Why icons have a lock (padlock) overlay while using Windows Live Mesh and HomeGroup in Windows 7?

I’ve noticed that since I have begun using Windows Live Mesh (part of the Windows Live Essentials 2011 free add-on suite for Windows Vista and Windows 7), some of the icons on files have a little lock (padlock) overlay icon:


I was a bit worried if I couldn’t edit one of those files and that I should take ownership or change security settings every time I was synchronizing my PCs.

I turns out it’s less scary than it looks. A padlock overlay icon  means, according to Raymond Chen’s blog post, that “you have a private item in a non-private directory”. Now, what does that mean?

You probably know that Windows 7 introduces the “HomeGroup” feature, which greatly simplifies printer, music and other files sharing on your home network. When your PC joins a HomeGroup, a number of predefined folders will be shared with other PCs on the same internal network (or, as Raymond says: “When you set up a HomeGroup, pretty much everything is going to be shared”). Which means your folders and files will automatically become public (to your home network). An overlay icon will be displayed when you transition from a non-private (public) state to a private state.

Now you ask: how come my files have been transitioned from non-private to private?

The answer seems to lie with how Windows Live Mesh synchronizes your files. I don’t know how it works under the covers, but files which are synched are marked private when copied over to your computer.

Important note: it might have been a temporary change while Windows Live Mesh (called Live Sync at that time) was in the Beta period. Now that Live Mesh has been released officially, it seems my recent files synched to my computer DO NOT have the overlay icon anymore (to be confirmed at a later date).

Tip: how do I change that and remove the lock overlay?

Right-click on the file or folder, select “Share with” in the context menu, and finally choose “HomeGroup (Read)” or “HomeGroup (Read/Write)”:


I hope this helps.


This entry was posted in Computer, Tip, Windows and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Why icons have a lock (padlock) overlay while using Windows Live Mesh and HomeGroup in Windows 7?

  1. legal pad says:

    It’s actually a cool and useful piece of info.
    I am glad that you just shared this useful information with us.
    Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

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