Rally 'Round the Tri-Mode Flag

Here's a minor Windows annoyance that Microsoft should send back to development.

Bill: We have a Windows 2003 server. When I try to remove the Read-only attribute from folders, Windows goes through the motions and appears to remove the attribute. However, when I check again, the Read-only attribute is back.

This only applies to folders, not to the files in the folders. We have an NT 4.0 domain.

If I view the same folder from our Windows 2000 server, there is no read-only attribute. It is most certainly a local setting.

I have tried taking ownership, changing rights, etc. There is no obvious local security policy. I've tried all operations as local administrator and domain administrator.

We are running a database with users telnetting to the server. The read-only access is preventing anyone other than administrators logging into the server.

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Adrian: You just happened to find one of my pet peeves with Windows Server 2003 (and Windows XP, for that matter).

That read-only checkbox you see on the folder? (See figure below.) If you look closely, you'll see that there's a little fleck of gray behind the check.

Microsoft calls this a tri-mode flag. When it has gray in the background, it indicates that some file or folder anywhere under that particular folder has been set to Read-only.

This checkmark does not actually control the Read-only attribute on the child files and folder, as you discovered. It just displays their status.

During the Windows XP beta, many testers posted comments complaining about how confusing those tri-mode flags can be. I guess they didn't confuse the developers, though, because they left them in the product.

Tri-Mode Flag is just informational
Properties for a folder containing vim, a vi-based text editor that has a graphical interface. Don't be fooled by the Read-only check box; the gray background and check mark indicates that this is a tri-mode flag and it can't be changed.

Hope this helps.

About the Author

Contributing Editor Bill Boswell, MCSE, is the principal of Bill Boswell Consulting, Inc. He's the author of Inside Windows Server 2003 and Learning Exchange Server 2003 both from Addison Wesley. Bill is also Redmond magazine's "Windows Insider" columnist and a speaker at MCP Magazine's TechMentor Conferences.


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