Access Denied? Here's the Fix...

Category: Windows

Most people are the sole or principal user of a PC or laptop, and hold the privileges of the Administrator account. An Admin is supposed to be omnipotent, having full control over every file and folder on a computer. It is frustrating to learn this is not always so! Here is why you may at times see “access denied” or “you do not have permission to access” a file or folder, and several clever ways to gain full control of your “personal" computer...

Gain Full Control of Your Computer

Has this happened to you? You're cleaning up your files, and when you try to open, rename or delete a file or folder, a wizard with a big stick pops up and says "You Shall Not Pass!" Oh, wait a minute, I think I've mixed my metaphors, or perhaps confused the message for the medium.

But anyway, I think you know what I mean. You want to do something on your computer, and an imperious message from the operating system says "Access denied", "You don't have permission to access", or some other variant of "You can't go there." Let's talk about why that sometimes happens, and how to fix it.

You are probably familiar with the differences between an Administrator account and an ordinary User account. The latter has a limited set of privileges when it comes to manipulating files, installing software, and other functions. User accounts are for people who generally don’t know what they are doing and could admit malware or damage system files if they had too many privileges. Only the Administrator should be allowed to install or remove software.

Windows - Access Denied - you do not have permission

But there are more types of accounts, including some that are created by Windows during its installation. One such account is named “TrustedInstaller” and it has privileges over certain system files that are denied to Users and Administrators. TrustedInstaller is able to modify, delete, or move certain files and the Administrator cannot.

I've also seen this happen when upgrading the operating system, from XP to Windows 7, or from Windows 7 to Windows 10. I created a new Admin account during the process, and ended up with a mess in which some of my files could not be moved or deleted. That is why you get the “no permissions” error message when you try to access files “owned" by TrustedInstaller and its kind.

Did you come here looking for ways to clean up or tune up your hard drive? See my article Free Hard Drive Tune-up Tools for some tips on how to find duplicates, remove unwanted files, recover files accidentally deleted, and improve performance of your hard drive.

The solution is to transfer the privileges held by other account to the Administrator account. An Administrator can perform this transfer, but it takes over a dozen complex steps to do so. So of course a few kind geeks have whipped up “one-click” tools to automate this transfer process and give an Administrator full control of all files and folders, or just a few that the Administrator wants to control. Here are some of the best options:

Some Tools to Take Ownership of Files and Folders

My favorite method is a registry hack that adds “Take Ownership” to the dropdown list of actions available when you right-click on a selected file or folder. Just go to Take Ownership’s page and click on the blue “Download TakeOwnership” button to download a ZIP file containing two *.reg files. (Be careful you don't accidentally click something else here.)

Double-click the .zip file to extract the *.reg files into a temporary folder, then double-click on the “Install_Take_Ownership.reg” file. This will add Take Ownership option to your system registry and make it available when you select a folder or file and right-click. To remove the TakeOwnership option from the registry and context menus, double-click on the “Uninstall_Take_Ownership.reg” file.

Another slick solution is Easy Context Menu, a product of Sordum Software. It is an app that adds many options to the context-sensitive dropdown menu seen when you highlight and right-click on a file or folder. Among the options is “Take Ownership.” Easy Context Menu includes many sophisticated options and may be more complicated than you prefer.

TakeOwnershipPro lets you drag a folder or file and drop it into the TakeOwnershipPro app to gain full control over the folder or file. It also supports the context-menu style operation of the apps mentioned above. Unfortunately, there is no “undo” feature.

Caveat: I've not experienced this, but I've read that trying to take ownership can sometimes lead to a system crash. You are strongly urged to create a System Restore point before attempting to take ownership of a folder or file using any of these tools. In the event of a crash, you can then use System Restore to “go back in time” to a moment before you made the disastrous attempt.

Have you ever experienced this annoying problem? Were you successful in resolving it? Tell me about your experience. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Access Denied? Here's the Fix..."

Posted by:

10 Dec 2020

We have a TV programme here in the UK, best line ever ...
"The computer says No"
Just about covers this topic !

Posted by:

Nigel A
10 Dec 2020

As well as a restore point, a recent back-up would be a really good idea. Just in case.

Posted by:

10 Dec 2020

I d/l a program called
unfortunately it cost $32 but will rename or delete any file

Posted by:

Joe London
10 Dec 2020

Access denied really annoys me and it happens to me occasionally. Its my computer, I'm the administrator and now I can't access or edit a file I created myself. I could never understand this so thanks Bob for your helpful explanation.

Posted by:

joe b
10 Dec 2020

Or you could simply boot off a USB stick with a "live" Linux on it, then look at the file from there. (and, or, copy the file and/or change the ownership)

Posted by:

Paul S
10 Dec 2020

McAfee blocks the download. Unless you accept the risks, no download allowed.

Posted by:

Hubert Harriman
10 Dec 2020

Man, I really had this problem(and still do in certain instances).I am an Administrator and only user BUT i am NOT the "Owner". What is an "Owner"

Posted by:

10 Dec 2020

Why on earth would microsoft design Windows so that an Administrator is not really in control of everything? They really screwed up.

Posted by:

11 Dec 2020

So, I've been meaning to contact the good folks at iDrive for quite some time now, as there are these messages every night in my backup log. However, the actual files from the respective folders are stored up at their servers (I just confirmed it again). However, that STEVE subfolder in Google Drive is a problem I have just noticed. That requires investigation as I don't see it backed up. I am going to have to check those permissions for that subfolder.
Thank you, Bob, for the info.

[Information] [d/t] [[C:\Users\username\Documents\My Music\][There is no permission to backup the folder]]
[Information] [d/t] [[C:\Users\username\Documents\My Pictures\][There is no permission to backup the folder]]
[Information] [d/t] [[C:\Users\username\Documents\My Videos\][There is no permission to backup the folder]]
[Information] [d/t] [[C:\Users\username\Google Drive\STEVE\][There is no permission to backup the folder]]

Posted by:

11 Dec 2020

Seeing all the possible pitfalls - seems commonsense not to bother - also another reason to never use Windows again.

Posted by:

11 Dec 2020

Thanks Bob. Yes I have had that problem occasionally too. But as to using (or even relying on) System Restore', for myself anyway, is not a good idea.

I always create a new System Restore point regularly but I have found that, frequently, when trying to use it, I get the following message: (something like) "System Restore Failed to Restore - please try another date". I have had to go back several points by which time I have no idea how many programs or updates I will have lost by using that one, so I give up.

It's far better to use a recent full backup, in my opinion.

Posted by:

11 Dec 2020

Okay! Changing Windows operating systems, copying files to new drives or computer, has caused this problem too many times. Especially if the files/folders were encrypted or compressed. Often times the original drive or computer is wiped, long gone. And taking ownership involves many steps if it works at all. So the "taking ownership" registry hack sounds like it's worth a try. And running a Linux live disc or drive does work to view data but doesn't change Windows ownership that I know of.

Posted by:

11 Dec 2020

I have had that problem. It's most annoying. The solution I've employed so far works but is tedious. You can uncheck read only, etc., and it makes no difference at the top level.

I have been able to go to the lowest level subfolder, clear the read only boxes, delete it, then work my way back up the folder chain until everything under the main folder is gone, then delete that. It is putzy, but it's worked for me whenever I've run into this. For a HUGE folder, it would be a lot easier to use one of these programs. I may get one, just for that.

Posted by:

13 Dec 2020

One program that has helped me a LOT is one called UNLOCKER. you load it on your computer, and it appears in the right click drop down list, in explorer. It gives you options....e.g. delete, move, or rename. It will sometimes give you the option to delete on restart/reboot. It works sometimes, and is free.

Posted by:

13 Dec 2020

Rather than add keys to the registry, you can access "Owner" is Properties>Security>Advanced.

Posted by:

08 Jan 2021

I am way late to this party.
Thank you BobRankin, I read this great write-up as if it was a mystery novel. But the solutions, each one, usually ends up having bugs at best or security issues at worst.
Minimizing such problems (imho) is as easy as not allowing any Window-OS to sniff-out and thus take control of "your' files. I keep "MY" files in dedicated/encrypted drives (multiples, thereof) and do not allow the OS to index them or add them to the Explorer left-pane' short-cuts menu. Let the system get corrupted and/or the OS-drive crash (or even get hijacked)... but unlikely that they will also take down "MY" files.

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