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The File Folders Padlock Icon Explained

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010 by | Filed Under: File & Disk Management, Uncategorized

In windows 7, when I look at user folders, I see some folders have padlocks on them and others do not, what causes this and how do I remove the “padlock”. When I look at the properties of each folder, I cannot detect any difference.

How to Get Rid of the Mysterious Padlock Icon From Your File Folder

Windows 7, as in previous version of Windows, allows the creation of multiple user accounts with varying degrees of privileges on the same computer or network. As such, there are users whom have the ability to make the same changes that the computer’s owner can make (Administrator accounts). There are also users with limited abilities in updating and changing computer settings (Standard User accounts,) and users with very limited privileges whom are dis-allowed from making nearly any change to the computer’s configuration (Guest accounts.) These differing account types allow for multiple users to use the same computer without, for the most part, disturbing the programs, settings, or display of others whom they share the computer with. Occasionally however, changes made from one user account can create confusion within other user accounts; particularly when actions on one user account change how familiar icons look or behave throughout all user accounts.

One such example can be found when a formerly normal looking shared file folder displays a padlock next to itself when viewed.

Baffling as this may be when first discovered, there’s actually a simple explanation for the odd little golden padlock icon suddenly appearing next to a previously standard looking folder: another user has changed its’ “permissions” and has “locked” the folder.

When creating shared file folders in Windows 7, there are a variety of options available which allow a user to safeguard information contained within these folders, by restricting how folders are shared amongst various users on the computer or network. By right clicking on a file folder, then selecting Properties, followed by the Security tab, you can view and modify various security options (permissions) available to different users, for that particular folder. Owners of a particular folder can choose to allow or deny other users full or partial abilities to view, edit, modify, or delete said folders and files contained within, as they see fit. As each user can change folder permissions, confusion can arise when multiple users start to change and update permissions without notifying other users of the computer on the network. Adding additional confusion, Administrator accounts and Standard User accounts have differing abilities when modifying folder permissions. Generally speaking, most permission changes made by a Standard User account, can be overridden by an Administrator account, but not vice versa.


As such, when you see a familiar file folder suddenly appear with a padlock next to it where there had previously been none, the first thing to do is to check the folders’ permission settings:

(Note: These steps assume you either have ownership of the folder in question, or are logging in using an Administrator account.)

Step 1. Right click the file folder.


Step 2. In the context menu which appears, select Properties.


Step 3. Click on the Security tab; find the name you log in with under Group or user names: and click to select it.


Step 4. The Permissions for box will update to show the permissions for the user account you selected.


Step 5. Scroll through the permissions list and check for any permissions which should not be associated with this folder (i.e. permission for Full Control of the folder has been set to deny for this user, when it should be set to allow.) If a wrongly set permission is found (any permission set to Deny,) follow these steps to fix it:

Step 5-1. Click the Edit button in the middle of the dialog box.


Step 5-2. In the dialog box which appears, select the user whose permissions are incorrectly set.


Step 5-3. Check the Full Control, Allow check box under Permissions for (NAME)


Step 5-4. Click the Apply button followed by the OK button on all dialog boxes, and check your folder icon.


Once permissions have been reset to Full Control, the padlock next to your folder icon should disappear. If any permissions are still set to Deny, the padlock will typically remain until Full Control is granted.


If, after following the above steps, you are still unable to remove the padlock icon from the folder, you may need to log in as an administrator or folder owner, backup all files located in the folder, delete, and then re-create the file folder to fully remove the errant icon. Doing so will also remove any previously defined permissions, and will un-share the folder from any other users who had been granted access to it. Why this process is occasionally necessary to clear the padlock icon from a file folder is not completely clear, other than that it is just an as yet unresolved glitch in Windows 7. However, if you really must rid your file folder of an annoying padlock icon, and all else fails, this method will usually do the job.

~J. Conboy

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