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"Access Denied" or other errors when you access or work with files and folders in Windows

Support for Windows XP has ended

Microsoft ended support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. This change has affected your software updates and security options. Learn what this means for you and how to stay protected.

Summary
When you try to access or work with files and folders in Windows, you experience one or more of the following issues:
  • Issue 1: You receive an "Access Denied" error message or a similar message.
  • Issue 2: You cannot access, change, save, or delete files and folders.
  • Issue 3: You cannot open a file or folder after you install a new version of Windows.
Resolution
To resolve a particular issue, follow the steps for the issue that best describes your situation. Use the method for your version of Windows.

Note You may not always receive an “Access Denied” error message for these kinds of issues. If particular steps do not resolve the issue, try a different set of steps.

Issue 1: I receive an "Access Denied" error message when I try to access or work with files and folders

Cause

An "Access Denied" error message can occur for one or more of the following reasons:
  • The folder ownership has changed.
  • You do not have the appropriate permissions.
  • The file is encrypted.

Resolution

Windows 8
You may not have ownership of a file or folder
If you recently upgraded your computer to Windows 8 from an earlier version of Windows, some of your account information may have changed. Therefore, you may no longer have ownership of some files or folders. You might be able to resolve this issue by restoring your ownership of the files and folders.

To take ownership of a file or folder, follow these steps:
  1. Press and hold the folder that you want to take ownership of, then tap Properties. (If you are using a mouse, right-click the folder, and then click Properties.)
  2. Tap or click the Security tab, tap or click Advanced, then tap or click Change. If you are prompted for an administrator password or for confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  3. Type the name of the person that you want to give ownership to, and then click Check Names.
    Note The account name for the person that you are assigning ownership to is displayed.
  4. Click OK.
  5. If you want this person to be the owner of the files and subfolders that are contained in this folder, select the Replace owner on subcontainers and objects check box.
  6. Click OK.
You may not have the appropriate permissions
Issues that you experience when you try to access files and folders may be related to permissions. Permissions are rules that determine whether you can access or change files and folders. To check permissions on a file or folder, follow these steps:
  1. Press and hold or right-click the file or folder, and then click Properties.
  2. Tap or click the Security tab.
  3. Under Group or user names, tap or click your name to see the permissions that you have.
To open a file, you have to have the Read permission. To change the permissions of a file or folder, follow these steps.

Important You must be logged on as an administrator to change permissions on files and folders.
  1. Press and hold or right-click the file or folder, and then tap or click Properties.
  2. Tap or click the Security tab.
  3. Under Group or user names, tap or click your name to see the permissions that you have.
  4. Tap or click Edit, tap or click your name, select the check boxes for the permissions that you must have, and then click OK.
The file or folder may be encrypted
Encryption can help protect files and folders from unwanted access. You cannot open an encrypted file or folder without the certificate that was used to encrypt it. To determine whether a file or folder is encrypted, follow these steps:
  1. Press and hold or right-click the file or folder, and then tap or click Properties.
  2. Tap or click the General tab, and then tap or click Advanced.
If the Encrypt contents to secure data check box is selected, you have to have the certificate that was used to encrypt the file or folder to be able to open it. In this situation, you should obtain the certificate from the person who created or encrypted the file or folder, or have that person decrypt the file or folder.
Windows 7
You may not have ownership of a file or folder
If you recently upgraded your computer to Windows 7 from an earlier version of Windows, some of your account information may have changed. Therefore, you may no longer have ownership of some files or folders. You might be able to resolve this issue by restoring your ownership of the files and folders.

To take ownership of a file or a folder, follow these steps:
  1. Right-click the folder that you want to take ownership of, then click Properties.
  2. Click the Security tab, click Advanced, then click the Owner tab.
  3. Click Edit.
    Note If you are prompted for an administrator password or for confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  4. Click the name of the person that you want to give ownership to.
  5. If you want this person to be the owner of files and subfolders in this folder, select the Replace owner on subcontainers and objects check box.
  6. Click OK.
You may not have the appropriate permissions
Issues that you experience when you try to access files and folders may be related to permissions. Permissions are rules that determine whether you can access or change files and folders. To determine the permissions of the file or folder, follow these steps:
  1. Right-click the file or folder, then click Properties.
  2. Click the Security tab.
  3. Under Group or user names, click your name to see the permissions that you have.
To open a file, you have to have the Read permission. To change permissions on a file or folder, follow these steps.

Important You must be logged on as an administrator to change permissions on files and folders.
  1. Right-click the file or folder, and then click Properties.
  2. Click the Security tab.
  3. Under Group or user names, click your name to see the permissions that you have.
  4. Click Edit, click your name, select the check boxes for the permissions that you must have, and then click OK.
For more information about permissions, see What are permissions?.
The file or folder may be encrypted
Encryption can help protect files and folders from unwanted access. You cannot open an encrypted file or folder without the certificate that was used to encrypt it. To determine whether a file or folder is encrypted, follow these steps:
  1. Right-click the file or folder, and then click Properties.
  2. Click the General tab, then click Advanced.
If the Encrypt contents to secure data check box is selected, you have to have the certificate that was used to encrypt the file or folder to be able to open it.

You should obtain the certificate from the person who created or encrypted the file or folder, or have that person decrypt the file or folder.

For more information, see Import or export certificates and private keys.

Issue 2: I cannot access, change, save, or delete files and folders

Cause

A problem that prevents you from accessing or working with files and folders can occur for one or more of the following reasons:
  • The folder ownership has changed
  • You do not have the appropriate permissions
  • The file is encrypted
  • The file is corrupted
  • The user profile is corrupted

Resolution

Windows 8
You may not have ownership of a file or folder
If you recently upgraded your computer to Windows 8 from an earlier version of Windows, some of your account information may have changed. Therefore, you may no longer have ownership of some files or folders. You might be able to resolve this issue by restoring your ownership of the files and folders.

To take ownership of a file or folder, follow these steps:
  1. Press and hold the folder that you want to take ownership of, then tap Properties. (If you are using a mouse, right-click the folder, and then click Properties.)
  2. Tap or click the Security tab, tap or click Advanced, then tap or click Change. If you are prompted for an administrator password or for confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  3. Type the name of the person that you want to give ownership to, and then click Check Names.
    Note The account name for the person that you are assigning ownership to is displayed.
  4. Click OK.
  5. If you want this person to be the owner of the files and subfolders that are contained in this folder, select the Replace owner on subcontainers and objects check box.
  6. Click OK.
You may not have the appropriate permissions
Issues that you experience when you try to access files and folders may be related to permissions. Permissions are rules that determine whether you can access or change files and folders. To check permissions on a file or a folder, follow these steps:
  1. Press and hold or right-click the file or folder, and then click Properties.
  2. Tap or click the Security tab.
  3. Under Group or user names, tap or click your name to see the permissions that you have.
To open a file, you have to have the Read permission. To change the permissions of a file or folder, follow these steps.

Important You must be logged on as an administrator to change permissions on files and folders.
  1. Press and hold or right-click the file or folder, and then tap or click Properties.
  2. Tap or click the Security tab.
  3. Under Group or user names, tap or click your name to see the permissions that you have.
  4. Tap or click Edit, tap or click your name, select the check boxes for the permissions that you must have, and then click OK.
For more information about permissions, see What are permissions?.
The file or folder may be encrypted
Encryption can help protect files and folders from unwanted access. You cannot open an encrypted file or folder without the certificate that was used to encrypt it. To determine whether a file or folder is encrypted, follow these steps:
  1. Press and hold or right-click the file or folder, and then tap or click Properties.
  2. Tap or click the General tab, and then tap or click Advanced.
If the Encrypt contents to secure data check box is selected, you have to have the certificate that was used to encrypt the file or folder to be able to open it. In this situation, you should obtain the certificate from the person who created or encrypted the file or folder, or have that person decrypt the file or folder.
The file or folder may be corrupted
Files can become corrupted for several reasons. The most common reason is that you have a file open when your computer crashes or loses power. Most corrupted files cannot be repaired. In this situation, you should either delete the file or restore the file from a backup copy.

For more information about corrupted files and how to fix them, see Corrupted files: frequently asked questions.
Your local user profile may be corrupted
Occasionally, Windows might not read your local user profile correctly. This may prevent you from accessing files and folders. In this situation, you may have to use a new local user profile. To create the profile, you must first create a local user account. When the new account is created, the profile is also created. To create a local user account, follow these steps:
  1. Swipe from the right edge of the screen, tap Settings, and then tap Change PC settings. (If you are using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, click Settings, and then click Change PC settings)
  2. In the navigation pane, tap or click Users.
  3. Tap or Click Add a User, then tap or click Can they sign in without a Microsoft account?
  4. Tap or click Local account.
  5. Enter your new account name.
  6. If you want to use a password, enter and verify the password that you want to use. If you decide not to use a password, tap or click Next without entering a password.
  7. Tap or click Finish.
Windows 7
You may not have ownership of a file or folder
If you recently upgraded your computer to Windows 7 from an earlier version of Windows, some of your account information may have changed. Therefore, you may no longer have ownership of some files or folders. You might be able to resolve this issue by restoring your ownership of the files and folders.

To take ownership of a file or a folder, follow these steps:
  1. Right-click the folder that you want to take ownership of, and then click Properties.
  2. Click the Security tab, click Advanced, and then click the Owner tab.
  3. Click Edit. If you are prompted for an administrator password or for confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  4. Click the name of the person that you want to give ownership to.
  5. If you want that person to be the owner of files and subfolders in this folder, select the Replace owner on subcontainers and objects check box.
  6. Click OK.
You may not have the appropriate permissions
Issues that you experience when you try to access files and folders may be related to permissions. Permissions are rules that determine whether you can access or change files and folders. To check permissions on a file or a folder, follow these steps:
  1. Press and hold or right-click the file or folder, and then click Properties.
  2. Tap or click the Security tab.
  3. Under Group or user names, tap or click your name to see the permissions that you have.
To open a file, you have to have the Read permission. To change permissions on a file or folder, follow these steps.

Important You must be logged on as an administrator to change permissions on files and folders.
  1. Right-click the file or folder, and then click Properties.
  2. Click the Security tab.
  3. Under Group or user names, click your name to see the permissions you have.
  4. Click Edit, click your name, select the check boxes for the permissions that you must have, and then click OK.
For more information about permissions, see What are permissions?.
The file or folder may be encrypted
Encryption can help protect files and folders from unwanted access. You cannot open an encrypted file or folder without the certificate that was used to encrypt it. To determine whether a file or folder is encrypted, follow these steps:
  1. Right-click the file, then click Properties.
  2. Click the General tab, and then click Advanced.
If the Encrypt contents to secure data check box is selected, you have to have the certificate that was used to encrypt the file or folder to be able to open it.

You should obtain the certificate from the person who created the file. For more information, see Import or export certificates and private keys.
The file or folder may be corrupted
Files can become corrupted for several reasons. The most common reason is that you have a file open when your computer crashes or loses power. Most corrupted files cannot be repaired. In this situation, you should either delete the file or restore the file from a backup copy.

For more information about corrupted files and how to fix them, see Corrupted files: frequently asked questions.
Your user profile may be corrupted
Occasionally, Windows might not read your local user profile correctly. This may prevent you from accessing files and folders. In this situation, you may have to use a new local user profile. To create the profile, you must first create a local user account. When the new account is created, the profile is also created.

For more information about how to create user profiles, see Fix a corrupted user profile. After the new user profile is created, you can copy your existing user files to the new profile so that you can access them.

Issue 3: I cannot open a file or folder after I upgrade to a new version of Windows

Cause

Problems that prevent you from accessing files and folders after you upgrade to a new version of Windows can occur for one or more of the following reasons:
  • The folder ownership has changed.
  • The files are being stored in a Windows.old folder from your previous system.

Resolution

Windows 8
You may not have ownership of a file or folder
If you recently upgraded your computer to Windows 8 from an earlier version of Windows, some of your account information may have changed. Therefore, you may no longer have ownership of some files and folders. You might be able to resolve this issue by restoring your ownership of the files and folders.

To take ownership of a file or a folder, follow these steps:
  1. Press and hold the folder that you want to take ownership of, then tap Properties. (If you are using a mouse, right-click the folder, and then click Properties.)
  2. Tap or click the Security tab, tap or click Advanced, then tap or click Change. If you are prompted for an administrator password or for confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  3. Type the name of the person that you want to give ownership to, and then click Check Names.
    Note The account name for the person that you are assigning ownership to is displayed.
  4. Click OK.
  5. If you want this person to be the owner of the files and subfolders that are contained in this folder, select the Replace owner on subcontainers and objects check box.
  6. Click OK.
You have to recover files from the Windows.old folder
If you recently upgraded your computer to Windows 8 from an earlier version of Windows, and you did not reformat the hard disk, you might still be able to access your old files from the Windows.old folder.

To fix this problem automatically, click the Fix it button or link. In the File Download dialog box, click Run, and then follow the steps in the Fix it Wizard. If you prefer to fix this problem yourself, go to the "Let me fix it myself" section.
Fix it for me


Notes
  • This wizard may be in English only. However, the automatic fix also works for other language versions of Windows.
  • If you are not on the computer that has the problem, save the Fix it solution to a flash drive or a CD, and then run it on the computer that has the problem.
Let me fix it myself
To manually retrieve the files, follow these steps:
  1. Open the desktop, tap the folder icon, and then click Computer. Or, press the Windows logo key+E.
  2. Double-tap or double-click the drive that Windows is installed on (typically, drive C).
  3. Double-tap or double-click the Windows.old folder.
  4. Double-tap or double-click the Users folder.
  5. Double-tap or double-click your user name.
  6. Open the folders that contain the files that you want to retrieve. For example, to retrieve files in the Documents folder, double-tap or double-click Documents.
  7. Copy the files that you want from each folder and paste them to a folder in Windows 8. For example, if you want to retrieve everything from the Documents folder, copy all the files and folders from the Documents folder in the Windows.old folder, and then paste them to the Documents library in Windows 8.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 for each user account on your computer.
For more information about how to recover data from an earlier version of Windows, see Recover lost or deleted files.
Windows 7
You may not have ownership of a file or folder
If you recently upgraded your computer to Windows 7 from an earlier version of Windows, some of your account information may have changed. Therefore, you may no longer have ownership of some files and folders. You might be able to resolve this issue by restoring your ownership of the files and folders.

To take ownership of a file or a folder, follow these steps:
  1. Right-click the folder that you want to take ownership of, and then click Properties.
  2. Click the Security tab, click Advanced, and then click the Owner tab.
  3. Click Edit. If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  4. Click the name of the person that you want to give ownership to.
  5. If you want that person to be the owner of files and subfolders in this folder, select the Replace owner on subcontainers and objects check box.
  6. Click OK.
You may have to recover files from the Windows.old folder
If you recently upgraded your computer to Windows 7 from an earlier version of Windows, and you did not reformat your hard disk, you might still be able to access your old files from the Windows.old folder.

To fix this problem automatically, click the Fix it button or link. In the File Download dialog box, click Run, and then follow the steps in the Fix it Wizard.If you prefer to fix this problem yourself, go to the "Let me fix it myself" section.
Fix it for me


Notes
  • This wizard may be in English only. However, the automatic fix also works for other language versions of Windows.
  • If you are not on the computer that has the problem, save the Fix it solution to a flash drive or a CD, and then run it on the computer that has the problem.
Let me fix it myself
To manually retrieve the files, follow these steps:
  1. Click Start, then click Computer.
  2. Double-click the drive that Windows is installed on (typically, drive C).
  3. Double-click the Windows.old folder.
  4. Double-click the Users folder.
  5. Double-click your user name.
  6. Open the folders that contain the files that you want to retrieve. For example, to retrieve files in the Documents folder, double-click Documents.
  7. Copy the files that you want from each folder and paste them to a folder in Windows 7. For example, if you want to retrieve everything from the Documents folder, copy all the files and folders from the Documents folder in the Windows.old folder, and then paste them to the Documents library in Windows 7.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 for each user account on your computer.
For more information about how to recover data from an earlier version of Windows, see Recover lost or deleted files.
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Article ID: 2623670 - Last Review: 01/07/2015 23:32:00 - Revision: 8.0

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