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April 7, 2005

"Access is Denied" - Data Recovery in XP

I'm currently in the process of attempting to recover some data from a computer running XP that has suffered a catastrophic failure. PC will not boot up, even in the Safe Mode. I hit F8 while the computer was booting up, and managed to get into the advanced setup menu. I tried 1) rebooting in safe mode and 2) restoring to the last known good configuration. Nothing worked. It would fail attempting to launch windows, briefly flash an error message, and then attempt to start widows again. Only by disabling Automatic Restart on Failure was I able to read the error message for the first time. The GDI32.DLL file didn't pass the checksum evaluation. I replaced it and got the same message with imagehlp.dll. So, this didn't seem to be a feasible approach. I didn't feel like replacing countless .dll files one at a time.

I decided to try booting from the floppy or the CD-ROM drive. I was able to create a bootable CD-ROM runing DR-DOS. This allowed the computer to boot up, and i was able to access the files via DOS, however there were no USB drivers loaded in DR-DOS, and I was unable to copy the files.

So, I tried putting the drive into another computer as a slave and accessing the data via that method. If I put the drive in my XP computer, I can see the drive under windows. However, when I get the folders that contain the data I want to recover, I get an "Access is Denied" error. This is because the folders are for a system administator and the files were password protected. In XP, I believe that this means the data in encrypted using Encrpting File System(EFS) In theory, the data could be recovered by a Data Recovery Agent, but XP does not require a Data Recovery Agent to be set up, so I'm reasonably sure that no Data Recovery Agent has been defined, and therefore is is not an option at this point.

Advanced EFS Data Recovery
claims it can restore EFS encrypted files. However, I ran this utility and it indicated that there were no EFS encrypted files that required decrypting.

So, I went back to the drawing board and found this Microsoft document explaining how to solve the "Access is Denied" error. Following these steps finally solved the problem, allowing me to access and copy all of the files and folders that had been protected by the old Security ID defintion.

Now, I have to reinstall the O/S, but at least the data has been recovered. :)

"Access is Denied"
This issue may occur if the folder that you cannot open was created on an NTFS file system volume by using a previous installation of Windows, and then installing Windows XP. This issue may occur although you enter the correct user name and password. This issue occurs because the security ID for the user has changed. Although you use the same user name and password, your security ID no longer matches the security ID of the owner of the folder that you cannot open.

For example, although you use the same user name and password, you may no longer have permission to open the folder after you complete the following steps:
1. Before you install Windows XP Professional, you change the actual location, or target location, of the My Documents folder to another volume.
2. You format the primary partition.
3. You install Windows XP Professional.
Back to the top Back to the top
To resolve this issue, you must turn off Simple File Sharing, and then take ownership of the folder:
1. Turn off Simple File Sharing:
a. Click Start, and then click My Computer.
b. On the Tools menu, click Folder Options, and then click the View tab.
c. Under Advanced Settings, click to clear the Use simple file sharing (Recommended) check box, and then click OK.
2. Right-click the folder that you want to take ownership of, and then click Properties.
3. Click the Security tab, and then click OK on the Security message, if one appears.
4. Click Advanced, and then click the Owner tab.
5. In the Name list, click your user name, Administrator if you are logged in as Administrator, or click the Administrators group.

If you want to take ownership of the contents of that folder, click to select the Replace owner on subcontainers and objects check box.
6. Click OK.

You may receive the following error message, where Folder is the name of the folder that you want to take ownership of:
You do not have permission to read the contents of directory Folder. Do you want to replace the directory permissions with permissions granting you Full Control? All permissions will be replaced if you press Yes.
7. Click Yes.
8. Click OK, and then reapply the permissions and security settings that you want for the folder and the folder contents.

Update: Did you find this information helpful in recovering your data? If so please post comments or make a donation to help defray the costs of running this site.

Tip Jar

Posted by Peenie Wallie on April 7, 2005 at 1:35 PM



I had the same problem, thought I'd tried everything... This FINALLY fixed it! :) Thank You!

Posted by: Tim Clixby on June 18, 2005 at 10:52 AM

Glad I could help. :)

Posted by: Peenie Wallie on June 19, 2005 at 7:48 AM

I thought my files were gone! I looked everywhere on the web for a solution, and finally stumbled on your page. Thanks!

BTW, my problem happened when I accidentally cancelled a mass permission change on my C: drive. I think the permissions were completely erased on the one folder that was being changed when I hit cancel, rendering it unopenable. But changing the owner as you described finally fixed it!

Posted by: Geoffrey Emerson on July 7, 2005 at 1:03 PM

This is the problem I'm having... I had to re-install XP, only I installed Home over the original Pro installation (having lost my Pro disc in a house move two years ago). I've lost all my files due to this EFS thing, and don't have the Pro tools to get them back ;_; Help!

Posted by: Rebecca on July 20, 2005 at 8:05 PM

So pleased - almost lost a LOT of digital pics and music. Thank goodness for the Internet and helpful people like yourself. Cheers!!

Posted by: Ross on August 2, 2005 at 3:54 AM


That was really great!! I had reinstalled Windows 98 in c: while my XP was in D:. The boot sector was overwritten. So i reinstalled XP overwriting the existing files. Your solution really helped me recover the old files in my documents. Thanks a lot!

Gaurab Banerji

Posted by: Gaurab Banerji on August 4, 2005 at 1:47 AM

Thank you very much. After reinstalling XP I lost my documents. Computer shop told me it was impossible to get my documents folder back due to the security settings in XP.
I found your page on the web, tried it and IT FIXED IT.
Brilliant Cleverly and easy instructions.
Once again a big thank you for posting this on the web.

Posted by: Alphons on August 5, 2005 at 2:09 AM

Thank you so much...Surely you must understand how you saved my world. I looked all over Microsoft's website--thank you for sharing this.

Posted by: Valerie on August 14, 2005 at 11:32 PM

Hi, I don't seem to have the 'Use simple file sharing' option in my Advanced box - I am on Windows XP home. I have exactly the problem you describe above - my duaghter has locked her files in some way and then I have rebuilt the computer and reinstalled the OS - her files now bring up an 'access is denied' message. Any further advice or help you can give would be gratefully received. Roger Harris, Brighton, England.

Posted by: Roger Harris on August 16, 2005 at 4:07 AM

If you're running Windows XP Home, I don't think you can turn off Simple File Sharing. According to this, "Simple File Sharing is always turned on in Windows XP Home Edition-based computers." So, since it appears that you can't turn off Simple File Sharing for XP Home, this method probably won't work for you. If you find an alternate solution, or figure out how to turn off Simple File Sharing, please advise.

Posted by: Peenie Wallie on August 16, 2005 at 11:31 PM

You can take ownership of the files in XP Home by booting to Safe Mode. The Security Tab only shows up in safe mode in XP Home. Boot to Safe mode by hitting F8 during bootup and before you get to the screen that shows you that Windows is loading. Hope that helps!

Posted by: Marc from Dallas on August 31, 2005 at 7:31 PM

For some reason I have the same problem but my encrypted files still will not become free. Why is that? I tryed everything here. Nothing works. I want to decrypt my files, but I have no key from my previous hard drive. I had backed up files on other hard drives and the encryption is still on them with no OS. Also when I try to use the recovery agent. None of my keys desplay for some reason. I have them on my comp but I don't know where. Can somebody help me on this? I can't use a recovery agent, nore free folders despite if I change ownership of them. Nore can I get access to files within folders or move them outside of the folder. Even if I click off the read only part of the folder. It always comes back darkened. Whats up with that. Weird to me! Know what I'm talking about. If anybody can help please contact me. I would really like to solve this problem. I tryed everything I can think of. Its almost impossible to even decrypt this crap with programs. They don't seem to do what they say they will. I tryed 15 of them. All they tell me is "file can not be read". I can't find one solution. I been on this for 2 days strate reading and reading. I don't get why nothing works. Still "access to *File* Is Denied". What is going on here?

Posted by: Serge on September 12, 2005 at 2:21 AM

Thank you after a week of trying to retrieve my docs etc I came across your site and it resolved everything for me you are brilliant!!!!!!

Posted by: Roger on September 30, 2005 at 3:26 AM

I have tried everything stated on this page but find myself having the same problem as "Serge" (above paragraph). I did everything in order more than once and also tried it in safe mode. My files still say they cannot be accessed (access denied). Has anyone found a new solution?


Posted by: Joshua Thacker on September 30, 2005 at 11:20 AM

well, it doesnt work for me my encrypted files still will not become free. I think i dont have the master keys in my pc any more
i tried every thing and more, even some tools. it looks like i lost most of my files

any other suggestions please

Posted by: Mohammed on October 5, 2005 at 7:31 PM

I am also in the same boat as Serge, Joshua and Mohammed.

I have used AEFSDR 3.0 and it doesn't even show any KEYS upon scanning but there are over 7000 encrypted files in red (cannot be decrypted).

Any help or suggestions would very much be appreciated. Thanks.

Posted by: Bix on January 9, 2006 at 10:44 PM

i have the same problem ,i have some of media file secured on the old windos xp and unfortcunatly i forget export of my certificatiom.after reinstall windows xp professional i can not play their media files.
i doing all of solutions you say but i have the problem yet .please help me if u can.

Posted by: sina on January 17, 2006 at 3:31 PM

thanks for the suggestions. it worked for me as well. my computer had crashed and I had to insert my hard disk to a new computer. Almost all files were ok except for my document settings/owner directory. But Thanks to God, I can read those important data now.
Thanks again,

Posted by: ahmet on February 15, 2006 at 1:32 PM

This worked for me for all files excepting the ones that were "encrypted".

Even after taking ownership, some files still did not allow access to new administrator.

Any ideas?

Posted by: Satya on February 17, 2006 at 1:30 AM

Wow, Thanks. My computer crashed and I reinstalled windows xp. Then couldnt access my other drives anymore. Found your solution thru a google search. Thanks again.

Posted by: JD Freimann on February 25, 2006 at 4:01 AM

Oh wow thank you very much, I seem to have the same problem as you did except it was a virus and i choose to repair windows but it got messy from there on, anyways thanks for the help, you don't know how much white hairs you've just saved me from. Thanks!!

Posted by: Whitmaveirck on March 4, 2006 at 11:13 PM

Thank God for you. ive been trying to solve this problem and even my "computer expert" friends didnt seem to know what to do. oh well. Thanks lots =)

Posted by: Liangyuan on April 2, 2006 at 9:56 AM

Big yourself up for this tip! For some reason I couldn't find anything on this subject in a Google search. I wish I'd found this page when I wanted to recover some encrypted files, too.

Posted by: Drew on April 8, 2006 at 2:35 PM

I have a similar error where I cannot boot Windows (XP Pro) regardless of safe mode, etc. I am able to use my restore CD to attempt to restore the installation, and after being prompted for the admin password, I am taken to the DOS prompt. While this seems to mean that the "restoration" failed, I'm okay with it because at least I should be able to transfer my files to an external hard drive.

Here's the problem: At this DOS prompt, when I try to CD to any directory other than C:\Windows (or it's subs), I get an "Access is Denied" error. The same thing happens when I try to create a new directory (MD) on the External drive. It sounds like a similar issue to the ones above, but I can't get into Windows to "turn off Simple File Sharing".

Please advise: milesgarrison@gmail.com

Posted by: Miles on May 25, 2006 at 9:19 AM

Ok so I did this with the home edition and all you have to do is go to the safe mode.

It works perfect.

Thanks so much.

Posted by: Irci on September 17, 2006 at 1:26 PM

Unfortunately i have to fomate my C partion i thought my imp data can't be recover thank u lot it realy works

Posted by: munna on April 5, 2007 at 8:22 AM

this worked. Thanks a ton!!

Posted by: Mike on June 27, 2007 at 12:29 AM

Tanks so much. It's work fine

Posted by: Buzio on November 16, 2007 at 11:15 AM

Well, I have the same problem but in the home edition, so this method doesn't work unfortunately. My system also fails to restart in the Safe Mode. Any Advice?
Will it help if I hook up my hard drive to another PC that runs Win XP Pro and try using the above procedure?


Posted by: Sean on December 30, 2007 at 12:42 AM

thanx mate your information really helped. thanks alot

Posted by: sunny on March 6, 2008 at 9:29 PM

I have the same problem as most of the people who commented above, only I cannot take possession of the folder in XP because I can't get to it in explorer in XP. I can only get to it in dos.

My disk has too many corrupted spots. I can still get around in the file system in dos, but explorer freezes.

So, I need a way to overcome "access is denied" in dos.

Please help.

Here’s the full situation. My hard disk failed when I bumped the computer while it was shutting down. There are many corrupted files. I am now accessing it as an external drive. Some files are not accessible through dos. But I can get to the one that I really need data from in dos. But I absolutely can’t using Windows Explorer. In other folders I have had great success copying files one by one with xcopy until I hit a bad one. But this most important folder is the one I “made private? in XP. Now I can’t get in. How do I make it not private in dos?

Thanks, Ben

Posted by: Ben on March 12, 2008 at 10:53 PM

After goofing with the permissions issue for hours, I was directed to this page by a colleague. The solution worked immediately.

YOU ROCK BUDDY! Where do I send the TIP?

Posted by: Rob on June 9, 2008 at 1:02 PM

You are great! I figured it was permission problems, but disabling Simple File Sharing is an obscure feature in Windows XP. It did the trick!

Posted by: Mike on June 29, 2008 at 5:32 PM

Thanks for the great info! Worked fine for me! :-)

Posted by: Xeni on July 6, 2008 at 9:01 PM

THIS IS AMAZING!!! THANK YOU! I tried so many different things, and I was so stumped. I backed everything up with the XP set up disk during a reinstall after a crash; it was oh-so painful to see all my files sitting there without being able to obtain them. This worked like a charm. The instructions were also very straight forward and EASY to follow. The explanation was interesting as well. Thank you thank you thank you!

Posted by: AndyB on August 7, 2008 at 8:20 AM

Please please please I need help with this soon! If somebody could E-mail with some tips, this would be extremely helpful.
After alot of goofing around all day by a bunch of people who where supposed to be helping me, I decided to take things into my own hands. I'm glad I'm not the only one having this problem :)

I have the EXACT same problem as described. I reinstalled my windows after a virus affected my log data and wouldn't let me log in. I can access all files but my 'owner' files and documents which had a password on them. I am using windows home edition, and I cannot seem to get my computer to boot in safe mode. And if I remember correctly last time I used safe mode [after the reformat] I do believe it did not load.

I also tried the Linux thing through a live CD with my friend showing me, but for some reason when we tried to acess the drive it did not mount. I'd be willing to give it a try again if someone could explain what's going wrong? There is nothing in the sign options, just to let you know ahead of time.

Posted by: Lily on August 12, 2008 at 12:08 AM

Thank you very much for the tip! It actually worked fine.

Posted by: ms on September 5, 2008 at 6:18 AM

Had this problem with XP Home after using the eMachines recovery disk (applied SP3 after recovery). Access denied to owner folder in the backup directory.

Was able to boot in safe mode but no selection available for "simple file sharing," so I thought I was screwed as other XP Home users reported, HOWEVER...I found (logged in as Administrator) that I could right-click->"Owner" Properties->Security tab->Advanced button->"Owner" tab and there's a checkbox for "Replace owner on subcontainers and objects." HOORAAAAAAY!!! It worked!

Posted by: detroitsubway on October 27, 2008 at 7:07 PM

get a error msg about the msvcrt.dll i looked it up on windows web site and they say it was from some windows update installing into a folder but anyways i can not boot up in safe mode and or reg mode so microsoft says to bot of the disk and rename and replace the file useing the cd so i do this
pick my windows which is 1
enter my admin password
cd \system32
ren msvcrt.dll msvcrt.old
i:(cd drive letter):
cd \i386
expand msvcrt.dl_c:\windows\system32
after i hit enter i get the msg "access is denied"
does anyone know how i get get around this with out haveing to reinstall windows thanks i have lots of school work saved on windows in documents

Posted by: mike on November 7, 2008 at 2:09 PM

I thought I had lost all my files!!! Thanks for your help, you guys are awesome!!!

Posted by: Mauricio Grande on January 26, 2009 at 10:08 PM

It really helped me to recover all those data though I had installed another os on it. but chose different folder. Hats off !

Posted by: Pragathisha Karthik on January 4, 2010 at 4:02 AM

After restoring all my data from backup using MS backup and restore a couple day's ago, I thought all was lost. I couldn't access anything, still can't but, now at least I can listen to my music while hacking. Thanks for the advice, I was finally able to gain access, play, and copy at will. Gratefully yours...

Posted by: Wayne on April 30, 2010 at 11:44 AM

Hey I just noticed the posting date, April 2005, for this eloquent succinct solution... while the Microsoft Support post parrot precisely the same instructions: June 23, 2005.

I was just as happy to find this today, July 31, 2010 - my problem was slightly different: XP Home on hard drive connected to a PC with XP Pro SP2 via USB. It worked INSTANTLY!

Posted by: PS FunDude on August 2, 2010 at 12:33 AM

Locked a folder on my portable 500gb harddrive with MY LOCKBOX. Program is also installed on this drive. Somehow it has corrupted and won't run. My folder is still locked but I had to reinstall the software. My locked folder is still locked and access denied. How do I access the file that is on the drive when the link is apparently broken and the reinstallation of the software won't reopen it?

Posted by: Arthur on August 14, 2010 at 7:12 AM

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