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Removing read-only is easily done in Windows Explorer... but the read-only notice may not be real.

How do you change a file from read-only to read-write? I've an HP computer with Windows XP Home Edition.

In this excerpt from Answercast #72, I show how to access a file that is displaying a "read-only" error.

Removing read-only

In most cases, it's usually pretty simple. If in fact, the file is truly marked "read-only" (and I'll get into that in a second) what you do is:

  • Locate the file in Windows Explorer:

  • Right-click on it, click on properties;

  • Then, in the resulting dialog box, there should be a checkbox specifically labeled "read-only."

  • Make sure that's unchecked, click Okay, and the file should be read-write.

It could be an error

Now, here's the problem: I'm not sure what it is you're using to determine that the file is in fact read-only.

If it's an error message from a program, it is possible that the program is lying to you - not intentionally, but what happens is that many programs will report "read-only" if they can't write to a file or if they can't open a file with write privileges. If that fails for any reason, they just throw up the read-only message.

It could be that the file is in use. It could be that the file is on a read-only disc like a CD; a read-only CD. It is possible that another program (like I said) has the file open in a way that prevents other programs from opening it.

If it's already read-write

So, if in fact the file is already marked read-write (in other words, it's not marked read-only when you open up that Properties dialog box), then the next thing I would do is to start looking at what other programs might have that file open at the same time.

The best way to do that... I have an article called "How do I determine who's using a file in use?"

What that will do is walk you through the steps to use Process Explorer to find out which program it is on your computer that actually has the file open. Nine times out of ten my experience is that with many programs read-only doesn't mean read-only. It means that another program has the file open and you need to pursue it that way.

But the read-only status on the file is a very quick and easy thing to check; so check that first in Windows Explorer, and then proceed as needed.

Article C6052 - November 21, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?


Mark J
November 23, 2012 8:11 AM

Sometimes you have a file which is in use, and you can't edit or delete it. A small utility called Unlocker can help. Unlocker allows you to delete, rename, or move the file, or you can use it to close down the process which is using the file so you can work on it. Before performing the action, it will show you the process which is using the file and you can choose whether you want to close it down or not.

November 23, 2012 9:47 AM

I think you forgot to mention that if a program crashes, there is the possibility that the file might not get closed properly and so a subsequent attempt to access the file could result in a read-only error because Windows thinks the file is still in use when it's not.

Either a reboot or logging out of Windows usually clears up the problem.

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