Attrib Command (Examples, Options, Switches, and More)

Change the attributes of a file or folder with this shell command

The attrib command displays or changes the file attributes for a file or folder. It's run from the Command Prompt in all versions of Windows.

Someone using the attrib command on a PC
Derek Abella / Lifewire

'Attrib' Command Availability

The attrib command is available in the Command Prompt in all Windows operating systems including Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, plus older versions of Windows as well.

All offline diagnostic and repair tools available with the various versions of Windows, including Advanced Startup Options, System Recovery Options, and Recovery Console, also include attrib in some capacity.

This attrib command is also available in MS-DOS as a DOS command.

The availability of certain attrib command switches and other attrib command syntax might differ from operating system to operating system.

'Attrib' Command Syntax & Switches

The command takes the following general form:

attrib [+a|-a] [+h|-h] [+i|-i] [+r|-r] [+s|-s] [+v|-v] [+x|-x] [drive:][path][filename] [/s [/d] [/l]]

If you're not sure how to interpret the attrib command syntax you see above or shown in the table below, it's advised to learn how to read command syntax.

Attrib Command Options
Item Explanation
attrib Execute the attrib command alone to see the attributes set on the files within the directory that you execute the command from.
+a Sets the archive file attribute to the file or directory.
-a Clears the archive attribute.
+h Sets the hidden file attribute to the file or directory.
-h Clears the hidden attribute.
+i Sets the 'not content indexed' file attribute to the file or directory.
-i Clears the 'not content indexed' file attribute.
+r Sets the read-only file attribute to the file or directory.
-r Clears the read-only attribute.
+s Sets the system file attribute to the file or directory.
-s Clears the system attribute.
+v Sets the integrity file attribute to the file or directory.
-v Clears the integrity attribute.
+x Sets the no scrub file attribute to the file or directory.
-x Clears the no scrub attribute.
drive:, path, filename This is the file (filename, optionally with drive and path), directory (path, optionally with drive), or drive that you want to view or change the attributes of. Wildcard use is allowed.
/s Use this switch to execute whatever file attribute display or changes you're making on the subfolders within whatever drive and/or path you've specified, or those within the folder you're executing from if you don't specify a drive or path.
/d This attrib option includes directories, not only files, to whatever you're executing. You can only use /d with /s.
/l The /l option applies whatever you're doing with the attrib command to the Symbolic Link itself instead of the target of the Symbolic Link. The /l switch only works when you're also using the /s switch.
/? Use the help switch with the attrib command to show details about the above options right in the Command Prompt window. Executing attrib /? is the same as using the help command to execute help attrib.

In Recovery Console, +c and -c switches apply to attrib. They set and clear the compressed file attribute, respectively. Outside of this diagnostic area in Windows XP, use the compact command to handle file compression from the command line.

When a wildcard is allowed with attrib, it means that you can use an asterisk to apply the attribute to a group of files. However, if applicable, you have to clear the system or hidden attribute first before you can change any of the file's other attributes.

Attrib Command Examples

Here are some examples of how this command can be used:

Apply Read-Only Attribute

attrib +r c:\windows\system\secretfolder

In the above example, attrib turns on the read-only attribute, using the +r option, for the secretfolder directory located in c:\windows\system.

Clear Hidden Attribute

attrib -h c:\config.sys

In this example, the config.sys file located in the root directory of the c: drive has its hidden file attribute cleared by use of the -h option.

Clear Multiple Attributes

attrib -h -r -s c:\boot\bcd

This time, attrib removes several file attributes from the bcd file, an important file that must be working for Windows to start. In fact, executing the attrib command, as shown above, is a key part of the process outlined in the steps necessary for rebuilding the BCD in Windows.

Apply and Clear Attributes

attrib +a f:*.* & attrib -a f:*.bak

With the above example, we're applying +a to set the archive attribute on all files that exist on the f: drive, but then using to remove the archive attribute on every file on f: that has the .bak file extension.

In the above example, BAK files indicate files that have already been backed up, meaning that they don't need to be archived/backed up again, hence the need to remove the archive attribute.

Display a File's Attributes

attrib myimage.jpg

To end with a simple attrib example, this one simply displays the attributes of a file named myimage.jpg. If you were to remove the second half and execute only the attrib command, it would display the attributes for all files in the current directory.

Attrib Command Errors

As with most commands in Command Prompt, use double-quotes around a folder or file name that has spaces. If you forget to do this with the attrib command, you'll get a "Parameter format not correct -" error.

For example, instead of typing my folder in Command Prompt to show the path to a folder by that name, you'd type "my folder" to use the quotes.

Attrib command errors like Access Denied mean that you don't have enough access to the file(s) you're trying to make attribute changes to. Take ownership of those files in Windows and then try again.

Changes in the Attrib Command

The +i, -i, and /l attrib command options were first available in Windows Vista and have been retained up through Windows 10.

The +v, -v, +x, and -x switches for the attrib command are only available in Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10.

'Attrib'-Related Commands

It's common for the xcopy command to effect a file's attribute after it backs up something. For example, the xcopy command's /m switch turns off the archive attribute after the file has been copied.

Similarly, the xcopy /k switch keeps a file's read-only attribute once it's been copied.

Viewing Attributes in Explorer

Folder attributes in Windows 10

You can also view and manage attributes for files and folders in File Explorer using regular menu buttons. This might be preferred for you if you're not familiar with the command line.

Do this by right-clicking the object and going into its Properties > General tab.

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