How to Create or Remove Permissions for a SharePoint Subsite

By Rosemarie Withee, Ken Withee

In theory, you could set up security once for a SharePoint site collection and allow everything to inherit. In reality, you may not want everyone to have the same access. In order to create unique permissions for a site, app, folder, or item, you have to stop inheriting permissions from the parent.

Creating unique permissions for a subsite

You must be in a subsite to create unique permissions; the following steps don’t make sense otherwise.

To stop inheriting permissions in a subsite from a parent site, follow these steps:

  1. Browse to the Site Permissions page for a site by clicking the Settings gear icon and choosing Site Settings and then clicking the Site Permissions link in the Users and Permissions section.
    The Site Permissions page is displayed with a message reading This website inherits permissions from its parent (<parent site name>). If you wish to change permissions for the entire site collection, click the <parent site name> link.
  2. Click the Stop Inheriting Permissions button in the Permissions tab on the Ribbon.
    A message window appears reading, in part, You are about to create unique permissions for this website.
  3. Click OK.
    The Set Up Groups for this page is displayed. Choose the groups you want to use in the site. By default, the page uses the groups from the site collection.
  4. If you need your own groups for this site, then you should select the Create New Group radio button.
  5. Set groups for Site Visitors, Site Members, and Site Owners by selecting an existing group from the drop-down list.
  6. Click OK to create the new unique groups for the site.
    The main home page for the site reloads, and your site now has unique permissions. Repeat Step 1 to return to the Site Permissions page. You see that there is now a This website has unique permissions message. Any permissions changes you make on this site are now unique to this site. No other sites in the site collection will be affected.

Be careful about adding users to SharePoint groups at the site or app level. You’re actually adding users to the entire site collection group. Individual subsites and apps don’t have their own SharePoint groups. This behavior causes a great deal of confusion.

To drive the point home, do the following. When you stop inheriting site permissions and are on the page, to set up groups (Step 4 in the preceding list) choose to create new groups for the site. After you have finished, go to the Site Permissions page for the site collection. You see the groups you created in the site are in the site collection. This is because all groups in SharePoint are located at the site collection level, even if they are only used by a subsite that is set to use unique permissions.

To reinherit permissions from the parent site, choose Inherit Permissions in Step 2. Any changes you’ve made are discarded, and the site inherits the parent’s permissions.

After you stop inheriting permissions, the parent’s permissions are copied to the site.

Be extremely careful when deleting groups and permissions! If you are in a site that is inheriting permissions and you delete a group, you are actually taken to the site collection to delete the group. Even highly trained IT administrators make this mistake and wipe out the entire permission structure for the entire site collection. Before you delete a group, make certain that your site isn’t inheriting permissions and you’re not deleting all the permissions at the site collection level by deleting the group at the site level.

Removing existing permissions

Follow these steps to remove existing permission assignments:

  1. Browse to the Site Permissions page for a site by clicking the Settings gear icon and choosing Site Settings and then clicking the Site Permissions link in the Users and Permissions section.
  2. Place check marks next to the permission assignments you want to remove.
    Remember to leave yourself with permissions; otherwise, you won’t be able to access the site.
  3. Click the Remove User Permissions button, and then click OK to confirm the deletions.
    All the permissions are deleted for the selected permissions assignments.