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Configure and Manage Shared Folders : Understand Security Permissions

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The shared folders you’ve created can have one of three basic permissions: Reader, Contributor, and Co-Owner. For a basic home network, these permissions are suitable. But what if these just don’t work for you? What if you want to let a user access a shared folder to read files and modify those files but not create new ones and not run any executable programs stored in the shared folder? That goes a bit beyond the default share permissions and must be configured by using security permissions.

Security permissions are referred to as NTFS permissions. NTFS (an acronym for NT file system) is a technology available in Windows Vista that lets you specify exactly what you want people to be able to do with shared data. You can configure something as complex as allowing three users to access and modify data while allowing two others to only access and read the data and while also allowing one user to only run programs and not even view the data—all on the same shared folder!

Be warned before continuing. Entire books have been written about applying these permissions. Thus, I won’t go into detail regarding how to accomplish applying these permissions or what happens when you apply share permissions and NTFS permissions on the same folder.

Note

You won’t be able to apply NTFS permissions if your file system is not formatted with NTFS.


Understand Advanced Permission Levels

When setting advanced permissions, you have several to configure. For each, you can select Allow or Deny. Some options you can allow or deny include Modify, Read, and Write. This means you can let an individual read a file but not write to or modify it. When applying NTFS permissions, understand that Deny always wins over Allow. Choosing Deny for any category overrides any other permission granted, and that includes “inherited” permissions from parent folders.

Applying multiple permissions for multiple users is a little tricky, as you’d guess; it’s often hard to determine just what a user can and can’t do if you go overboard applying them. There’s also the additional option Special Permissions, which really complicates things. Therefore, another word of caution: Apply advanced permissions only if you really must. Try to use the default permissions of Reader, Contributor, and Co-Owner first, and then move to advanced permissions only if those don’t suit your needs. Table 1 lists the available NTFS permissions and a description of each.

Table 1. Permissions
PERMISSION LEVELDESCRIPTION
Full ControlUsers can modify, execute, read, and write to files and folders.
ModifyUsers can change files and folders but not create new ones.
List Folder ContentsUsers can view file names and subfolder names within a folder.
Read & ExecuteUsers can see (read) files and folders and run programs.
ReadUsers can see (read) the contents of a folder and open folders.
WriteUsers can create new files and folders and can make changes to existing files and folders.
Special PermissionsSpecial permissions include permissions such as Take Ownership, Delete, and Synchronize.

Note

I won’t go into the Special Permissions option here. If you find that default and advanced permissions don’t offer what you need, refer to the Help and Support files in Windows Vista for additional information.


Apply Security Permissions

If you want to apply NTFS permissions, right-click the shared folder, click Properties, and select the Security tab. Choose any user, and click Edit. Select a user from the Permissions dialog box or add a new user, and then apply the permissions as desired. Figure 1 shows what you might see when applying NTFS permissions.

Figure 1. NTFS permissions are tricky to apply and manage.
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