I saved a copy of important excel files back in 2004. When I tried to open
what I was looking for, I was unsuccessful. A window popped up and said
“xyz.xls file cannot be accessed. The file may be read-only (which it shows in
properties) or you may be trying to access a read-only location, or the server
the doc is stored on may not be responding”. I know it’s possible to take
ownership of a hard drive in order to change read-only status, however I forgot
how, plus I don’t know if its possible to do it with a CD. Can you help?
Besides accessing files that may have been written to CD as a backup, this
is a common trap people fall into when moving files from machine to
There are many programs that will refuse to open files that are marked
read-only. The problem is that files can appear as “read-only” for several
I’ll look at those reasons, as well as the most common scenario where
people run into this problem. And of course I’ll outline what you can
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Files can appear read-only for one several reasons, the most common
The file is marked read-only. Individual files can be
marked as being read-only – typically as a means to protect them from being
The file is on a media that is read-only. CD-R’s are
write-once media. Once a CD-R has been burned, it cannot be written to – it can
only be read. Hence the files on it are marked as “read-only”.
The file is in use. Less frequently, another program might
have the file open in such a way that anyone can read it, but the file is
locked for writing. In some cases this can be reported as the file being
Let’s look at what we can do about each of those.
If a file is marked as read-only on the disk, it’s fairly easy to reset that
Fire up Windows Explorer, and locate the file in question. Here I’ve located
“c:\documents and settings\leon\my documents\safeontheinternet.pdf”:
Now, right click on the file you want to change, and click on
Properties. You should see a dialog much like this one:
Note the Attribute setting “Read Only” – uncheck it if it’s checked, and
press OK. If no error appears, the setting has been removed.
CD-R, the read-only status is copied with it.”
If the file is on a read-only media like a CD-R or a read-only network
share, you cannot change the read-only status. In this situation, or if you
just want to avoid changing the read-only status of the file as we just did,
the next best solution is to make a copy of the file onto your local hard
So, using Windows Explorer, the command prompt, or whatever means you use to
copy files, copy the file or files from the read-only media to a folder on your
Important! When you copy a file from a read-only media such
as a CD-R, the read-only status is copied with it. That means you still
can’t write to the file until you take the steps above to reset the
read-only attribute on the file on your hard disk.
This causes people no end of confusion.
Finally, if the file is in use, you again, can either make a copy of it, or
using the file and close that program.
While the question asks specifically about Excel, in fact the most common
scenario where this whole read-only problem comes up is when email folders are
copied to CD-R for backup or for moving to a different machine.
must reset the read-only attribute if you want to be able to
write to them.
Mail programs, particularly Outlook and Outlook Express, expect – and
require – that they be able to write to the files containing email. If these
files are marked read-only then the program will either fail to open them, or
worse, tell you that they don’t exist.
And remember – copying the files to your local hard disk isn’t enough. I see
people frequently stymied because they’ve copied their files locally thinking
that was enough, and they still can’t open their mail.
After copying files from CD-R you still must reset the
read-only attribute if you want to be able to write to them.
And naturally that holds true for the Excel file we started with. Copy the
file to your hard disk, reset the read-only attribute, and you should be good