In some cases, users may get a message The operation cannot be completed because an unexpected error occurred when they try to copy files or folders to the Desktop. At the same time, there are no problems with creating new items there. Repairing the Disk Permissions using Disk Utility usually does not help.
Why Does the System Refuse to Copy Files to the Desktop?
The thing is the Mac operating system uses a special construct, known as a plist. It is a short word for a “preference list”. The .plist file contains the preference settings for a particular application.
Sometimes such files get corrupted, which is hardly identifiable. This is known to be one of the macOS weak points. The system often does not know about the problem, so it does not send any alerts about it. As a result, a user is also unaware of the corruption. Meanwhile, an app with corrupted plists tries to read them, fails at it and starts malfunctioning. In most cases, it is the reason why it cannot be copied to the Desktop.
To solve the problem, you can drag and drop the plist to the Trash, and relaunch the app. By doing it, you delete the previous preferences that may be corrupted. You should not delete a .plist file permanently before reopening the application.
Deleting plists may cause losing some of your app’s settings, but you can set them up again.
To find plist files for a specific application, go to the /Library/Preferences folder.
Fixing the Permissions with the Get Info Window
To access it, choose File > Get Info. (Or, press Option and select File > Show Inspector to modify multiple items. Normally, you should see the Sharing & Permissions section where has to be your account in the Name column and Read & Write in the Privilege column. However, if you encounter problems with permissions, you may not see yourself there.
In such a case, follow the next steps:
- Click the lock icon and enter your password. If your account does not have admin privileges, enter the password for an administrative account.
- Click the “+” sign.
- Select your account’s name from the Users & Groups list and click Select.
- Then select Read & Write in the Privilege
- Try to copy your files to the Desktop again.
If you see your account’s name, but Read & Write isn’t selected, follow the first and the last steps mentioned above.
The problem may also lie in wrong permissions in the hidden Autosave Information folder. This folder is used by native applications to mark different versions of documents every time you make some changes to them before saving to other locations.
To solve the problem with Autosave Information, do the following:
- Open Finder and select Go > Go To Folder, then enter ~/Library.
- Click the Autosave Information
- Choose File > Get Info.
- You will see the Sharing & Permissions section there. Check if your account’s name is displayed there. If it is not, or you see the wrong permissions, get back to the steps mentioned above.