RASH File  Attributes

    

How can file attributes be 'rash'? Those of you who don't know, probably don't know what attributes are and what they're used for. Those who do know about attributes, but don't know why they're rash, just need to meditate on the matter for a few seconds. Now, for those of you not in a meditative state, let's talk about attributes.

What's an attribute? According to my dictionary, an attribute is "a characteristic or quality of something." What's a file attribute? Well, it stands to reason that it's a characteristic of a file. And so it is.

Every file on your hard disk or on a floppy disk has one or more attributes; usually, these file attributes are turned on and off by programs. Up to four attributes can be assigned to each file at any one time. These four are 'R', 'A', 'S', and 'H'; consequently, now you know where this article's title came from. Let's talk about each in turn.

The 'R' attribute is the 'Read Only' attribute. A file having this attribute cannot be overwritten or erased by standard programs or mischievous users.

The 'A' attribute is the 'Archive' attribute. A file possessing this attribute has been changed or created recently. DOS commands like  XCOPY use this attribute to keep track of which files changed since they were last copied or backed up. Similarly, backup programs like Seagate Backup Exec, Microsoft Backup, etc. all use this attribute to handle their bookkeeping on what files need to be backed up.

The 'S' attribute is the 'System' attribute. A file with this attribute usually is a file that's an integral part of your operating system. The system attribute has a special meaning for DOS, Windows, Windows 9x, OS/2, etc. When the system attribute is associated with a file, that file is hidden and cannot be run from the command line in DOS or a DOS session. The only way such a file can be run is by another program loading and running the file. Under Windows 9x, try to perform an operation like deleting a system file, and you'll get a pop-up box telling you that the file is a system file and asking you whether you really want to delete it.

The 'H' attribute is the 'Hidden' attribute. A file having this attribute cannot be seen by a normal DOS directory search (like using the DIR, CHKDSK, TREE, DEL, or RENAME commands). A file having this attribute cannot be seen if Windows 9x Explorer or similar programs aren't specifically set up to see them (e. g., Show all files hasn't been checked under View Options in Windows Explorer). Files with an 'H' attribute are effectively "invisible." This attribute is used to hide files from prying eyes. Note that most programs can still run a hidden file, but that the DOS COPY and XCOPY commands cannot copy a hidden file or copy to a hidden file.

How do you know what attributes are associated with a file? Use the DOS ATTRIB command. Type ATTRIB at a DOS prompt, type the name of the file, then press <Enter>. All the attributes associated with a file will be displayed. Under Windows 9x, you can right click on a file's icon and select Properties; the file attributes are listed at the bottom of the General page.

You can also use the ATTRIB command to manually "turn on" or "turn off attributes associated with a file. Check your DOS manual (if you still have one) or, if you have DOS 5 or DOS 6, type HELP ATTRIB at the DOS prompt, to learn more about the ATTRIB command. Under Windows 9x, right click on a file's icon and select Properties; at the bottom of the General Page, you can turn each of the attributes on or off.

One final word about attributes of files. If you copy a file with one or more of the various attributes set on, none of the file attributes except for the archive attribute will be transferred to the new file.

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Copyright 1998 Rich Hamper 

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Last Updated:

Sunday, January 20, 2008