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Why do I sometimes get a 'READ ONLY'?

Posted By : of Data Doctors on November 19, 2001

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Sometimes (my computer) gives me the message that the document I retrieved is "read only" and no changes can be saved to it. I don't know why or how it became "read only". Is there anyway to change this?

- Pat

This question was answered on November 19, 2001. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

The 'Read-only' status is one of many 'file attributes' that help programs to better understand how to handle a particular file Some other commonly used attributes include Hidden, Archive and System Any file can have any or all of the listed attributes simultaneously.

The 'Read-only' attribute was created to protect items from being overwritten, modified or corrupted Files that are marked as read-only warn a program not to overwrite or modify the file or at least warn the user before doing so.

The 'Hidden' attribute hides important files from the user during normal operations.

The 'Archive' attribute is a switch that can be turned on and off so that backup utilities will know if the file has been modified since the last backup.

The 'System' attribute signifies a core system file that is critical to the operation of Windows.

Many files on your computer are set to Read-only because they are also System files If you inadvertently click on one of these files, you will get the Read-only warning.

If you attempt to open a file that is already in use by another program, Windows will generate the Read-only warning.

It?s possible that may have double-clicked on the file more times than you thought which tells the computer to open the file twice, resulting in the Read-only message during the second simultaneous attempt to open the same file.

Any file that is copied from a CD-ROM (ROM stands for Read Only Memory) to your hard drive or a floppy drive will generally retain its 'Read-only' attribute.

In any case, you can generally change the file attribute on any file by right-clicking it and selecting 'Properties' from the dialog box Towards the bottom of the window, you should see the 'Attributes' section with a checkmark in front of 'Read-only' Simply remove the checkmark (by clicking on it) and click on the OK button to change the status.

In a corporate network environment, you may not have access to the attributes of the file because you don?t have administrative rights to the file In these cases, the attributes buttons will be 'grayed out' meaning you can't change the status of the file.

This right-click modification will only allow you to address one file at a time, so if you have a large number of 'Read-only' files in a folder that you wish to change, you can use the old-school 'command line' to change all of the files at once.

Start by accessing a 'command prompt' or 'DOS prompt' and navigating to the location of the files (If you don't understand how to navigate from a command prompt, don't go any further!)

Once you are in the actual folder where the files reside, you can use the 'ATTRIB' command to modify files en masse.

For instance, ATTRIB 'R *.* is a command for clearing the Read-only attribute from all files in that folder ATTRIB +R *.* will mark all files

as Read-only.

You can learn all of the 'switches' for the ATTRIB command by typing 'ATTRIB/'? at the command prompt.

If all else fails, you can always open a Read-only file, make changes to it

and save it as another file (give it another name and/or location) using the

'Save As' option in the 'File' menu of the program.

About the author

of Data Doctors on November 19, 2001

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