Making a File Read-Only

by Barry Dysert
(last updated October 3, 2016)

Files have several attributes that are used to control how the file is used within Windows. One of the more important ones is known as the "read-only" attribute. When this is set, you can't accidentally edit the file and overwrite it. Why? Because when it is set, Windows understands that the file can only be read or viewed, not modified.

To set the file's read-only attribute, use Windows Explorer (Windows 7) or File Explorer (Windows 8 and Windows 10) to navigate to the file. Once you can see it, right-click the file and then choose Properties from the resulting Context menu. Windows displays the Properties dialog box for the file. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Properties text box for a file.

Note the Read-Only checkbox, near the bottom of the Properties dialog box. You can set or clear this checkbox according to your desires for the file. When you click OK or Apply, the attribute is changed as you direct.

After the read-only attribute is set, you can try to edit a read-only file, but you will be prevented from saving it. For example, after making my Temp.txt file read-only I opened the file and edited it. When I tried to save the file, I got notification that the operation couldn't be completed because Temp.txt was read-only. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. Trying to save a read-only file.

The warning dialog box appears only in Windows 7. In later versions of Windows there is no warning dialog box; instead the Save As dialog box is displayed directly without comment.

Note that most programs, if they detect that the read-only attribute is set, will allow you to do a "Save As" operation. This means that the file can be saved under a different name, but your original file remains undisturbed.

Marking a file as read-only also affects how you delete files. Most of the time, when you choose to delete a read-only file Windows will dutifully move it to the Recycle Bin. If you choose to empty the Recycle Bin, however, Windows asks you to confirm that you really want to delete the file. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. Trying to delete a read-only file.

If you want to really delete the read-only file, click Yes. If you click No (or otherwise close the dialog box), the file is left in the Recycle Bin.

 This tip (12851) applies to Windows 7, 8, and 10.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 30 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer.  He is currently a senior software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. ...

MORE FROM BARRY

Assigning a Shortcut Key to a Desktop Shortcut

Reducing the transitions between the keyboard and the mouse is a practice that can improve efficiency. Toward that end, this ...

Discover More

Ripping Songs from Audio CDs

Ripping songs from audio CDs is fairly simple, but the actual process varies from application to application.

Discover More

Running a Batch File at a Scheduled Time

Once you become comfortable with batch files, chances are that you'll want to use them to perform various system maintenance ...

Discover More
More WindowsTips

Using File History

Backing up your data is an important part of computer management. Enabling File History is a painless way to be able to ...

Discover More

Understanding File Paths

Every file on your disk drive has a unique file path that defines its location. Understanding how file paths work can be ...

Discover More

Permanently Deleting a File

If you have a file that you're sure you want to permanently delete (instead of having it go to the Recycle Bin) it's an easy ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is seven more than 5?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.