How to Change Read Only Files or Folders

By Andrew Tennyson

Removing read-only permissions on a file or folder on your Windows 8.1 computer is a two-stage process. First, before you can change the permissions themselves, you must take ownership of the file or folder. After you’re set up as the owner, you can then change the permissions of the read-only file or folder so that you have full access to modify it.

Take Ownership of File or Folder

Step 1

Log into your Windows 8.1 computer using an account with administrative privileges and then open the File Explorer program. You can open File Explorer either by searching for it in the Search charm or by pressing “Windows-E” on your keyboard.

Step 2

Click the file or folder whose permissions you want to change, click the “Share” tab and then click the “Advanced Security” button. The Share tab is located along the top of the File Explorer window and the Advanced Security button is displayed only after you've opened the Share tab.

Step 3

Verify that your name does not appear next to the Owner field. If it does, skip ahead to the Change Permissions section. If it doesn’t appear next to the Owner field, click the “Change” link located next to the Owner field to launch the Select User Or Group dialog and then click the “Advanced” button. The Advanced button is located in the bottom-left corner of the Select User Or Group dialog.

Step 4

Click the “Find Now” button on the right side of the Select User Or Group dialog, select your user name on the list of available users, click “OK” and then click “OK” again.

Step 5

Verify that your user name now appears next to the Owner field. If you’re taking ownership of a folder, place a check mark in the “Replace owner on subcontainers and objects” check box. Click the “Apply” button and then click the “OK” button to finish taking ownership of the file or folder.

Change Permissions

Step 1

Select the file or folder whose permissions you want to change, click the “Share” tab and then click “Advanced Security.” The Share tab is located along the top of the File Explorer window and the Advanced Security button is displayed only after you've opened the Share tab.

Step 2

Click the “Add” button located beneath the Permission Entries box, click the “Select a principal” link and then click the “Advanced” button. The Advanced button is located in the bottom-left corner of the Select User Or Group dialog.

Step 3

Click the “Find Now” button, click your user name on the Search Results list and click “OK.” Click “OK” again, place a check mark in the “Full control” check box and click “OK” once more. The Full Control check box is located under the Basic Permissions heading.

Step 4

Verify that your user name now appears next to the Allow heading in the Principal column and click “OK” to finish changing the permissions for the file or folder.

Tips & Warnings

  • After changing permissions on a file or folder, Windows may display a security dialog asking you to confirm that you want to make the proposed changes. Click “Yes” to confirm.
  • You can only set permissions for files and folders saved on drives that are formatted to NTFS. NTFS is a formatting system developed by Microsoft. It’s the default format used for Windows. If you find you can’t change permissions, you or someone else may have changed the formatting on your hard drive in the past. To check whether your hard drive is formatted to NTFS, right-click your primary hard drive in File Explorer and click “Properties.” The formatting of the drive is displayed next to the File System heading.
  • Information in this article applies to computers running the Windows 8.1 operating system. Procedures may vary with other versions or products.