Why Are All My Folders Marked Read-Only?

Soli P. Dastur from the United States writes:

I have been with you from the beginning of the Worldstart and religiously read every one of your emails. I have a problem on my Sony VAIO laptop with Windows 7 Home Edition. All of a sudden, about 2 weeks ago, I cannot save any files after updating them on my Windows. It keeps telling me that the file is Read Only. When I look at the file’s Properties, the Read Only option is NOT checked. Then I opened the Properties of its Folder and low and behold the Read Only option is NOT checked but it is Highlighted as if it is Read Only. I unchecked it on the Folder, Press Apply, closed it, opened the Folder again and again it is Highlighted as Read Only. I am going NUTS and Microsoft with all its high fulluten customer service endless options has not been of any help. Please please help me to resolve this problem.

It’s a quirk of the Windows operating systems that by default most folders are set to “read-only,” but normally this should apply only to the folder itself and not to any files contained in the folder.

Some users have experienced problems similar to your own however, where suddenly they can’t open or save changes to files in any “read-only” folder. This issue typically occurs after upgrading to a new version of Windows, installing certain updates, or in some cases after a spyware program changes your computer’s settings.

There are two main ways to get around this issue that don’t involve the drastic options of deleting all your affected files or completely re-installing Windows. First, you can force Windows to permanently remove the “read-only” attribute from specific folders by using the command prompt.

To access the prompt, open the Start menu and type “cmd” in the search box. Click the “cmd” option (in some versions of Windows it will instead read “Command Prompt.”)

Searching for the CMD prompt

Next you’ll need to type in a command to forcibly remove the “read-only” attribute from the specified folder. For example, if you wanted to remove the “read-only” tag from your “Documents” folder, you would type “attrib -r +s C:\Users\YourUserName\Downloads” (without the quotes and changing “YourUserName” to the name of your Windows user account).

Tap Enter after typing the command to remove the “read-only” flag from the folder and you should now be able to makes changes to any files in that folder.

Removing the read-only attribute

If using the command prompt to remove the “read-only” tag doesn’t fix your problem, there is still another option available. You can use a registry modification tool to “take control” of the folder and give you full administrative access, which should allow you to modify any files in that folder.

First you’ll need to the download the take ownership registry fix available at the Windows Seven forum (or download it directly by clicking here). Extract the zip archive and then open the new folder. Click and drag the “Add_Take_Ownership” file to your desktop, then right-click the file and select “Merge.”

Merging the take ownership registry fix

Right-click the folder that’s giving you problems and select “Take Ownership.”

Taking ownership of a folder

You should now be able to freely remove the “read-only” tag and modify any files in the folder.

~ Ty Arthur

0 thoughts on “Why Are All My Folders Marked Read-Only?

  1. Ty,

    You have a typo. You said to remove the read only tag from the Documents folder but then in the atrib command you typed Downloads. Some of your less knowledgeable readers will probably get confused.

  2. I have run into this problem a couple times with windows 8.1 as operating system. Do instructions in article apply to windows 8.1?


  3. Doesn’t work on Win10, either. I think my problem might be a corrupted user profile, as it no longer lets me save anyting to Documents nor will it let me sign into OneDrive to save anything there, either.

  4. I tryed it but still doesn’t work.
    The foldres still show the read only box in blue.
    I have Windows 7
    Your help will be very appreciated!

  5. Problem started with everything in my Documents folder after I installed Win 10, and remained after I reverted to Win 7. Unchecking the read-only box seems OK but then it re-appears next time round. Similarly the cmd action seems to clear it and then it’s back. Have yet to try the Registry modification tool.

  6. Same problem after upgrading to Windows 10 from Windows 7 Home Premium. Have read that its related to the way Windows 10 is integrated with OneDrive. Don’t know if this is true. Very frustrating problem to say the least.

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