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How to change file permissions on Windows 10

Files that users create on a Windows 10 system are generally directly accessible. You will find though that many files and folders that have been created by Windows 10, and the files and folders that reside in a user’s folder/libraries cannot be accessed by other users.

The system files and folders are locked for everyone except the admin user while user files are locked for other users to keep them private. The permissions of a file or folder can be changed, and the process is easy but you have to have the right level of access on a system in order to change these permissions.

File permissions on Windows 10

Before we can get down to how you can change file permissions on Windows 10, you should know what level of user rights you will need to change file permissions.

  • System files and folders: You must have admin user rights to change file permissions.
  • User files: You must either have admin rights, or you must have access to the user’s wn account.
  • TrustedInstaller owned files: Again, you will need admin user rights to make changes to a file or folder that is owned by TrustedInstaller.

File permissions vs file attributes

One more concept we need to get out of the way before we get down to how you can change file permissions on Windows 10 is file permissions vs file attributes.

File attributes are things like if a file is read-only or not. A file attribute will often carry from one device to another when the file is copied, emailed, or uploaded and downloaded. In many cases, changing this attribute does not require admin rights.

File permissions are generally specific to a system which means if you have a file that only your user can access on your system, and you email it to a friend, they will be able to open it. File permissions control who can and cannot open a file on the system or network or directory they reside on.

Change file permissions on Windows 10

To change file permissions on Windows 10, follow these steps after signing in with the correct user account needed for the job. 

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Navigate to the file you want to change permissions for.
  3. Right-click the file and select Properties from the context menu.
  4. Go to the Security tab.
  5. Click Edit under the Groups or user names.
  6. In the next window, you can select each listed user or group to view and change permissions.
  7. Select a user/group.
  8. Enable an option in the Deny column to revoke the permission e.g. if you enable the Full control checkbox in the Deny column the selected user will not be able to open the file at all.
  9. Click Apply and then OK.

Add user to file permissions

Sometimes a user is not listed at all in the users or groups box in the security window of a file. In this case, you have to manually add the user before you can grant them permission. In this scenario, the user is denied all permissions to the file simply because they’re not on the list of users who can have any type of access to it.

  1. Navigate to the file and right-click it.
  2. Select Properties from the context menu.
  3. Go to the Security tab.
  4. Click Edit under Users or groups.
  5. Click Add.

  1. In the new window that opens, enter the name of the user in the ‘Enter the object name to select’ box.
  2. Click Check Names.
  3. Once validated, click OK.
  4. The user will now appear in the list of users who have permissions set for the file.
  5. Change the permissions and click Apply.

Conclusion

As a rule of thumb, you should be careful when you change permissions for a system file or folder. You should also refrain from taking ownership away from TrustedInstaller and if you absolutely have to do so, reset the permissions as soon as you can. Finally, your files will generally be accessible by the admin user and you can remove that user but don’t revoke system access to a file unless you have a very good reason to do so.

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