Here are answers to some common questions about applying permissions to a file or folder.

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Do I have to apply permissions to keep other people from accessing my files?

No. Your user account prevents anyone who is using a standard account on your computer from seeing your files. It doesn't, however, prevent anyone who is using an administrator account on your computer from seeing your files. If there are other administrator accounts on your computer, instead of using permissions, you can protect your files by encrypting them with the Encrypting File System (EFS). For more information, see What is Encrypting File System (EFS). If you create a user account for another user on your computer, make sure you create a standard account for them and not an administrator account.

Do I have to apply permissions to share my files with other users on my computer?

No. The best way to share files is to share from an individual folder or by moving files to the Public folder. Depending on how you choose to share the file or folder with, you might be able to apply permissions to some of your files.

The following table lists the permission levels that are typically available for files and folders.

Permission level
Description

Full control

Users can see the contents of a file or folder, change existing files and folders, create new files and folders, and run programs in the folder.

Modify

Users can change existing files and folders but cannot create new ones.

Read & execute

Users can see the contents of existing files and folders and can run programs in the folder.

Read

Users can see the contents of a folder and open files and folders.

Write

Users can create new files and folders and make changes to existing files and folders.

To apply permissions to a file or folder

  1. Right-click the file or folder, and then click Properties.

  2. Click the Security tab, and then click Edit.

  3. Do one of the following:

    • To set permissions for a user that is not listed under Group or user names, click Add, type the name of the user or group, click OK, select the permissions, and then click OK.

    • To change or remove permissions from an existing group or user, click the name of the group or user, select the permissions, and then click OK.

You cannot share files from an individual folder in Windows Vista Starter. For more information on the Public folder or sharing, search Help and Support for "sharing."

Are there any risks to applying permissions to a file or folder?

Yes. Windows automatically applies permissions to files or folders based on your user account settings and, if it applies, the security group your user account is in. If you manually apply permissions to a file or folder, they might conflict with the existing permissions and produce results you did not intend. We don't recommend applying permissions to files or folders.