Replacing Folders: Warning to PC Users Switching to Mac

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by ICEBreaker, Aug 9, 2014.

  1. ICEBreaker, Aug 9, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2014

    ICEBreaker macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    #1
    SUMMARY: In PC, when moving/copying a folder to a location where another folder with the same name exists, the contents of the two folders are merged. Original files with identical filenames as the new files will be overwritten by the new files (new refers to the files being moved/copied and not the date of the files). Those files without duplicated filenames will be left behind. In Mac, the entire destination folder is replaced. Effectively, the entire folder is deleted and the new folder moved into its place. Even files with different filenames in the original location will be deleted. (See example at the end).


    Dear new (or even old) Mac users,

    I had used Mac during my pre-teen years in 80s but had switched over to PC, and in 2007 switched back to Mac. Recently I found that many of my folders were empty or missing large chunks of files, and it occurred to me that a PC habit I had picked up was responsible for this. I had been doing something wrong for 8 years!

    In PC, when copy or moving a folder to a location where another of the same name exists, users will be warned of this and asked if they wish to replace the files in the destination. What actually happens is that files with the same names are overwritten but files that have different names will remain - they will not be deleted. This means you can use this method to merge two folders together, and this is something I do all the time, especially when moving folders from a USB back to the desktop.

    However, in Mac, when the same situation occurs, the entire destination folder is replaced. That means all files, even ones with file names that are different will be deleted permanently (i.e. not even placed in the Trash). If one wishes to merge two folders together, they would have to do it at the file level.

    I will no doubt receive messages from fanboys who will say the Mac concept is the common sense one, and that it is the PC one which is confusing (e.g. Replace means replace, it does not mean merge! Doh!). I am not here to argue which way is better. I only want to warn other ex-PC users of this behaviour so that they won't lose valuable files like I did. (Thank goodness for Time Machine, as I was able to recover some of the recent files, but many files from years ago were lost, including all those assignments and thesis from college days.)


    EXAMPLE:

    \HDD\Folder 1
    - File 1 01/01/2014
    - File 2 01/01/2014
    - File 3 01/01/2014

    \USB\Folder 1
    - File 1 01/07/2014

    Move/copy \USB\Folder 1 to \HDD\

    PC result
    \HDD\Folder 1
    - File 1 01/07/2014 (replaced)
    - File 2 01/01/2014
    - File 3 01/01/2014

    Mac result
    \HDD\Folder 1
    - File 1 01/07/2014
    - File 2 01/01/2014 (deleted)
    - File 3 01/01/2014 (deleted)
     
  2. dan1eln1el5en macrumors 6502

    dan1eln1el5en

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2012
    Location:
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    #2
    That must be a new feature, it doesn't work like that by default on Windows 7 and before, perhaps a new feature or a hidden option somewhere ?

    The default on OS X, Win and Linux is to replace the folder and the previous content is deleted. because the workflow is basically
    1) is there already a folder by that name ?
    2) warn user / ask what to do
    3) delete the folder
    4) create new folder and copy content into it.
     
  3. snorkelman, Aug 9, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2014

    snorkelman macrumors 6502a

    snorkelman

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2010
    #3
    nopes not new, is default behavior for XP too

    create two folders FolderA and FolderB
    inside each of those create a New Folder

    in FolderA/NewFolder add following files:
    bitmap1.bmp
    word1.doc
    textdoc.doc



    in FolderB/NewFolder add following files:
    bitmap1.bmp
    excel1.xls
    textdoc.doc
    acrobat.pdf


    if you then try to copy FolderA/NewFolder into FolderB (where theres already a NewFolder), you'll get a dialog like this:

    [​IMG]

    answer Yes To All and the end result will be:

    FolderB/NewFolder now contains
    bitmap1.bmp
    excel1.xls
    word.doc
    textdoc.doc

    acrobat.pdf

    anything already in folder B's new folder that doesn't have an identically named file in FolderA's new folder will be left alone, whilst anything that has an identical name to those being copied over will be replaced with the new ones.

    While in some respects its a better option its still really only halfways useful; drag a bundle of folders into another folder and unbeknownst to you there's a subfolder with same name as one of those your dragging over, then you could

    lose everything in the original subfolder (if all files have same names)
    lose some of it (if some files have same names)
    or end up with a perfect merge (if everything has different names)

    Granted there's some circumstances it could be useful, but in a whole lot of others all you really gain out of it is a different mess
     
  4. Gregg2 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    May 22, 2008
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    #4
    I think I remember reading that merging folders became possible with Lion. Has there been a rethinking of that in newer versions? (I use Snow Leopard)
     
  5. ICEBreaker thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    #5
    Hi everyone, thanks for your replies.

    snorkelman: Thanks for demonstrating how it works in Windows XP. That has been the behaviour of Windows all along (at least as far back as Windows 3). There are more options on Windows 7 and 8 now, but the gist is the same.

    Gregg2: No, the behaviour on OS X has not changed in Lion. That's what I am using. I don't know about Mavericks though, but I doubt Apple would suddenly make a change. I think it's best to leave these things alone, as existing users are used to a certain way of doing something. However, I think they should have added a warning message so that new users would be alerted. I wonder how many people are losing files and not know about it. I was completely ignorant about this for 8 years, and I consider myself moderately knowledgable, having studied computer science and therefore working on lots of different platforms for hours on end.
     
  6. matrix07 macrumors 68040

    matrix07

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2010
    #6
    There is no "Merge" function in OSX Finder. If you want to consolidate 2 folders you need to open all those two, select all the files from a folder you want to move to the new one, and move it. If the file names are the same OSX will ask if you want to overwrite or keep both files. That's all.

    ----------

    It was introduced with Vista. (In XP, it worked differently)
     
  7. Tumbleweed666 macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2009
    Location:
    Near London, UK.
    #7
    Wow, thanks for that ICEbreaker, that's a nasty little "gotcha" I wasn't aware of, I use mac and PC every day and would have assumed they had the same behaviour. Eg why delete a file at the destination just because it's not there at the source?

    Anyway luckily I don't do much merging, so through luck only I think, I haven't lost much if anything. Nothing I've noticed yet anyway :eek:
     
  8. ICEBreaker thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    #8
    I have been doing that now, and that works assuming we are talking about one folder. Once you have subfolders, it becomes a lot of work.

    @Tumbleweed666: Thanks. Yes, I am surprised that this doesn't show up on those "new Mac user" articles that are all over the web. But I suppose, like you said, most people don't merge files. Personally, I do it mainly with USB and Dropbox. Often times, I would collaborate with others, and so place something on Dropbox. But I would delete the unrelated or personal notes first. When the collaboration is over, I would just merge the two folders together. All this time, I've been deleting those personal notes. Nowadays, I just keep everything separate so I don't need to merge anymore.
     
  9. ICEBreaker thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    #10
    Hi Gregg. Um, that's not really what I am talking about here. The "new folder with selection" function you referenced is really convenient and I use it often. However, it groups folders, not merge folders. Specifically, it groups folder i, folder ii,... folder n, and place them all inside folder A. It's like picking up a number of boxes and putting them inside the closet.

    Merge means literally to incorporate the CONTENTS of two folders into one single folder without changing the overall hierarchal structural. So the analogy would be to take the contents of both boxes and put them into a third box. It's not just a difference in semantics. The difference is significant once you consider sub-folders.
     

Share This Page