A+ Certification / Beginners

The basic attributes

All files on your computer, regardless of your Microsoft operating system or file system, have these four basic attributes:

  • Read-only
  • Hidden
  • System
  • Archive

Descriptions of the four common attributes are listed in Table below.

Basic File Attributes
Read-onlyFiles with this attribute cannot be deleted from the command line and cannot be written to or saved over.
HiddenThese files are not visible to users unless those users have changed their viewing options to display hidden files. Hidden files cannot have their attributes changed by the attrib.exe command.
SystemSystem files are flagged as being required by the operating system. They cannot have their attributes changed by the attrib.exe command.
ArchiveFiles with the archive attribute are ready for archiving or backing up. This attribute is used by some backup programs so that they can perform incremental backups. Currently, the xcopy command supports the /a switch, indicating that only files that have the Archive attribute set should be copied. When the file is modified, the Archive attribute will automatically be reset on it.

Any time files are modified, the Archive attribute is automatically set, so after Windows XP is installed, all files will have the Archive attribute enabled. Windows XP also sets Read-only, Hidden, and System attributes on many required system files, to prevent accidental modification or deletion by the user; but other than these files, the only attribute that is automatically set is the Archive attribute. You will see how to manually set these attributes later in this tutorial when you read "Setting basic attributes".

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