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CD's are great for backup and storage. However CD-R's are not so good for files that you need to directly access from certain programs.

I made a CD of my address book & when I tried open it I got the following message. "The address book has been locked by another application. Please close the other application & try again later" I Googled the problem & I did as Microsoft suggested & made sure the "Read only" box was unchecked In all address book files. It was. Still no luck. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

The problem, I suspect, is that there are two types of read-only.

And a program that requires that files NOT be read-only wants it both ways.

There are two ways that a file can show up as being "read-only":

  • The read-only flag can be set for the file. Every file on disk has this flag and of course it can be either on or off. In Windows Explorer, right click on a file, click on Properties, and you'll get something like this:

    Properties of Outlook.pst

    This example shows the read-only flag as being set, so this file cannot be written to.

  • The file can be on read-only media. ALL files on read-only media appear as read-only. And CD-R is a read-only media. The individual property, above, may or may not indicate read-only, but because you can't alter the contents of a CD-R once burned, they're read-only regardless.

"...even after copying the files from CD to your hard disk, the files will still be marked as read-only.

What typically happens is that a program that tries to use the file will attempt to open the file and ask for the ability to write to it. If the file is read-only, for either of the above reasons, that open will fail.

The confusing part is that this attempt to open can fail in ways that are very similar to the failure that happens if another program has the file open. The net result is the slightly confusing error message you receive.

So, what to do?

Since the CD will always be read-only no mater what you do, you need to copy the file or files to your hard disk and open them from there.

But, naturally, there's a catch.

When files are copied the program you use to copy them sees that the files are read-only. Unless you tell it otherwise it "copies" the read-only attribute with the files. That means that even after copying the files from CD to your hard disk the files will still be marked as read-only.

But this time, on your hard disk, it'll simply be the read-only attribute on the file that has been set. Right click on the file, click on Properties, uncheck the "read-only" attribute, and hit OK. You'll need to do that for each file you copied and/or need write access to.

Article C2923 - February 5, 2007 « »

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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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11 Comments
Ivan Tadej
February 20, 2007 5:48 AM


Errr Leo, it's certainly not necessary to "do that for each file you copied and/or need write access to" (i.e. to remove the "Real-only" attribute); one can simply select more files and/or folders and do that only once for all the files/folders together.

________

best regards,
Ivan Tadej, Slovenia
http://tadej-ivan.50webs.com/

Ryan
March 21, 2007 12:15 AM

The read only message will not allow me to copy files to my computer - THAT IS THE PROBLEM!!!!!!

Lutz
June 25, 2007 10:18 AM

Dear Leo,

When I burn CDs (RWs) with data files (MS Word) for the first time, everything is fine and I can open the files and work with them. I save the disk to be read on (or be compatible with) all "CD-ROMS." However, when I try to access the files on the CD the following day, the CD is not recognized. The CDs work fine on other PCs.

I thought perhaps the CD-ROM wasn't working, but it works perfectly when I insert a CD that I have not burned, but purchased or one that has been burned by someone else.

Thanks for your help.

Lutz

Ursula
April 8, 2009 3:30 AM

I finally copied and pasted onto an email to myself all the information that was on my CD-RW disk as "read only". Then when I tried to delete that information from the CD-RW disk, it will not let me delete it. How can I delete what I don't need anymore on the CD-RW disk?

Danae
August 15, 2009 8:48 PM

IHAD PICTURES MADE OF MY KIDS AND THEY PLACED
THE PICS ON A CD SO I COULD PRINT MORE AT HOME
WHY DOESNT IT OPEN WHEN I PUT THE CD IN THE DRIVE? I LOOKED IN THE CONTROL PANEL AND IT DOESNT EVEN SHOW I HAVE ANYTHING IN THE DRIVE TO OPEN????

Joyce
November 5, 2009 12:48 PM

How annoying this is. I have XP and cd/rw drive and it is maddening that I can't just copy whatever I want to the CD without big brother watching and putting stops in my way. First I'm forced to put all the files into a temporary spot on my hard drive, and then it will "allow" me to copy but then it makes everything "read-only". You stated that cd-r is always read only. Is that ALL CD/R's, RW's, DVD's - I'm confused.

Tom R.
February 9, 2010 10:49 AM

Joyce -

CD-R, DVD-R are writable only once. Once data is burned or written to the -R optical media it is forever-after only readable. No further writing is possible. This is the physical nature of the media and not a plot by the government or "big brother" to take away all of your freedoms.

Once data is written to the disc there is no method to "delete" or change the data in any way.
The only way to change or "delete" the data is to physically destroy the disc with methods such as shredding in a paper shredder. Most shredders these days come equipped with the ability to shred optical discs.

CD-RW and DVD-RW discs, on the other hand, are rewritable and can be burned many times. Data files on those types of discs can be "deleted" in the sense that the files can be over-written with other data. Some DVD-CD burning programs even support "erasing" an -RW disc by writing blank data onto this media but won't be able to do anything with an -R disc.

None-the-less, the Windows file system NTFS will still see the files on any optical disc as "read only" because NTFS doesn't natively support on-the-fly writing to optical discs, the way it does with HDs and USB drives. That's why we always have to use a third-party software program to burn CDs and DVDs. That's also why we can't open a file contained on a CD, edit the document and save the changes. Windows has no mechanism for doing that. The file has to be copied to a non-optical drive and changed from that location, then reburned onto the -RW or to a new -R disc.

This inconvenience is the main reason I haven't used CDs or DVDs as backup media for years, since USB drives became available. Thumb drives are much easier to use and far more reliable than CDs plus the capacity for storage is much higher. I even had my data backup USB thumb drive go through the laundry but after I left it alone to dry for 24 hours it still worked and all of my data was still intact. Try doing that with a CD or DVD backup. I would say that using optical media for archiving purposes is a thing of the past.

Schnazola
February 9, 2010 10:53 AM

"[W]hen I tried to delete that information from the CD-RW disk, it will not let me delete it."

@Ursula: I can't delete files, either. I can only overwrite them (on CD-RWs). I think that's the nature of the beast.

Schnazola
February 9, 2010 10:55 AM

Whoa! Looks like Tom R beat me to the punch by a few minutes!

John Neeting
February 9, 2010 4:25 PM

As to the problem of another program apparently using the file - get the freebee 'unlocker' which halts all invisible activity related to the file and lets you copy/move/erase/rename it on a HD.
Erasing/rename/move isn't possible on a CD-R as mentioned as its set in 'plastic' :)

Glenn P.
February 9, 2010 9:50 PM

I use USB FlashDrives for some archives, and CD-R's for others.

Archives containing files which are expected to be "permanent" and to seldom change, or which are expected to contain fixed or "standardized" versions of certain files -- files which I wouldn't want to change -- I'll put on CD-R's or DVD-R's, exactly and precisely because they cannot be deleted or changed once written to.

Other archives -- those which are not expected to be of an "unchanging" nature -- I'll put on an USB FlashDrive, since they have larger storage capacities, are read/writeable, often have faster access times, and can be formatted for NTFS (a thing you cannot do on a CD or DVD unless you use a "virtual drive container", such as TrueCrypt permits).

In this way, I get the best of both worlds...      :)

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