Understanding and Using File Attributes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 29, 2014)


Windows files have several attributes, or properties. These attributes affect how the file can be manipulated. What follows is a list of the available file attributes and what they mean:

  • Read-only: The file cannot be accidentally edited and saved.
  • Hidden: The file cannot be seen in Windows Explorer. (Hidden files are discussed in another tip.)
  • System: The file is a system file and should not be manipulated by the user.
  • File is ready for archiving: This was originally used to indicate that the file is available to be backed up. This attribute is no longer used in the majority of today's backup programs.
  • Allow this file to have contents indexed in addition to file properties: This tells the system that when it indexes the file, it should also index the contents of the file. Indexing the contents of a file allows you to use the Search feature of Windows Explorer to find files that contain the specified text. If the contents are not indexed, the Search feature will only find files by their name.
  • Compress contents to save disk space: This tells the system to compress the file in order to save disk space. A file that is compressed is shown in blue.
  • Encrypt contents to secure data: This causes the file to be encrypted, assuming the system has a properly configured recovery policy.

There are a couple of ways to view and change a file's attributes. One way is through Windows Explorer. By right-clicking on a file and selecting Properties, Windows displays a Properties dialog box for the file. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. A file's Properties window.

In the Properties dialog box you can set the Read-only and Hidden attributes. There are more attributes, though, and these can be seen by clicking the Advanced button to display the Advanced Attributes dialog box. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. A file's Advanced Attributes window.

Again, setting or clearing the checkboxes is how you set or clear the file's attributes.

 This tip (12023) applies to Windows 7 and 8.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 9 - 2?

2016-11-15 08:53:01


Something different than Carbonote, you ask Gordon Schochet?

Try out the BackUp Maker. At first it may overwhelm with number of steps required for setting an action for a specific copy backup process, but once out figure out what means what you can probably any kind of configuration , with access via Tray with only two click [or set it automatically in the background]

2016-11-12 02:15:15


hi on windows 10 i mark folder archiving
but when i copy the folder that mark isnt there and folder archiving has no mark

2016-09-01 09:32:05

Thomas Redd

I understand what you wish you had. I have created a batch file that accomplishes my goal--like yours--very quickly and easily. I have the batch file on my desktop and when I run it, new files and changed files are copied to the specified directory on my external hard drive. It is really very simple but it works. If you create that kind of a batch file, do it in notepad, and save it out as a text file with the extension of ".bat". Then it will run for you and copy files in the old fashioned DOS kind of commands. I will include the text of my file for you. You must modify it to have it move to your specific file location and to save to the specific location. I would be happy to have you contact me for more specific help if you need. My email address is: thomasredd@yahoo.com. Here is the text:

cd users
cd Thoma
xcopy *.* f:NewHome /e/s/d/y

I have saved this out as Backup.bat on my desktop. When I double click that file, all new and changed files are copied.

This program will copy any new and changed files in my specified user files to the directory "NewHome" on my hard drive. you could add other files or you could include your entire hard drive. Really quite quick and simple. For me, I like it to save all my files. There for, it doesn't remove any files from my backup. It just adds new and changed files. I can delete files if I wish. Hope this helps.
Good luck.

2016-08-31 18:39:42

Gordon Schochet

The use of the Archive Bit was VERY useful for incremental backups of changed files in DOS and early Windows o.s's., and I have been searching for a backup program like the one I used for many years. I happily use Carbonote, but I would like something that would backup locally. If anyone can recommend a program that would only backup new or changed files, I would very much like to hear about it. Otherwise, I dream on.

2016-08-31 03:06:10


I ca not rotate Jpeg file in Microsoft outlook untill tick File Attributes, that is also temperory, once fiel is closed next time i open same file again i have to tick. none of JPEG file in Outlook i can rotate.

2016-01-05 13:20:12


@Victor: Now... Victor, listen. Your request for help didn't make ANY sense. What was the problem again?

2016-01-02 10:59:28


Hello, please can someone help me - I clicked the 'folders ready to Archive' box before trying to move the folder on to a USB - the folder appears to have moved onto the USB but the content of the folder has not & I now can not find my photos? Can someone please help me locate my photos - they must be on my PC somewhere , thank you in anticipation, Cheryl.

2014-12-19 11:13:47


Nearly all the first songs of every album I have has been taken out of the original file and they are all now siting in "my music" like file folders but they are MP3. I know these first songs were all in the original files when I copied or downloaded them. I just don't know how the first song got separated from orig file. I cannot get it back to normal aside from re- inserting them all one at a time, which would take a long time as I have many albums like this. Please help!

2014-10-06 15:19:06


Balasubramaniam, what version of Outlook are you running? I'm running 2013 and I don't see the three date/time fields you're referring to in the receipt's Properties. Or are you talking about the *file's* properties (outside of Outlook)? I'd like to get to the point of looking at the same dates you're looking at. Thanks.

2014-10-06 15:06:09

Balasubramaniam Varadarajan

I am using MS outlook for mail receipt and store them in .pst folders. In a newly received mail, when I open the properties dialogbox, it shows three fields with date & time. Sent, Received & Modified. What these fields indicates? Particularly whether the field Modified represents the time of actual downloading into the computer or the time mail received in the server? Whether the values in fields Received & Modified could be different if the receiving computer is not switched on at the time of message sent but switched on the next day only. Very important issues are to be decided upon your answer.

2014-10-05 08:39:07


Deepak, please tell us exactly how you archived the C:UsersDeepak folder. Without knowing how it was archived it will be hard to advise you on how to undo it. Thanks.

2014-10-05 04:34:16

Deepak Verma

Sir, i archived the C:Users:deepak folder that was the admistrative folder i guess, there is another folder C:Users:public. Now all the data like notepad and desktop files are gone. What should i do to recover my files and undo the folder??

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