How to Manage File and Folder Permissions in Windows

With NTFS file system came file and folder security permissions which were not present in FAT/FAT32 file system. NTFS security permissions allow you to manage or set fine-grain security settings for any file or folder in Windows. You can also change existing NTFS permissions to prevent unauthorized access or changes to any file or folder.

Normally users don’t need to make any changes to security permissions of file or folders because Windows manages it the best way automatically. So, every time you copy or create any file or folder on your system, Windows automatically sets security permissions to new files or folders. These security permissions are usually inherited from parent folder.

SEE ALSO: How to Disable Quick Access in File Explorer on Windows 11 and Windows 10?

Managing (Modify or Change) File and Folder Permissions in Windows

By setting Security permissions on any file/folder, you can manage the access to a file or folder. But Windows automatically does this for you and sets permissions on your files and folders in the best way. For example, the data stored in one user profile is not accessible to other users and vice versa.

So, in this tutorial, we will discuss how to manage or change file and folder security permissions and ownership in Windows. We have divided this tutorial in two parts to describe file and folder permissions separately.

A) Understanding File and Folder Permissions

Before we move any further, let’s have a basic overview of file and folder permissions in Windows. We are not delving deep into the NTFS permissions, however, we will have a basic but more practical understanding of permissions.

So, basically there are 6 types of permissions in Windows which are explained in the table below.

PermissionDescription
Full ControlView file name and subfolders.
Browse subfolders.
View the files in the folder.
Create files and subfolders to the folder.
Open/modify the files in the folder.
Delete the folder and files in it.
Manage or change permissions.
Take ownership of the folder and files in it.
ModifyView file name and subfolders.
Browse subfolders.
View the files in the folder.
Create files and subfolders to the folder.
Delete the folder and files in it.
Open and modify/edit files.
Read & ExecuteView file name and subfolders.
Browse subfolders.
View the files in the folder.
Run/execute applications.
List Folder ContentsView file name and subfolders.
Browse subfolders.
View folders only.
Can not open the files in the folder.
ReadView file name and subfolders.
Browse subfolders.
Open files/run applications.
Copy data from the folder.
WriteView file name and subfolders.
Browse subfolders.
Open files/run applications.
Copy data to and from folder.
Create new folders.
Create new files.
Delete the files.
File and Folder Permissions in Windows

If you are willing to know more about the NTFS permissions in Windows, you can check this linked article. Also, based on the process of application of permissions, they are of two types – inherited and explicit permissions.

Inherited Permissions

When you copy new files to a folder, their permissions are set according to the permissions of the parent folder. This type of permissions are called inherited permissions. You can’t change inherited permissions unless you disable inheritance and convert the inherited permissions to explicit.

Explicit Permissions

When you manually assign specific permissions to a file or folder, this type of permissions are called explicit permissions. If applied on a folder, you can decide whether these permissions will be inherited to subfolders or files.


B) Setting up the Test Environment

For demonstrating File and Folder permissions, we will set up a test environment. We are doing this in order to avoid the risk of messing with any important data on your computer.

So, we have created a folder named as Documents in the D drive in our Windows 11 PC. After that we created a text document named as Confidential with some random text in it.

Create A Folder And Inside It Create A Text Document With Some Random Text
Setting up test environment for file and folder permissions test

We will now change or edit existing permissions on this file or folder and also change it’s ownership. Besides that we will also show you how to assign or grant permissions to a new user on the folder or file in Windows.


C) Add, Remove or Edit the File and Folder Permissions in Windows

Now that we are ready with the test environment, it’s time to see how we can assign, remove or modify existing permissions on the files and folders in Windows. We will start with changing the ownership of the file or folder and also explain how to modify the permissions.

NOTE: Please note that you must be an administrator or have Full Control of the file or folder whose permissions you are changing.

1. Change or Take Ownership of Files and Folders

First of all, we will see how to change ownership of any file or folder. So, if you are an administrator, you can easily change ownership of any file or folder. You can make yourself or someone else the owner of that file or folder. Check following steps:

  • Right-click on the file or folder and select Properties.
Right-click on the file or folder and select Properties
Right-click on the file or folder and select Properties
  • In properties window, go to Security tab. Here, you can see a brief overview of current file/folder permissions. Now, click on Advanced button to see and manage detailed permissions of selected file or folder in Windows.
Go To Security Tab And Click Advanced To Manage File And Folder Permissions In Windows
Go to Security tab and click Advanced
  • The Advanced Security Settings window will open. Here, you can see the details about current owner and other permissions for selected file or folder. So, to change the ownership, click on Change next to current owner’s name. After that, type the username of the new owner and click OK.
Chang the owner of the selected file or folder in Windows
Chang the owner of the selected file or folder in Windows

INFO: By default the user who creates the file or folder is set as the Owner. But if you are an administrator, you can change the ownership to yourself. However, any user who has Full Control type permission on that file/folder can change the owner of the folder. So, we suggest you to avoid assigning Full Control permissions unless necessary.

  • After selecting the new owner, tick the check box next to “Replace owner on subcontainers and objects” and click Apply and OK. You have successfully changed the owner of the selected file/folder.
Check Replace Owner On Subcontainers And Objects And Click Ok
Check Replace owner on subcontainers and objects and click OK

SEE ALSO: How to Take Ownership of Files and Folders in One-click?


2. Disable Inheritance and Convert Permissions to Explicit

Now after the ownership, it’s time to check how to see how to disable inheritance of permissions from parent folder. Besides just disabling the inheritance, you can also convert those permissions to explicit or remove them altogether. After that, you can assign your own permissions. Just follow these steps.

  • Just like we did previously, open file or folder’s Properties. Next, go to Security tab and click Advanced to open Advanced Security Settings.
  • Here, under Permissions entries, you will see the list of users that have been allowed or denied access to selected file or folder. In the Inherited from column, you can see if permissions are being inherited or not. If it shows “None“, it means permissions are explicit otherwise inherited.
  • When you try to remove an inherited permission entry, you will a warning message. Which means, you can not remove or edit inherited permissions.
Remove User Failed Due To Permissions Inherited From Folder In Windows
“Can’t remove inherited permissions” warning
  • So, in order to remove these permissions, you will have to disable the inheritance first. To do that, click Disable inheritance button and then select “Convert inherited permissions into explicit permissions on this object“.
Disable Inheritance And Convert Permissions To Explicit
Disable inheritance and convert permissions to explicit
  • You can also select “Remove all inherited permissions from this object” to remove all entries and assign new permissions.

3. Edit or Remove Access or Permissions of Specific User from File or Folder

Now, after we have converted inherited permissions to explicit, we can now change or remove them. So, now, we will see how to edit or remove permissions of specific user from selected file or folder in Windows. Just follow these steps.

  • To change the existing permissions of a user, select that specific permission entry and click Edit.
Select A User Principal And Click Edit To Change User Permissions On The Folder Or File
Select a User Principal and click Edit to change User Permissions
  • After that you can select which permissions will be available to selected user. Click OK when you are done.
Change The Permissions For Selected User And Click Ok To Manage File And Folder Permissions In Windows
Change the Permissions for selected user and click OK
  • Similarly, you can remove the entire permission of specific user. Just select the permission entry of that user and click Remove button. After that, selected entry will be removed.
Select And Remove User Principal To Remove Access To File Or Folder After Disabling Inheritance
Select and remove permissions of specific user
  • You can remove all the unwanted permissions entries the same way. Just select it and click Remove. In this tutorial, we have removed all permissions except Administrators and SYSTEM.

4. Add Permissions to Allow Access to Specific User on a File and Folder in Windows

In this section, we will see how to grant access to specific user by adding it’s entry in the permissions. After that selected user will have assigned permissions over the selected file or folder. For example, you can allow a specific user Read permission and Full Control to another user. See the steps below.

  • In Advanced Security Settings window, click Add to add a new permission entry.
Click Add To Add Another User And Grant Him Permissions On The Selected File Or Folder In Windows
Click Add to grant permissions to another user
  • Now, click Select a principal and type the username. You can also verify the username by using Check Names button. Finally, click OK to add that user.
Select A User Principal To Grant Access To Selected File Or Folder
Select a User Principal to grant access
  • Next, you will see options to set permissions of selected User Principal. So, grant required permissions to the user and click OK. In this tutorial, We have granted Full Control permissions to HELLPC (WIN11-HELLPC\HELLPC) user.
Assign Required Permissions To User And Click Ok
Grant required permissions to the User
  • After you are done with the permissions, click Apply and then OK to close advanced permissions window. Click OK again to close Properties window of selected file or folder in Windows.
Finally Click Apply And Ok Twice To Save The Changes To File Or Folder Permissions
Click Apply and OK twice to save the changes

SEE ALSO: Change these 5 Facebook Settings to Protect Your Privacy.

5. Testing the Assigned Permissions to File and Folder

It’s time to test the permissions changes we have just made. We will now switch to another user (User1) and see if that user can access the Documents folder. As we have not granted any permissions to User1, they should not have the access. Which means, User1 should not be able to see the Confidential.txt document inside Documents folder.

Scenario 1: Permissions Not Granted to Folder

In the first test case, we have not granted any permissions to User1 on Documents folder. But we have also not changed any permissions of Confidential.txt document inside the Documents folder.

So, switch to User1 if not done already. After that, try to open Documents folder from D drive (as we have created it there). User1 get access denied error saying “You don’t currently have permissions to this folder“.

Permission Denied Error While Accessing The Folder
Permission denied error while accessing the folder

So, we have successfully assigned permissions and prevented unauthorized access to Documents folder. Now, let’s check another scenario.

Scenario 2: Granted Read & Execute Permissions on Folder But No Permissions on the File

In this scenario, we have granted Read & execute permissions to User1 on the Documents folder. However, we have not granted any permissions (removed inherited permissions as well) to the Confidential.txt file. So, let’s see how that works.

User1 can now open Documents folder and see the Confedential.txt file inside it. However, when User1 tries to open Confidential.txt file, they get access denied error.

Access Denied While Opening Text Document From Documents Folder
Access denied while opening the text file from Documents folder

As per our testing, the file and folder permissions that we have removed, edited or added are working correctly.


SEE ALSO: How to Add a User Group to Local Administrators in Windows using Group Policy?

Mange File and Folder Permissions in Windows Easily

So, we have seen in the tutorial above, how we can easily manage NTFS permissions in Windows. You can easily change the owner of any file or folder using security settings in Windows. Similarly, you can grant, remove or edit existing access to specific user on any file or folder. If you are an IT administrator, the knowledge of File and Folder permissions will help you a lot.

Well, that was all from us. Hope you liked this tutorial. In case you face any challenges or want to ask any questions about file/folder permissions, feel free to comment below. You may also subscribe to our newsletter to get such informative articles directly into your inbox.

Editorial Staff

Hi there, we are the editorial staff at WINDOSPC (former HELLPC). We are a team of funny and technical people. Feel free to get in touch with us via Contact-Us page.

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