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What do you mean I can't access these folders? I'm the Windows administrator!

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / May 16, 2014 6:13 AM PDT

What do you mean I can't access these folders? I'm the Windows administrator!

Hi, I have a Lenovo laptop running Windows 7 64-bit. I frequently get messages telling me that I can't save in a particular folder, delete folders, or access certain areas because I need Administrator permission. I am the administrator! I don't see how there could be a higher level of permissions in Windows above Administrator. These are my files and I am the administrator, so why won't the system let me deal with these folders as I choose to? Please help!! Thanks.

--Submitted by: Rich L.
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As the admin you have the right to change.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 16, 2014 6:32 AM PDT

But read the section on Windows NT at first.

So the admin is not in some God mode like "root" on Linux. All users must obey the permissions so if the filesystem doesn't have admin in the permissions then you can't go there. Some debate that design decision but let's say it's that simple. Admin is not "God."

There are ways to take ownership of the folders and files and we also have good tools like Unlocker if the file was inadvertently locked.

Beyond these areas you may encounter folk that want to delete system files. For that I rarely offer any way while in Windows. Instead I pass along my old advice I offered over a decade ago at That is, I can boot such in a minute and do whatever I want because I am root.

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the right to change - or even view
by tedtks / May 16, 2014 10:10 AM PDT

I had the same problem, but its not just the system folders.
it was a few others that made me say "what &*&*( "
at some point I was trying to find something else in the W7 tree
of help and stumbled on where you could uncheck the lock for
a given folder. worked - but I could not remember how to get
back to that in that tree. hahahaha toooo far deep in click after clicks
just one more reason I dumped w7.

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What if ownership is denied to the administrator, aka Me.
by ahg / May 16, 2014 3:22 PM PDT

You write: <<there are="" ways="" to="" take="" ownership="" of="" the="" folders="" and="" files...="">>

Of course, and I read them several times but what do you do next if, as you are applying one of the tips to take ownership, you get the following message:

"You are not authorized to do this..."
I know what I would like to do: - - -to Microsoft R&D


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When that happened to me it was malware
by 4Denise / May 16, 2014 9:47 PM PDT

This should never happen. Windows does not deny privileges to the administrator if the proper procedures are followed.

The first step is to run full scans (time consuming) with all of the security software you have installed on your machine. If there is an option to run at boot, use it. This may tell you what is on your computer. It may even remove it.

If that fails, find a few reputable online scanners and run those. This might work.

I eventually had to do a clean install. I recommend that you back up your personal data and locate all of your programs for a possible clean install. It can't hurt in any event. You can make a full system backup as well, especially if your backup program allows you to mount the backup and pull files from it. Just be very cautious if you do this. You could reinfect your computer.

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There are a few reasons for this beyond the OS.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 16, 2014 10:42 PM PDT

I've bumped into this due to malware, trojans and antivirus suites. In this question the supposition and as asked they don't reveal the antivirus suite or prior infections. Also, we have System File Protection (SFP) to learn about. I see I covered unlocker but the antivirus and malware angles are going to haunt folk for a long time.

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So Far
by Hforman / May 17, 2014 2:20 PM PDT

I've never had an issue taking ownership. I always go to turn off User Access Control (UAC) by dropping the slider all of the way down. Then I go look at the ownership in the folder's rights. There is a button to "Take Ownership" and it causes a pop-up saying that Windows has given you the rights to do that. Then I can go and give myself or the Administrators Group full access. If you are not allowed to take ownership, something, like malware, must be in the loop or you are trying to get to some file that Microsoft doesn't think needs to be messed with, like the NTUSER file.

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The problem is needing to take ownership
by Knocky1 / May 23, 2014 9:21 AM PDT
In reply to: So Far

I think it's a problem needing to take ownership to access if you are admin sometimes, because sometimes you don't want to mess up existing permissions which taking ownership seems more likely to do than just enabling your admin account to access like permissions seem to work elsewhere.

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taking ownership
by verdyp / May 23, 2014 8:16 PM PDT

Taking ownership and messing into the default protection layers that Windows has setup by default is certainy the wrong thing to do to a system. These protections are there to avoid more infections by malware.
The good thing to do is instead to boot into safe mode to prepare a CLEAN NEW local adminsistator account and than take ownership with that account for what you want to change.
But Don't do that for files owned by SYSTEM or TrustedInstaller, otherwise WindowsUpdate will have severe problems due to lack of permission that they have lost to perform some migrations.

Instead of taking ownership you should better ADD the access permissions for the new clean adminsitrator account you've created, so that he will ALSO have access to these resources wuthout removing rights to SYSTEM and TrustedInstaller.

There's only one reason why you'll want to take ownership on some filles or folders or registry entries; the previouw owner is no longer there and you use an admin accoutn to transfer these rights to someone else (but avoid transfering rights to some builtin user accounts like SYSTEM, or even Administrator or other special backup admins; don't pollute these accounts, transfer these access rights instead to another normal user or a normal adminstrator account accessible outside Safe mode on the logon screen)

THe mltiple protection layers and sandboxing mechanisms in Wdinwos is a good thing. Antivirus solutions are also adding their own ones to protect themselves against malwares. But it is ALWAYS possible to restore access to some files or registry entries that look impossible for you to access. If this does not work, either an antivirus or a rootkit is prventing you to do that: reboot your system in safe mode, or from the DVD and you'll have the clean environment where you'll be able to take back the control or to remove the rootkit malware.

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Well said!
by ThePaz / May 23, 2014 3:42 PM PDT

Computers are not gods, there is only one God & His Son Jesus Christ, our Personal Savior!

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I think you missed his point
by James Denison / May 23, 2014 8:18 PM PDT
In reply to: Well said!

root on Linux is God
admin on Windows isn't

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Take ownership

I had the problem too and found the answer at Sevem Forums. Search for take ownership. As a last ditch effort, I'd boot from a Linux disc/USB and use the file manager.

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What is Seven Forums?
by mach37 / May 25, 2014 9:27 AM PDT
In reply to: Take ownership

All right, I just googled to find out what and where Seven Forums is, but why don't you people make it a bit easier and not require a reader to jump to Google when you could have just written ""? As for "boot from a Linux disc/USB and use the file manager" - just what the eff does a Linux disc have to do with file permissions in Windows 7? Most Windows users don't even know what Linux is, let alone what a "file manager" is. I really wanted to strangle somebody when Microsoft change the name of File Manager to Explorer - dumbest move ever, except for several hundred other dumb moves by making needless changes to the Windows file system with every "improvement." For example, three folders named "My Documents" visible in the left pane of my file manager window; there are probably other My Documents folders I don't have open yet.

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Please start a new discussion.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 25, 2014 9:29 AM PDT
In reply to: What is Seven Forums?

While I think you posted a lot in this thread, you may be upset by trying to converse in this thread. That is, it's like a party line with 100 callers.

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Agree with Capoderra

I've seen this many times after going to Windows 7 at work. A person with "administrator" rights does NOT have access to everything. People who are local or domain admins are just the same as everyone else and, if you don't have rights, then you don't have rights.

You should do a couple of things but you mainly need to take ownership. You can go into properties at whatever point you need it (such as folder) and visit the security tab. Check the rights for "administrators". If you don't have rights you can try to give yourself full rights but you will probably need to go first to one of the buttons on the bottom to take ownership of the folder. It should then give you full rights.

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Actually, He Doesn't Have That Right

He is probably not in the list of rights as either his ID or as an administrator. In W7, that means no rights. He would need to become the owner of the file or folder before he can do anything. I'm not sure why Microsoft does that. I suspect it is to avoid accidents and protect the privacy of other users. The way to fix this is to take ownership of the file or folder and then you can give yourself or the "administrators" group the access as needed. For example, while you can access your home folder, you cannot access the home folders of the other users nor can you get too far trying to drill-down from Documents and Settings.

You need to turn off UAC mode by moving the slider to the bottom, Rich.

Note: This post was edited by its original author to combine 2 posts into one on 05/22/2014 at 12:22 PM PT

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Taking Ownership of your Computer
by kstenbch / May 23, 2014 11:27 AM PDT

You mainly need to take ownership files, folders, registry keys, or drives. You could change your file system from NTFS to FAT32, which according to what I've read will give you full control, but then certain things won't work. In addition, if you don't know what you're doing, it is easy the screw up. It is also complicated to do; at least I found it so after reading how to do it. I nixed that option. I have had a similar problem with not being able to access or control certain files or folders in Windows 8.1, my computer. Do as Capoderra suggested and look on Seven Forums for take ownership. Windows 8/8.1 has an option to add an option to the context menu. You'll find similar options in the Windows 7 Take Ownership thread(s) on Seven Forums. In any case, be aware that you will be lowering to zero or turning off the User Account Control to do this. I believe the "Take Ownership" option will replace the "Run as Administrator" option on your context (right click) menu. I also keep reading warnings that you do not want to "Take Ownership" of your entire C Drive or System Drive (C:\Windows) because it can cause system instabilities that will cause you to have to reinstall windows, perhaps even a clean install. Microsoft would doubtless recommend against what you are doing; therefore, I think you may want to look for an option on the Windows 7 forum (start with Seven Forums Take Ownership) that allows you to add to your right click (context) menu a "take ownership" of any file, folder, or registry key/item as you need it. If Windows 8/8.1 has one in the Seven Forum, then I would think the Windows 7 forum would have a downloadable program option as well....

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basic design of Windows
by mach37 / May 25, 2014 9:08 AM PDT

Windows should, during the installation, allow the person installing Windows full, total, complete administrative control. Users who are not up to the task of doing a Windows installation, sure limit their rights, but as the "god" of my PC I want to give myself control without having to reassert control every time I want to modify some piddling little thing on MY PC.

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It does.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 25, 2014 9:24 AM PDT

Can you create a new post where it doesn't and then we can tackle how to take control, even if we break something? For years I've used a boot like I noted over a decade ago at when I wanted to avoid using the Windows administrator methods.

That is, doing it Microsoft's way may inflame the average Joe.

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Here is an article

...that might help you:

This tells you how to take ownership of the files and folders.

If this happened suddenly or if it happens again shortly after you fix it, you might want to consider the possibility of malware on your computer. I have seen malware lock up folders and files so that they could not be accessed or altered. The fix for that is more complicated, but just knowing about the possibility is probably enough to tell you what to do. If not, and if you have reason to believe that malware is the cause, then give us more details and I'm sure we can help you.

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accessing folders as Administrator
by Keyware / June 1, 2014 11:18 PM PDT
In reply to: Here is an article

You might create a new account and give it computer administrator privileges. Also you can try Safe Mode on your computer which is where the other Administrator account is located if you're the only one using the computer. This is for my Windows XP operating system. .

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XP is Different
by Hforman / June 2, 2014 4:35 AM PDT

That is the point here. Back as far as XP, the administrator has god-like capabilities. They are talking Windows 7 now, so creating an admin account does not get you access:

1) Just because you are a system administrator, you should not have to everyone's data (at least in most companies). So, in Win 7, you cannot open other users' home folders.

2) Microsoft is protecting their OS from accidental modification of system files, even from a well-meaning "administrator".

3) Even as an Acive Directory "Domain Admin" you can't access these folders. I needed to take ownership of the entire C: drive at the root of the drive. (Rights trickle down).

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What do you mean I can't access these folders?

Hello Rich L,
I have similar issues in Windows 8.1 from time to time and I find the simplest solution is to apply a file called "Take Ownership" which can be found here;
Simply run the file and it will add a key to the registry and then when you right click a file or folder you will have an option in the context menu to "take ownership" of that file or folder and it will automatically set the permissions for you.
Hope That Helps.

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"'Run as administrator' vs. being logged in as Admin?"

"Difference between 'Run as administrator' vs. being logged in as admin?"

Lots of good replies to this question at the location above.
One point is that having complete control over everything is too much control, if only because making an error could cause massive problems to the machine.
Here's the final post:

"The (default)Administrator account in XP is visible, and that account is disabled by
default in Windows 7. However, in both OS's, even though you might be
logged in as the default Administrator, that account does not run at the
highest privilege level continuously. The UAC prompts are a good hint
of that.

One of the tools I use has instructions for installation and use. To
install, right-click the installation executable and select "Run as
administrator". After installation, to run the program, even when
logged on as a member of the Administrators group, right-click the
shortcut and select "Run as administrator, or click the "Advanced"
button on the shortcut's property sheet and put a tic in the box by "Run
as administrator", and from then on the UAC will ask if you want to
allow the program to make changes to the computer.

I know of no registry tweak or hack that will allow one to run at the
highest privilege level routinely, even logged in as the default

That is to say, even if your account has Administrator rights, there is a
higher level that can be accessed, but cannot be maintained. The level
drops back down when the task for which it was invoked has completed.
It is behavior by design, and there's nothing to be done to change that
behavior to my knowledge.

Disabling the UAC prompts doesn't disable the default behavior of the Administrator account."

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But you're not really the Administrator.

Windows 7, you set up your account, tell it that it's the "Administrator"....yeah, but it's not.

You have to go in and turn on the administrator account, then log in as said administrator, and THEN you can do whatever you want, including deleting system files, etc.

Bring up a command prompt (or PowerShell), and run:

net user administrator /active:yes

log off, and you'll now see "Administrator" as a choice to log on with. Please note: There is no password!

Perform your admin duties, then log back on as your normal user and run:

net user administrator /active:no

If you decide to leave the Administrator account active, might I suggest two things:
Set a solid password,
Rename it.

Good luck.

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What do you mean I can't access these folders? I'm the Windo


Can you tell me if you found an answer to this problem as I am in the process of buying a Lenovo laptop for my daughter for College. As you may know Lenovo is formerly IBM and the only thing I can tell you systems administrator title is root. Root is the all and powerful Wizard of Oz. So you can do anything. You might want to check your settings to make sure that there is not a separate user called root and one called Systems Administrator.


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This has nothing to do with Lenovo
by 4Denise / May 17, 2014 4:35 AM PDT

This is a Windows issue. The administrator is the "root." It is the user that has full permissions to do whatever he or she likes on the computer. The problem is that in current flavors of Windows, you can't really run as the administrator under normal conditions. You must be in an "administrator" account and then get permission on top of this.

If the administrator account is being locked out of folders or files even with the proper permission, then it is likely that malware is to blame.

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What do you mean I can't access these folders?

I see everyone else is coming at this as a rights problem. Assuming you are not infected and are the administrator, I like I've used it for some time to open stubborn files that resist opening. I have yet to find a file it won't open. I hope this helps.

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There's only one problem....
by kstenbch / May 23, 2014 3:23 PM PDT

The problem with your solution, the program, "Open Freely," is most times, if a file will not open, there is either something wrong with the file (it's broken) or the program(s) that open it. The solution is clear, fix the file or the program. There are many force file to open programs, but if you don't have the rights, none of them will work. Open Freely lists the formats it opens, and .exe (programs) or executables, are not listed. When I have problems with programs running and there is no malware and the program is not broken, it is often a "Rights," issue that comes with the error message that says you don't have the rights to do that. Other times, the program refuses to open even after using a force run program. This is often also because you lack the rights, or the program or a process needed to run a program is being used. To stop programs using a needed process, you often need rights. You need access to elevated rights for that program on your computer. If it's not your computer, you're SOL. If it's your computer, you can elevate to administrator rights or use the procedure from Seven Forums to add "take ownership," to the context/right click menu for that folder, file, or registry key. Do not "take ownership" of your System Drive as this can cause instability that can crash your computer or cause you to need to do a reinstall of Windows....

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I know what you mean!!

The only thing more ridiculous is all the scripts here, calling scripts, calling scripts that I had to allow to even type this reply - I feel as if half the computing universe is running scripts on my PC right now - that can't be good! ENOUGH WITH THE SCRIPTING!

Mean while back on the subject: Yes I run into this often - MOST irritating is when I try to archive a windows system image backup - Its bad enough I can't put it in a subdirectory _I_ want it in - or get argued with when I want to put it on a network drive - but then I run into these permissions $%^& when I go to copy the files after backup.

Too much is too much. Its MY pc and I am the ONLY user - I SHOULD be able to do whatever I want - and IF I mess something up --- too bad - my fault.

So I've switched to a different back-up program! BUT I had HOPED I could find that someone had written a utility that would just go through a take all the permissions away - or better yet a patch to fix w7 and get rid of them.

I can ALMOST understand this for a PC with multiple users on a company net - but there needs to be a single user/owner (with his own personal net) option - Isn't that what the "P" in PC stands for?

I've tried all the solutions offered - but none of them FIX the problem.

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by James Denison / May 23, 2014 8:33 PM PDT
In reply to: I know what you mean!!
"So I've switched to a different back-up program! BUT I had HOPED I could find that someone had written a utility that would just go through a take all the permissions away - or better yet a patch to fix w7 and get rid of them."

You can wash all the permissions off files by copying them over to a FAT32 formatted partition. Most of the time I even ran XP on large FAT32 partitions (formatted by third party software, not windows limited version) to avoid the problem of permissions on "MyDocument" folders for home computers. I've even used that method in Linux to clear file permissions rather than messing with "chown" command.
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