Do you get an error message that says, “An error occurred applying attributes to this file?” This error usually appears when a user tries to access a file or folder on your PC or a shared domain.

In this guide, we will provide you with effective solutions to overcome this issue. Keep

What’s Triggering the ‘Error Applying Attributes’ Restriction on My Computer?

Several factors can lead to this error. They include:

  • You don’t have the permission to modify the file. You might not have full control of the file or folder, and that is why the error message pops up. You can modify your permissions to take full control and be able to access the file without further setback.
  • The file is encrypted. The file you are trying to open or make changes to might be protected with an encryption certificate. Now, the only way to access it is to get the certificate from the user that initiated the encryption.
  • You don’t have ownership of the file. This can be remedied via the file’s properties. You can easily take ownership and be able to modify the file.
  • Your system files are corrupt. System file corruption can cause a myriad of issues on Windows, including the error you are currently facing. You can try using the System File Checker (SFC) and Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) command-line tools to verify the integrity of your system files. When all else fails, consider performing a repair install or a clean install of the OS.

Let’s go ahead and learn how to correct the ‘An Error occurred while applying attributes to a file’ issue.

How to Fix Windows 10 Error Applying Attributes

These are the solutions you need to apply. Let’s get started.

Fix 1: Modify the file’s permissions and take full control

Even as an administrator, you might not have the permission to modify certain files and folders on Windows. But you can get around that by taking full control. Here’s how:

  • Go to the file you are having trouble accessing. Right-click on it and click on Properties in the context menu.
  • When the Properties box opens, switch to the Security tab.
  • Select Administrators in the Group or user names field.
“If your user account is not an admin account, then select your username in the Group or user names field instead.”
  • Click the Edit button to change the permissions.
  • When the Permissions box opens, mark the Allow checkbox associated with Full Control.
  • Click the Apply button.
  • You might be prompted by User Account Control to confirm the action. Click Yes to proceed.

Once you’ve completed the steps, you will now be able to access the file without the error popping up again. However, if the issue reoccurs, proceed to the next solution below.

Fix 2: Take ownership of the file

Some users reported that they encountered this error after upgrading their OS. The reason is because some files got migrated from the previous version of Windows and the system denies access to them.

However, it can be easily fixed. Follow the steps below to get it done:

  • Go to the file that’s triggering the error message. Right-click on it and click on Properties in the context menu.
  • When the Properties box opens, switch to the Security tab.
  • Click the Advanced button at the bottom of the box. Doing so will bring up the Advanced Security Settings box.
  • Click the Change link on Owner.
  • When the Select User or Group box opens, type Everyone in the Enter the object name to select field. Then, click the Check Names button. Once the entry is validated, you will now have ownership of the file.
“If you don’t want to give every user on your PC ownership, then type your account name into the Enter the object name to select field instead and then click Check Names to validate it.”
  • Click the Apply button to save the modification.

After you’ve completed the procedure shown above, try performing the action that triggered the ‘An error occurred while applying attributes to the file’ error. See if the issue will come up again.

Fix 3: Check whether the file was encrypted by another user

It’s possible that the file you are seeing the error message on was encrypted by another user to protect it from unauthorized access. You can check to confirm if this is the case. Follow the steps below:

  • Go to the problematic file and right-click on it. Then, click on Properties in the context menu.
  • Under the General tab of the Properties box, click the Advanced button.
  • Once the Advanced Attributes box opens, direct your attention to the Compress or Encrypt attributes section and see if the Encrypt contents to secure data checkbox is marked.

If Encrypt contents to secure data is enabled, that means that the file is encrypted. The only way you can access the file is to get the encryption certificate from the person who encrypted it.

Fix 4: Copy the file from the old location

After a Windows upgrade, the files that survive the previous version of Windows are stored in the Windows.old directory.

So, in order to get past the ‘An error occurred applying attributes to the file’ error, here’s what you have to do:

  • Open File Explorer. You can do this by pressing the Windows key + E keyboard combination.
  • Open your Local Disk (C :).
  • Locate Windows.old and open it.
  • Open the Users folder.
  • Double-click on the folder that bears your username.
  • Go to the file that’s triggering the Error occurred applying attributes error message. Right-click on the file and copy it.
  • Paste the file in any other location on your computer. You can now try accessing it.

Fix 5: Create a new user account

A corrupt user profile can cause Windows to deny you access to your files and folders. You can create a new account to confirm whether that is the case in your situation. Follow the steps below to get it done:

  • Press the Windows key + I combination on your keyboard to open Settings.
  • Click on Accounts when the Settings app opens.
  • Click on Family & Others in the left pane.
  • Click the Add someone else to this PC option on the right-hand side of the page.
  • Select the option that says, I don’t have this person’s sign-in information.
  • Click on the Add a user without a Microsoft account option.
  • Enter a username and password for the new account.
  • Click Next.

After creating the new account, switch to it and see if the error will occur again. If it doesn’t, consider migrating to the new user account.

Fix 6: Run the System File Checker and Deployment Image Servicing and Management Utilities

To check whether your system files are healthy, and to repair them if they are not, run the following command-line tools:

  • Go to the Start menu.
  • Type Command Prompt into the search box and right-click on the option from the search results.
  • Click on Run as Administrator.
  • Click Yes when the User Account Control prompt pops up.
  • When the Command Prompt (Admin) window opens, copy and paste the following command and press Enter to run it:

DISM.exe  /Online  /Cleanup-image  /Restorehealth

  • Wait for the scan to complete. It might take a while to do so.
  • After the DISM command is done, it’s time to run System File Checker:

Sfc /scannow

  • When the SFC scan is done, close the Command Prompt (Admin) window and restart your computer.

After you’ve completed the SFC and DISM scans, try accessing the problematic file again. See if the ‘An error occurred applying attributes to the file’ message will appear again.

It is ideal to run a deep scan for malware, spyware, and viruses before proceeding to repairing your system files.

If some malicious items have invaded your system, then it’s likely that they are responsible for the corruption of your system files.

Failing to remove those threats will leave your system open to further damage.

We suggest you use Auslogics Anti-Malware to detect and eliminate stubborn threats from your PC.

The program is designed not to conflict with any existing security program you may already have on your system.

It is easy to use and is capable of arresting and safely removing malicious items that are deeply hidden in your system.

Fix 7: Repair install Windows 10

Is the ‘An error occurred applying attributes to the file’ message still popping up? If so, consider doing an in-place upgrade of Windows or a clean install.

If you decide to do a clean install, you may want to back up your personal data first.

An in-place upgrade, on the other hand, will repair Windows components without removing your apps, files, media, documents, and other personal items on your PC.


In this guide, we discussed how to fix the ‘An error occurred applying attributes to the file’ message that pops up when you try accessing a file on your PC.

We talked about the various reasons why this issue might occur and provided effective solutions to resolve them.

If you have any questions or further suggestions, please feel free to share them with us in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you. Let us know the solutions that worked for you.

Don’t forget to check out our blog for more informative posts.