Troubleshoot "access denied" when opening files or folders

Here are solutions to some common problems with accessing files or folders.

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I get a message denying access when I try to open a file that someone else created.

There are two things that you can try:

  • Check the permissions of the file or folder the file is saved in. Here's how:

    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.

      To open a file, you need to have read permission. For more information on permissions, see What are permissions?

  • Check to see if the file is encrypted. Here's how:

    1. Right-click the file, and then click Properties.

    2. Click the General tab, and then click Advanced.

      If the Encrypt contents to secure data check box is selected, you need the certificate that was used to encrypt the file to open it.

      You should get the certificate from the person who created the file. For more information, see Import or export certificates and private keys.

    Encrypting File System (EFS) is not fully supported on Windows Vista Starter, Windows Vista Home Basic, and Windows Vista Home Premium. For those editions of Windows, if you have the encryption key or certificate, you can do the following:

    • Open Command Prompt and decrypt files by typing Cipher.exe /d at the command prompt (advanced users).

    • Modify an encrypted file.

    • Copy an encrypted file as a decrypted file to a hard disk on your computer.

    • Import EFS certificates and keys.

    • Open Command Prompt and back up EFS certificates and keys by typing Cipher.exe /r at the command prompt (advanced users).

I get a message denying access when I try to open a file that I created using a different user account.

There are two things that you can try:

  • Check the permissions of the file or folder the file is saved in. Here's how:

    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.

      To open a file, you need to have read permission. For more information on permissions, see What are permissions?

  • Check to see if the file is encrypted. Here's how:

    1. Right-click the file, and then click Properties.

    2. Click the General tab, and then click Advanced.

      If the Encrypt contents to secure data check box is selected, you need the certificate that was used to encrypt the file to open it.

      You should get the certificate from the person who created the file. For more information, see Import or export certificates and private keys.

    Encrypting File System (EFS) is not fully supported on Windows Vista Starter, Windows Vista Home Basic, and Windows Vista Home Premium. For those editions of Windows, if you have the encryption key or certificate, you can do the following:

    • Open Command Prompt and decrypt files by typing Cipher.exe /d at the command prompt (advanced users).

    • Modify an encrypted file.

    • Copy an encrypted file as a decrypted file to a hard disk on your computer.

    • Import EFS certificates and keys.

    • Open Command Prompt and back up EFS certificates and keys by typing Cipher.exe /r at the command prompt (advanced users).

I installed a new version of Windows and now I can't open a folder.

This could occur for the following reasons:

  • Some of your user account information has changed, even though your user name and password have not changed. You might be able to resolve the problem by taking ownership of the folder.

    To take ownership of a folder

    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. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

    4. Click the name of the person 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 are trying to access folders that have been renamed or moved in this version of Windows.

    Many folders that were used in previous versions of Windows have been renamed or moved to a new location in this version. These folders are hidden by default but can be viewed if you show hidden files and folders. These folders cannot be opened, moved, or deleted; they serve only as a pointer to the new location. The contents of the folders have been put in the new location in Windows Vista. The following table shows a list of commonly used folders' previous and new locations.

    Folder location in Windows XP
    New location in Windows Vista

    \Documents and Settings

    \Users

    \Documents and Settings\user name\My Documents

    \Users\user name\Documents

    \Documents and Settings\user name\My Documents\My Pictures

    \Users\user name\Pictures

    \Documents and Settings\user name\My Documents\My Music

    \Users\user name\Music

    \Documents and Settings\user name\My Documents\My Videos

    \Users\user name\Videos

    \Documents and Settings\user name\Desktop

    \Users\user name\Desktop

    \Documents and Settings\user name\Local Settings

    \Users\user name\AppData\Local