Setting Files and Folder permissions on Ubuntu Desktop

Whether you’re using Ubuntu 16.04 / 17.10 or 18.04, setting file and folder permissions should be the same. You can use file permission to control who should have access to files you own. You won’t be able to set permissions on files and folders you don’t already own or have access to.

To view and set the permissions for a file, right click it and select Properties, then select the Permissions tab.

There are three groups or classes you can set permissions for. Owners, Group and Others. You’re automatically going to be the owner of files you own. Group will also be assign to your account and Others, might have read-only.

If you want to protect the file from accidental deletion, you can give yourself read-only permission so you don’t delete it mistakenly.

This brief tutorials shows students and new users how to set file and folder permissions on Ubuntu.

To get started with setting file permissions, continue below

Step 1: Setting File Permissions

Whether at home or in a corporate environment, the best method to manage file permissions is to assign it to groups. you can set the file’s group and control the permissions for all users in that group. You can only set the file’s group to a group you belong to.

If the file is a program, such as a script, you must select Allow executing file as program to run it.

ubuntu file permissions

For files you want to restrict, go to the folder step below to set the folder permissions.

Step 2: Setting Folder Permissions

You can set folder permission for Owners, Groups and Others. Permissions for files and folders are slightly different. Below is permission types you can set on folders. Files in folders are controlled by the permission settings on the folders.

ubuntu file permissions

Permission Types:


The user will not even be able to see what files are in the folder.

List files only

The user will be able to see what files are in the folder, but will not be able to open, create, or delete files.

Access files

The user will be able to open files in the folder (provided they have permission to do so on the particular file), but will not be able to create new files or delete files.

Create and delete files

The user will have full access to the folder, including opening, creating, and deleting files.

So, when settings permissions on file, it’s best to do it on at the folder level. you can restrict access to file at the file level but might not be the best way to do it. always set it on the folder the file is stored in.

You can also quickly set the file permissions for all the files in the folder by clicking Change Permissions for Enclosed Files.


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  1. Ubuntu 18.04 has the most ridiculous help file I’ve ever seen. Regarding file permissions, for example: Ubuntu help tells me WHAT I can do but does not give me the least hint of HOW to do it. Situation is I have two hard drives in my box. One, of course is the drive upon which Ubuntu OS resides. The other is formatted and mounted and ready to go — but I cannot access the drive. Ubuntu tells me I don’t have permission to do anything with that drive. I’ve tried to change permissions, but there’s no procedure I can find that tells me how to do that. So my 3 terra hard drive is utterly worthless. Who writes the trash you call a help file and why don’t you shoot him/her/it?

    1. I agree. Linux is nearly impossible to use without another working machine to reference. Most help is “I tried XYZ, swung a dead cat around and issued incantations and now it works.” Therefore I fixed the problem. It’s obvious most people don’t even understand how the system works.

  2. I have just deleted windows 10 and dowloaded ubuntu 18.04. it appears to say that I am not the owner. it means I cannot manage files in the computer such as usr.

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