecting Run as Administrator.

Your Windows system may ask you if that’s what you wanted to do if it does, select yes.

Now type

cmd /c “echo off | clip”

Close the box and see if it works. You have just cleared it, so chances are that is fixed.

Chances are you have resolved the issue long since if you have followed this guide.

If you are still having problems, another thing to try before reverting to a System Restore is to run the System File Checker to validate the system files and check none are corrupted. This is pretty unlikely in the vast, the vast majority of cases, but let’s have a look anyway.

Run the Command Prompt as Administrator as above. This time we are typing.

sfc /scannow

Press Enter.

Windows will now start a system scan, which is an ideal time to go and grab a coffee. Check the results when you come back, and it will hopefully have told you it has solved your issues once and for all.

If you are still struggling after all of these fixes, leave us a note in the comments section, and we will do our best to help you further.

Paul is a contributor to PC Guide, having covered news coverage, Raspberry Pi, Windows releases and peripherals - among other things - across the site.