How to prevent external users downloading files in SharePoint

SharePoint is a tool often utilised by those in a working environment. It allows the user to create groups in which team management is made far less of a hassle compared to what it originally would be. The tool allows exclusivity to a certain group, in which contents of the work can be shared, hidden away from otherwise unwanted prying eyes.

Of course, there will be an understandable desire to prevent external users downloading files from your SharePoint. Thankfully, there are a couple of means by which you can achieve this. The first way to edit who can access your SharePoint files is to alter the offline availability settings of SharePoint. In order to do this, you must find the ‘Search and offline availability’ subsection of your options.

As with every blog, don’t worry if the above paragraph isn’t enough for you to go on. Not only will there be a bullet-pointed step-by-step routine for you to follow, but below that will be a more detailed explanation of the process.

Step by step: How to prevent external users from downloading files in SharePoint – search and offline availability

  • Open SharePoint.
  • From the main dashboard, click ‘Settings’.
  • Here, click ‘Site Settings’.
  • Find the ‘Search’ subsection of options on the new menu you will be presented with.
  • Here, find ‘Search and offline availability’.
  • In the section regarding offline availability, click ‘No’.
  • Click ‘OK’ in the bottom right corner to save your settings.

So, there are the steps to prevent external user downloads of your SharePoint files. As was mentioned though, below this is a more thorough walkthrough of the process, with accompanying screenshots in order to best assist you with the task at hand.

In depth breakdown: How to prevent external users downloading files in SharePoint

So, your first step will be to open SharePoint. Whilst you may be able to do this with ease, some of you may well be trying to open SharePoint from another Office 365 application, such as Outlook. To do this, click the app launcher in the top left hand corner of the screen and select SharePoint to open it.

Once you have opened SharePoint, you will be greeted by its ‘main menu’, so to speak. From here, you will want to click the ‘settings’ option in the top right corner of the screen.

Once the dropdown menu from this opens, click ‘Site Settings’, the fourth option down.

Clicking this will open up a new menu, listing many setting options. You will want to find the ‘Search’ subsection, which you may have to scroll down for slightly.

Under this subsection, you will want to look for the ‘Search and offline availability’ option. It has been highlighted in yellow in the screenshot below.

Clicking this will bring you to another menu, detailing the settings regarding, funnily enough, search and offline availability. To alter the access of external users, you will want to look at the third option down, titled ‘Offline Client Availability’, which has been emboldened below.

Under the option, ‘Allow items from this site to be downloaded to offline clients?’, it will be defaulted to ‘Yes’. Change this to ‘No’.

After you have done this, click OK in the bottom right corner of the screen to save the changes you have just made.

After clicking OK, you have successfully changed your site settings and have ensured that external users will not be able to download your content.

Whilst this method should serve to help you prevent external users downloading files from your SharePoint, don’t worry if it doesn’t. There is another way to complete this process, which will be detailed below. This process involves editing the permissions of a new group as you create it.

This method may be of more use to you if you want to block a general group of people from editing your files, as opposed to a more specific, refined number.

As with the first method, you will first see a step-by-step, before being met with a detailed breakdown should you need it.

Step by step: How to prevent external users downloading files in SharePoint – Creating a group

  • Open SharePoint.
  • From the main dashboard, click ‘Settings’.
  • Here, click ‘Site Settings’.
  • Under ‘User and Permissions’, click ‘Site Permissions’.
  • From here, click ‘Create Group’.
  • After naming your group and editing its members, scroll down the settings.
  • Find the subsection titled, ‘Give Group permission to this Site’
  • Click ‘View Only’, then click ‘Create’ to form your group.

First, you will want to open SharePoint. From here, click the settings button in the top-right of your screen.

From here, when the settings menu opens, click ‘Site Settings’, which has been highlighted by the red rectangle below.

With the new menu that opens from clicking ‘Site Settings’, you will want to look at the first subsection, titled ‘Users and Permissions’. The second option down, titled ‘Site Permissions’, is the one you’ll want to click. It’s been emphasised in the below screenshot.

After opening the Site Permissions menu, you will want to create your new group. To do this, click ‘Create Group’, which can be found under the Permissions subheading. As always, it has been highlighted in the below screenshot.

Clicking this will bring you to a new menu, titled People and Groups – Create Group. It should look like this:

On this menu, scroll down to the bottom of your screen until you see the subsection of options titled, Give Group Permission to the Site. It should consist of multiple, unticked boxes (that you can, of course, edit as you see fit in your own time).

The bottom box will be titled View Only, and go on to explain that selecting that option means that documents can be viewed, but not downloaded. It has been emboldened in red below.

After ticking this box, click Create to form your group. Do this, and your group will have been created with external users already prevented from downloading your files!

So, there are two ways by which you can prevent external users downloading files from your SharePoint. You can either edit the search and offline availability settings, or edit the group permissions of your group as you create it.

Thank you for reading this blog, I hope it helped you solve your problems. Hopefully the blog was as helpful as you wanted it to be! As always, if you run into any issues with this walkthrough, or simply wish to tell us your thoughts on the blog, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.

Here are some links to blogs of a similar topic to this one. Perhaps they will prove useful to you if this article didn’t quite answer your question:

How To Disable Downloading Of Files In SharePoint Document Library – Business Tech Planet

How to import data from CSV into SharePoint list – Business Tech Planet

How to fix the error: “cannot connect to the server at this time” when importing from Excel to SharePoint – Business Tech Planet

Best ways to migrate data from Dropbox to SharePoint – Business Tech Planet

Customize document library view SharePoint Online – Business Tech Planet

Michael Fontana

Michael Fontana has been the managing director of telecoms and MSP Optionbox for over a decade and has worked in various telecommunication roles over the last 20 years. Michael has been involved in many exciting projects, such as co-founding telecoms and IT businesses and has now built up a team of more than 15 staff, serving over 300 clients nationwide. With a wealth of experience in IT and a passion for technology, Michael is now helping BTP to produce the highest quality guides on the internet. You can connect with Michael on LinkedIn.

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