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How To Troubleshoot Copy and Paste Issues in Outlook

Lore from Charlotte, NC writes:

Suddenly I can’t copy and paste. I can’t copy and paste it in an email, but can copy and paste it into a Microsoft Word blank. Later I can copy from the Word document and paste it into an email. Can’t copy from one email to another either. I did all kinds of scans for a virus, defragged, clean disc, you name it but I still can’t copy paste the things I always did. Any clue what happened? Love your tips they have been invaluable. Thanks.

Copy and Paste is one of those great features invented by Xerox without which, it would be impossible to imagine an operating system today. Sadly, all Operating Systems and software run into bugs at times, and in this case, Lore is not able to use this wonderfully useful feature of copy and paste. Let us take a look at what all can cause this issue and troubleshoot her problem.


Lore has already tried running antivirus scans. That was a good decision. At times, keyloggers and other software that monitor user input can prevent some applications from registering your keystrokes. In cases like these, you may be surprised to see, that Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V does not work but when you right-click on the text to be copied and select copy to copy it, and paste to paste it to a different location, it works just fine!


Lore, is this the case with you? Then you should run an antivirus scan from a reputable vendor like Kaspersky, Avira or Norton, because you probably have a keylogger on your computer.

Plaintext/HTML mode

Outlook has two mail formats- Plaintext and HTML. When you copy HTML mail content, Windows also copies the formatting along with the text. If you go ahead and paste this text into an application like MS Word that can read formatting, you will see your text exactly as you copied it. However, at times, the formatting information is messed up, and even though you are able to see your copied text in, say Notepad, it does not appear (properly) in MS Word or Outlook. This is caused from a missing formatting data.

Lore, do you use Plaintext mode or HTML mode? In that case, try switching between them and see if Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V works now.


This seems to be a probably solution for your problem, because the entire Office package from version 2007 stores data and formatting in separate files. So, when you copy, the Operating System has to copy from two different files simultaneously. In fact, the files with an ‘x’ at the end of the extension name (docx, xlsx) are actually archives, and they have the actual data and the xml formatting information stored in different files. This can get messy at times.

Last resort- Uninstall and reinstall Office

From what it appears, Copy and Paste works fine for other applications in your case. You mentioned that you can copy and paste to/from MS Word. Therefore, there is no problem with your operating system. As a last resort, you can try to uninstall the entire Office package and reinstall it. That should solve your problem if nothing else works.

Bonus tip

Take a look at this tip on clearing the clipboard for Copy-Paste issues [1].

~ Chinmoy