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 35 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer. He is currently a software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. When not working with Windows or writing Tips, Barry is an amateur writer. His first non-fiction book is titled "A Chronological Commentary of Revelation." ...

MORE FROM BARRY

Moving and Resizing Windows

The ability to work on multiple things simultaneously is a hallmark of Windows. If you have many windows up at once, ...

Discover More

Using the Disk Cleanup Wizard

There are a lot of files that "hang around" on your system that you probably don't intend to keep (if you even realize ...

Discover More

Changing How Event Log Overruns are Handled

By default, the event logs are implemented in a circular buffer, i.e., when its maximum size is reached, the oldest ...

Discover More
More WindowsTips

Assigning a Picture to a Folder

Windows allows you to customize many aspects of its user interface. One thing you can modify is how a folder's icon ...

Discover More

Understanding Indexed Search

Windows has a powerful search utility that allows you to search for files that may be scattered across separate folders ...

Discover More

Checking a Disk Drive for Free Space

Keeping track of your resources can help you avoid serious computer problems. Having an adequate amount of disk space is ...

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. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. 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 two more than 9?

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.