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When Windows file system encrypts a file, it will show as green in Windows Explorer. You need the right permissions to unencrypt it.

Why are some of my files green in color? The operating system is Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2. I'm running Microsoft Excel. The specific text of any error message us, "The file may be read only or is encrypted." Then, it shows this file may be corrupted.

Why are some of my files in green color. I cannot open it. When I see properties; it shows encrypted. When I try and remove the encryption and click "Apply" it shows "An error occurred applying attributes to this file. Access denied."

I never encrypted this. I created passwords to some files and they work fine but the rest of the Excel files I cannot open. I have some very important database in those Excel files. I scanned the system using Malwarebytes and no threats were found. I reinstalled Microsoft Office.

I've checked the certificate is giving the username administrator. I login daily by using that. When I try to use system restore it shows "Restart your computer for system restore" and system restore doesn't work at all. Please help.

In this excerpt from Answercast #4, I'll explain why files turn green in Windows Explorer and look at what to do if that happens.

System Restore Didn't Work

I'm not surprised that System Restore doesn't work. For various reasons, I'm not a big fan of System Restore. I've got a couple of articles on that. I much prefer to rely on backups; a good backup regimen to take the place of trying to rely on System Restore for anything. When it works, it's nice. But when it doesn't, as you can see, it's not a big help.

The short answer is actually in the error message that you're seeing. "Green" indicates that this is a file whose name is being displayed in the color green inside of Windows Explorer. Green indicates that the file has been encrypted.

Now, this is not encryption by some external program. This isn't like a WinZip kind of encryption or even Excel's own encryption. This is the encryption that's built into the Windows file system, into the Windows NTFS file system.

The correct way to unencrypt the file is pretty much what you tried to do. That is right-click the file and get the properties. Notice that the encryption box has a checkmark in it; uncheck it and click Apply. Unfortunately, in your case, that's not working.

What this means is that the account you are logged in as is not the account that encrypted the file. Now, because you say you didn't do this, I'm not really sure to take you from here.

I would definitely look at other user accounts on that system. Because you are the administrator on that system, you should be able to either set those passwords or login as those accounts and see if one of those other user accounts can decrypt or uncheck the encryption attribute to the file.

But that's it. The file system has encrypted it using credentials for a user account that is not the one you are logged in as. I don't know how this happened. It's very difficult (if not impossible) to accidentally encrypt a file. Typically, people need to take positive action to make that happen, so I can't really say exactly why it happened. That's the direction you need to be looking into.

Article C5139 - March 28, 2012 « »

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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.

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5 Comments
John Servis
April 2, 2012 10:21 AM

Hello, Something along these lines happened to me once and with Leo's & a few others help, this fix worked for me. You've got nothing to lose by trying it anyway.
Go to the file in questions' properties, click on security, click on the box down toward the bottom "Advanced" this brings up a window with 4 tabs at the top, click on the "Owner" tab, click on the "Edit" box, this brings up another window, you want to change ownership of the file to your user account, click on your account in the box showing all the users, check the square next to "Replace owner on subcontainers and objects" now click "Apply" now back your way out the way you came in, clicking all OK/Apply buttons. Restart. Hopefully this solves your problems! I had a similar experience happen and was locked out of alot of my files having done nothing to cause the change, I know how you feel in that respect. Where I know this will do nothing to address the issue of what caused the problem in the first place, I do know that it was a quick fix for me that has been working the last 4 -5 months since it happened. Good Luck. J.

John Servis
April 2, 2012 10:26 AM

One more thing. After you've taken ownership of the file/s, you can then change the permissions, such as encryption that you weren't able to do before. J.

Motion Benjamin
December 19, 2012 9:25 AM

Download data recovery software...
I will recommend EaseUS DataRecovery Wizard

Mugaya Charles
February 18, 2013 12:51 AM

Thanks, the information was helpful and I was able to solve my problem.
thanks again.

Frank Boyle
March 30, 2013 3:38 AM

Green files ocurred by me just yesterday when I connected my external hard disk to my second PC. Some of the files turned to green and I couldn't accesss them as the user account certificate was from the other PC. So I could not encrypt or play videos back. In that case would I have to reconnect external HDD to PC where I created them and do uncrypt before I try to use on second PC?

From what I can tell from your question: yes.
Leo
30-Mar-2013

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