How do I... Change access permissions for all folders and files in Vista?

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In a previous How do I... blog post, TechRepublic published the steps one would take to change permissions on a single file in the Microsoft Windows Vista operating system. TechRepublic member rignatius@... asked in the ensuing discussion thread if we could enlighten him on how to apply the permission changes to all of the subfolders and files in the hierarchy of a particular folder. The basic procedure is the same, but there are a few more check boxes to look at during the process. But once those checks are inserted or removed, depending on the situation, the permission changes will be propagated to all of the files and folders below the folder being acted upon. For this How do I..., I created a hierarchical set of folders: Test1, Test2, and Test3. But only Test3 had any files in it (Figure A).

Figure A

Example folder hierarchy
Figure B shows that the permissions for Test1 are set to Full Control.

Figure B

Full access on Test1
However, one of the files in Test3 has permissions set to deny access (Figure C).

Figure C

Denied access all around

To change the settings for that one file, we could just right-click the file, click the Security tab, and edit the permissions as we did in the previous How do I... blog post. But what if we had hundreds of files in our example folder hierarchy? That would be a lot of clicking.

To change the access settings in Windows Vista for the current folder and all of the folders and files that flow from it in the hierarchy, you follow the same procedure, only with a twist or two in the guise of check boxes. Right-click the folder (Test1) and click the Security tab and then click the Advanced button to get to the screen shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Advanced Security Settings for Test1
We are going to change the settings for the entire system, so click on the SYSTEM entry and click edit to get to the screen shown in Figure E.

Figure E

More advanced settings for Test1
This is where we designate that the change in permissions we are about to make should "replace the existing inheritable permissions on all descendants with inheritable permissions from this object." We do this by clicking the check box and then clicking the Edit button to get to the screen shown in Figure F.

Figure F

Permission settings for Test1
As you can see, the Test1 permissions are set to Full Control allowed; we just have to pass those settings down the line. When you click OK on the screen in Figure F and then Figure E, you will get to the security dialog box shown in Figure G. Click Yes and then OK for the rest of the settings boxes.

Figure G

Replacing permissions, are you sure?
Now, when we drill down the hierarchy to reach Test3, right-click the file we looked at in Figure C, and click Properties, you see that the permissions are set to allow Full Control. (Figure H)

Figure H

Full Control is regained

By Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to,, and TechRepublic.