Windows Dictionary: File Attributes

Right-click on a file or folder in Windows and go to its Properties, and you are treated with a multitude of information about that particular item, including its type, size, location and when it was created.

Towards the very bottom of the properties box you find Attributes.

Attributes are options control some aspects of how Windows interacts that particular file or folder. And while the DOS operating system offered a whole bunch of such attributes, newer version of Windows commonly use a far lesser amount.

Here is a brief rundown of the four most commonly used attributes:

Hidden: This prevents a file from being displayed by default. Do keep in mind that hiding a file this way is not actually secure — a user can easily show all hidden files in File Explorer from the View tab. There are better ways to protect your files.

Read-only: Another attribute that should not be trusted, as this only indicates that a file should not be changed or deleted. But a user (or application) can overwrite read-only files. Software programs usually provide an extra warning if a file is read-only, and some may require you to remove this attribute.

Compressed: This compresses a file so that it consumes less space on disk. You can also compress folders, and all files will then be compressed within that folder. The only catch is that accessing compressed files may just be a tad slower than regular ones, though not by much.

This type of compression is always lossless. In other words, the contents of your files are not changed in any way, and the original data is stored in its entirety. For this reason, this technique works best for text files and documents, as images, audio and video files are (usually) already effectively compressed.

Encrypted: This attribute encrypts a file so that only authorized users will be able to access it. This holds true even if Windows is bypassed and the hard disk is connected to another computer or device.

Now, modifying the attributes of a file (or folder) is simple enough.

Just right-click the file in File Explorer, then go to Properties, and the General tab will have check boxes for Read-Only and Hidden since these are the most used. The Compressed and Encrypted attributes can be accessed by clicking Advanced.

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