An Unexpected Error Is Keeping You From Copying The File

Imagine this scenario: you’re trying to make a simple copy of an important file on your computer, and all of a sudden, a message pops up with the frustrating statement – “An unexpected error is keeping you from copying the file.” Many of us have encountered this exasperating error at some point, leaving us wondering why it happens and how to resolve it. In this article, we’ll dive into the common causes of this error, explore troubleshooting steps for both Windows and Mac users, and provide essential tips to prevent it from happening in the future.

Common Causes of the Error

Understanding the root causes of the “unexpected error” can help us apply appropriate solutions. Here are some typical reasons behind the error message:

1. File in Use by Another Program

One of the most common reasons for this error is when the file you’re attempting to copy is currently open or in use by another application. When a file is actively used, the operating system restricts other processes from altering it to prevent data corruption.

2. Insufficient Permissions

Another potential cause is insufficient permissions. If the user account attempting to copy the file does not have the necessary read or write permissions, the system will prevent the action.

3. Corrupt File

A corrupt file can lead to various errors, including the “unexpected error” during the copying process. File corruption can occur due to improper shutdowns, hardware issues, or software glitches.

4. Malware or Virus Interference

Malware or viruses can interfere with system operations, including file copying. These malicious programs might lock files or manipulate permissions, causing the error message to appear.

Troubleshooting Steps

Let’s explore the steps you can take to troubleshoot and resolve the “unexpected error” on your system:

1. Check if the File is Open in Another Application

Before attempting any fixes, ensure that the file you want to copy is not open in any other application. Close all programs that may have access to the file and try copying it again.

2. Grant Necessary Permissions

If the error is due to insufficient permissions, you’ll need to grant appropriate read and write permissions to the file. Right-click on the file, choose “Properties,” navigate to the “Security” tab, and make the necessary adjustments.

3. Verify the File’s Integrity

If you suspect the file is corrupt, verify its integrity using built-in tools or third-party software. On Windows, you can use the “System File Checker” tool, while Mac users can utilize the “Disk Utility.”

4. Run a Malware Scan

To rule out malware interference, run a full system scan using reliable antivirus software. Remove any detected threats and attempt the file copy again.

Resolving the Error on Windows

Windows users have several options to resolve the “unexpected error”:

1. Using “Unlocker” Software

“Unlocker” is a handy third-party software that can help release locks on files, allowing you to copy them without interruptions. Simply install “Unlocker,” right-click on the problematic file, and choose “Unlocker” from the context menu to free up the file.

2. Adjusting File Permissions

In some cases, adjusting file permissions manually can resolve the error. Refer to the troubleshooting step mentioned earlier for granting necessary permissions.

3. Utilizing “System File Checker” Tool

The built-in “System File Checker” tool can scan and repair corrupted system files, which may, in turn, resolve the error. To use this tool, open Command Prompt as an administrator and enter the command “sfc /scannow.”

Resolving the Error on Mac

Mac users can also take specific measures to fix the “unexpected error”:

1. Using “Activity Monitor” to Identify Locked Files

Mac’s “Activity Monitor” can help identify processes that are currently using a particular file. Terminate any process associated with the file you want to copy and retry the action.

2. Using “Terminal” for Permissions Adjustment

For more precise control over file permissions, the “Terminal” application can be used. However, exercise caution as incorrect commands can lead to further issues.

Preventing Future Occurrences

Prevention is always better than cure, and here are some tips to avoid encountering the “unexpected error” in the future:

  • Safely Eject External Devices: Always eject external devices properly before disconnecting them to minimize the chances of file corruption.
  • Regularly Update Software and Antivirus: Keeping your operating system and antivirus software up to date ensures protection against known vulnerabilities and malware threats.
  • Create Backups: Regularly back up your important files to an external storage or cloud service to have an additional layer of protection against data loss.


Dealing with the “unexpected error” when copying files can be frustrating, but with the knowledge of its common causes and troubleshooting steps, you can overcome this obstacle. Whether you are a Windows or Mac user, following the appropriate methods can help you resolve the issue and keep your files safe. Remember to implement preventive measures like safely ejecting devices and maintaining updated software to minimize the likelihood of encountering this error in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why does the error message mention “unexpected”?

The term “unexpected” is used because the error occurs without any prior warning or apparent reason, making it puzzling for users.

2. Is the “Unlocker” software safe to use?

Yes, “Unlocker” is generally safe to use. However, download it from reputable sources to avoid potentially harmful versions.

3. Can I recover a file that’s been corrupted due to this error?

In some cases, data recovery software may help retrieve files damaged due to corruption. However, success is not guaranteed.

4. Can malware cause this error even if I’m not copying sensitive files?

Yes, malware can interfere with various system operations, and the error can occur regardless of the file’s sensitivity.

5. Are there any automated tools to prevent this error?

While no specific tool can guarantee the prevention of this error, following best practices such as regular backups and security updates can significantly reduce the chances of encountering it.

Jerry Richard
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