Ever wondered why there is a lock icon overlay appearing for some of your files and folders, as in the image below:

And for some folders:

I had a reader ask about this recently. Upon searching the web I found the explanation I needed, from Raymond Chen’s blog. The lock (padlock) overlay icon appears for files/folders which are private, but located under a non-private directory. Per Raymond Chen [MS]:

A private item is an item where the only user account with access is you.┬╣ You create one of these, for example, by going to the sharing wizard and saying Share with: Nobody. To avoid clutter, the overlay is shown only when there is a transition from non-private to private. (Otherwise you’d have a lock overlay on everything in your Documents folder, for example.)

┬╣Even though you are the only user account, there can still be access granted to groups and non-user accounts such as the Administrators group and the SYSTEM account.

Checking the properties of a file with padlock symbol and viewing the Security tab, it looks like this:

Tip: Quickly Make a File or Folder Private in Windows 7

If you quickly want to make a file or folder private, right-click on a file/folder, click Share with and choose Nobody. This displays that file or folder with padlock symbol, if they’re not already contained in a private folder.

Check out our other articles on Icon Overlays.

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  1. Bob Lilly
    said this on Sunday, July 27th 2014 6:15 pm

    I simply went to the “Include in Folder” button at the top of the folder, and placed them back into the original folder. The locks disappeared.

  2. kathy
    said this on Saturday, April 5th 2014 9:27 pm

    I do too padlock icon on my internet explore and google please tell how to get this off

  3. Sherrie Hewson
    said this on Monday, August 5th 2013 12:48 pm

    A padlock icon is on Google +1 why is this and how do I take it off

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