Users need to unblock downloaded files from the Internet to stop Windows 11 from blocking access to them. When you click such a file in Explorer, it shows a security warning. Also, for some files like executables (*.exe), Windows blocks them from opening. Here's how to unblock such a file and stop Windows 11 from blocking them.
By default, Windows adds a zone information to each of the files downloaded from the Internet or received by email. When you are opening any file, the operating systems analyzes that data. If the zone info presents and is refers to the "unsafe" source, you see a warning.
This functionality is implemented in the Attachment Manager component. It writes the zone information to a special area called "alternate data steam" which is invisible to the end user. Such streams, also known as "metadata", only exist on NTFS partitions.
Attachment Manager identifies how risky the downloaded file can be for you by several factors. In short, it checks with what program you open the file, the type of the file, and the source from where you obtained the file.
There are three levels of security warnings you may see when opening a downloaded file.
- High – You see the message like "Windows found that this file is potentially harmful. To help protect your computer, Windows has blocked access to this file." This warning typically appears for download executable files that don't have a digital signature and aren't known for SmartScreen.
- Moderate – This applies to certain documents and executables received from LAN. For the latter, you may see the "The publisher could not be verified. Are you sure you want to run this software?" message.
- Low – For files that are "safe" regardless of the source, Windows doesn't notify the user and allows opening them.
If you find inconvenient to see such prompts every time you open the downloaded files, you need to unblock them. Here is how.
Unblock Downloaded Files
To unblock downloaded files in Windows 11, you can use File Explorer or PowerShell. Also, you can unblock such files directly from the security prompt. Additionally, you can add a special context menu to unblock downloads faster. Finally, you can stop Windows from blocking the downloaded files, so you won't need to unblock them. Let's review these methods in detail.
Unblock Downloaded Files in Windows 11 File Explorer
- Open File Explorer (Win + E), and go to the folder where you have your downloads.
- Right-click the file, and select Properties from the menu.
- On the General tab of the file properties dialog, place a check mark for the Unblock option.
- Windows will no longer prevent you from opening this specific file. Repeat the steps 1-3 for all the files you need on to unlock.
Perhaps you already know that you can unlock some files by simply opening them. E.g. if you double-click an executable file, you can unlock it right from the security prompt.
Unblock Files from SmartScreen Security Warning
- Double-click the download file in File Explorer.
- In a Defender SmartScreen dialog titled "Windows Protected your PC", click More info link.
- Click on the Run anyway button.
- Otherwise, in the Open File - Security Warning prompt, uncheck the Always ask before opening this file option.
- Click on Open on Run button, depending on what it has.
Advanced users may like the PowerShell method.
Unblock Downloaded File in PowerShell
- Right-click the Start button and select the Terminal item from the menu.
- Switch Windows Terminal to the PowerShell tab (Ctrl + Shift + 1) if it opens to something else.
- Now, type the following command:
unblock-file -path "full \ path \ to \ downloaded \ file". For example,
unblock-file -path "C:\Users\winaero\Downloads\winaerotweaker.zip".
- Once finished, close the Terminal app and open your file.
But if you have plenty of such files, it is an annoying task to unblock each of them individually. A solution here is to unlock all the files at once in a folder.
Unblock All Files in a Folder
- Press Win + X and select Terminal from the menu.
- In the PowerShell tab type the following command:
get-childitem "path \ to \ the \ folder" | unblock-file. This command will unblock all the files in the specified folder; for example
get-childitem "C:\Users\winaero\Downloads" | unblock-file.
- To unblock all files in the folder and its subfolders, run the following command:
get-childitem "path \ to \ the \ folder" -recurse | unblock-file. For example,
get-childitem "C:\Users\winaero\Downloads" -recurse | unblock-file.
- Wait for the command to finish and close the Terminal. Now all the files are unblocked.
Tip: You can make PowerShell to ask you for confirmation for each of the files. For that, modify the commands above by adding the
-confirm argument after
The command may look as follows.
get-childitem "C:\Users\winaero\Downloads" | unblock-file -confirm
To save your time, you can add a special context menu to File Explorer. After you can unlock one or all files in a folder by right-clicking it. The context menu entries will invoke the PowerShell commands we have reviewed in the previous chapters.
Note that clicking the Unblock item in the context menu for a folder will unblock all its files at once. There will be an option to unblock all files recursively.
Here's how to add the menu.
Add Unblock File Context Menu
- Download this ZIP archive and extract it to any folder.
- Open the Add Unblock Context Menu.reg file.
- Confirm the User Account Control prompt by clicking on the Yes button.
- Now, right-click a file or a folder in File Explorer and select Show more options.
- From the full context menu, select Unblock.
- Right-click a folder to unblock all its files at once.
You are done. You can remove the added menu at any moment later using the other REG file, "Remove Unblock Context Menu.reg".
Finally, if you are brave enough, you can turn off the addition of the zone info to downloaded files. This will prevent Windows from blocking them, and you will no longer need to unblock them using any of the methods.
Prevent Windows from Blocking Downloaded Files
- Download these REG files in a ZIP archive from this link.
- Extract the files to any directory of your choice, e.g. right to the Desktop.
- Double-click the Disable_blocking_of_downloaded_files.reg file to open it.
- Now click Yes in the UAC prompt and confirm the Registry change.
From now, Windows will no longer block the downloaded files. The ZIP archive also contains an undo tweak, Enable_blocking_of_downloaded_files.reg.
These two files modify the
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Attachments Registry key. There, they change the SaveZoneInformation DWORD value to one of the following numbers:
- SaveZoneInformation = 1 - Windows doesn't block Internet downloads.
- SaveZoneInformation = 2 or is missing in the Registry - block downloaded files, which is the default behavior.
If you are running Windows 11 Pro, Education or Enterprise editions, you can use the Local Group Policy editor to configure the reviewed option without editing the Registry. Here's how.
Disable Block Files Downloaded from Internet in Group Policy
- Open the Run window by pressing Win + R, and type gpedit.msc.
- On the left, expand the folders to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Attachment Manager.
- In the right pane, open the "Do not preserve zone information in file attachments" policy.
- Select the Enable setting and click OK.
You are done! You can disable the policy at any moment of time in order to restore the default behavior of the operating system.
Finally, you can use Winaero Tweaker to prevent Windows from blocking your downloads.
Using Winaero Tweaker
Download the app from here and install it. Select Behavior > Disable Downloads Blocking in the left.
Now, all you need to do is to check the option on the right.
Besides this setting, you will find a bunch of other options for customizing Windows. Winaero Tweaker is intended to become your Swiss Knife for configuring modern Windows versions with a couple of clicks.
That's all about disabling the blocking of downloads.
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