Photoshop Move Tool Not Working? [8 SOLUTIONS]

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If the Photoshop Move Tool is not working as expected, or if the Photoshop Move Tool won’t resize, most people jump straight to resetting their tool, but this comes with its own issues. 

There are a few instances specific to the Move Tool that stops it from working that are not shared with other tools, and trying these first is much easier than going straight to the reset button.

So in this article, I will cover the scenarios when the Move Tool is not working and how to fix it instead of instantly resetting the tool to its default settings.


photoshop move tool not working
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How to Fix the Move Tool Not Working in Photoshop

To fix the move tool in Photoshop, check that Auto-Select is turned off by first activating the Move Tool with V, then un-checking Auto-Select from the tool menu bar. Also, check that you do not have an active selection, that you have selected the correct layer and that this layer is unlocked.


1. Make sure that Auto-Select is Turned Off

Usually, when the Move Tool is not moving the correct thing, turning off the Auto Select helps. To do that, you first need to select the Move Tool. You can find it at the top of the Toolbar or press V on your keyboard. 

move tool

While the tool is active and selected, in the Options Bar you will find the Auto Select Option.

Make sure to untick the box. If you are using multiple layers, unchecking this box prevents Photoshop from automatically deciding which layer you intend to move, which is often the cause of this tool failing.

move tool auto select

2. Check to see if there is any Active Selection 

It’s possible that you might have somehow made a small selection, possibly of only a handful of pixels so that you can’t even see the selection boundary as you normally would.

active selection photoshop
If you see any selection boundaries in your image, and even if you don’t, you should try the unselect command

If you have made a selection, the Move Tool won’t work as expected, so any selections should be removed.

If you are uncertain if there is any selection active, you can check that by going to the Select Menu, then selecting Deselect.

deselect photoshop

Or, you can just use the shortcut for deselection, Ctrl/Cmd+D. If there is any selection made, it will deselect it automatically, and hopefully your Move Tool will now work.


3. Make sure the Show Transform Controls Button is Checked

In some cases, the Move Tool does not work for resizing, but it may work for moving. Although it moves stuff around, it does not highlight the element (you can not click on it and resize anything). 

For example, if you add a logo to a picture and want to make it smaller or bigger, you won’t be able to. 

To fix that, you have to make sure the Show Transform Control Button is ticked. You can find it in the Options Bar – right next to the Auto Select option. 

auto transform photoshop

4. Check Layer Mode is Selected in the Move Tool

The Move Tool can operate both on individual layers and on groups of layers.

You should ensure that it is set to Layer mode, as this means that it will only move the one layer at a time.

If you choose Group, then the tool will first make you draw a selection on your image to choose the layers that should be moved. This means that with Group selected, the Move Tool will appear not to work on the first try.

group layer

5. Ensure that The Correct Layer is Selected

It often happens that you find that you have selected a different layer from the one you thought you were working on, without even noticing it. In other words, you are trying to move something that is not selected, there is nothing to move. 

Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that the correct layer is selected in order for your Move Tool to work.

Simply click on the layer you are intending to move, so that it is highlighted.

active layer

6. The Layer must be Unlocked

Like with any other tool, if the layer you work on is locked, the Move Tool won’t work.

Usually when that is the case, you will be greeted by an Error Dialog, telling you that the Layer is Locked and you can not use the Move Tool.

move tool layer locked

In order to fix this, in the Layers Panel, make sure that the layers you work on are visible and unlocked

unlocked layer

To unlock the layer press the Lock Icon on the Layer, or click the Lock Position Button.

lock position in photoshop

Once you unlock your layer, the Move Tool should work as it used to.


7. Try Resetting the Move Tool

If nothing from the steps above helped you fix the issue with the Move Tool, try resetting it. But remember, when you reset the tool, it will lose any modifications or presets that you have made. So, I’d suggest using this option if really necessary. 

In order to reset the Move Tool:

  1. Select the Move Tool from the Toolbar or press V
  2. In the Options Bar, you will see the Move Tool Icon
  3. When you click on the icon, a menu box will show up
  4. Click on the Cog Icon
  5. And select the Reset Tool option
reset move tool

8. Photoshop Preference File might be Corrupted

If this doesn’t work, then the problem might be due to a corrupted Preferences File.

All your Photoshop settings are saved in the Preferences File, so deleting it will reset them all back to default. This will be like a fresh Photoshop installation, so use it with care.

There are two ways to do reset your preferences file:

A. Keyboard Shortcut

  1. Save all your work and quit Photoshop.
  2. Wait for a couple of seconds for all of its associated background processes to close.
  3. Then press and hold Shift+Ctrl+Alt on Windows or Shift+Cmd+Opt on a Mac, and launch Photoshop while holding those keys.
  4. Before Photoshop launches, a dialog box appears asking you whether you want to delete the Adobe Photoshop Settings File.
  5. When you choose Yes, Photoshop will launch with the Preference File reset, and everything will be set to the factory settings.

B. Use the Preferences Menu

This method works only with Photoshop CC and newer versions.

  1. First, go to the Edit Menu.
  2. From there, go to Preferences and choose General. (You can also do that by using the Ctrl/Cmd+K shortcut).
  3. There you will find a button named Reset Preferences On Quit.
  4. If you press that button, when you close Photoshop, the Preferences File will be reset.
reset Photoshop preference file

Using either of these two methods, the next time you launch Photoshop, everything will be reset to factory settings.


Final Thoughts on Fixing the Photoshop Move Tool

If your Move Tool is not working or won’t resize on moving, then you can almost always fix it by resetting the tool, but this is a last resort as it will also delete any presets you have saved.

Before resetting the Move Tool in Photoshop, you should check:

  • Auto-select is turned Off
  • There are no active selections
  • Show Transform Controls is On
  • Layer mode is selected in the Move Tool
  • The correct layer is selected
  • The layer is unlocked

If none of these solutions work for you, and you have tried resetting your preferences, then you can contact Adobe Customer Support for further help.


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Follow Andjela Cvetkovikj:

I’m a professional photographer and experienced content writer who enjoys sharing engaging and informative content.

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