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I have a couple of master pages that I have downloaded into the _catalogs/masterpage/ folder, but when I try to copy any .master file using Windows Expolrer, I get the following error message: "Could not find this item. This is no longer located in..."

I can open and edit them in SharePoint Designer, but having to open each one .master file and copy pasting to my backup folder is going to take a while, because I have a few master pages.

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Just select Send To -> Download a copy from the ECB menu in the MasterPage Gallery.

Or, try checking out the MasterPage then copying from Windows Explorer, it might let you do it then.

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I just noticed that in Windows Explorer it will not let me copy or save any .master files anywhere in the DavWWWRoot web server. Doesn't matter if it is checked in or checked out. On the master Page Gallery, I can only download one at a time to my PC. Although tedious, I can do this but I preferred leaving a copy on the server. –  Rick Aug 1 '12 at 15:53
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