"Access Denied" error in Windows XP

If you get the Access Denied message when opening the file or folder, even though you are the administrator of the Windows XP computer, then most likely you need to reset the file or folder permissions. Note that access permissions are only available on NTFS. There are no permissions on FAT or exFAT.

This situation may occur when:

  • You transfer the files from a different computer, or a different Windows installation, and the files have custom permissions configured.
  • You back up the files, reinstall Windows, and try to access the files afterwards.

This is what the Access Denied error looks like

Access Denied error

How to fix Access Denied error

To fix Access Denied error you need to

  • be logged on as the computer administrator,
  • Unfortunately, Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP and provides updates for it; however, we downloaded and saved the file from the official Microsoft site when it was available and you can download the patch file here. Otherwise you do not get the Security tab in file or folder properties.

Enabling the Security tab

The default settings in Windows XP do not allow you to configure security settings explicitly. You get "Simple File Sharing" with a few preset configurations instead. So you need to turn the Security tab on.

  1. Open Windows Explorer;
  2. On the Tools menu, select Folder Options.
  3. Folder options menu in Windows Explorer

    This gives you a "Folder Options" window. In there

  4. Switch to the View tab;
  5. Uncheck Use simple file sharing (Recommended) under Advanced Settings;
  6. Click OK to close "Folder Options".
  7. Disable "Use simple file sharing" to get the Security tab

    Getting to the permission editor

  8. Right click the folder you need to reset permissions for;
  9. From the dropdown menu, select Properties.
  10. Right click the folder to open its properties
  11. Switch to the Security tab.
  12. You may get a warning message stating "You do not have permission to view or edit...", just click OK.

    You do not have permission to view or edit the current permission settings
  13. Click Advanced to open "Advanced Security Settings".
  14. Security tab

    Resetting permissions

  15. Switch to the Owner tab;
  16. Select "Administrators" under Change owner to;
  17. Check Replace owner on subcontainers and objects;
  18. Click OK.
Change owner in Advanced Security Settings tab

Depending on the exact situation, you may or may not get the "Do you want to replace the permissions?" prompt similar to the screenshot below. Click Yes and the permissions will be reset.

You do not have permission to read the contents of directory.

All the steps on video

Access Denied error in Windows Vista and Windows 7

Administrators do not get the Access Denied error in Windows Vista or Windows 7. Instead, there is a convenient prompt along the lines of "Click Continue to get access", and all the above sequence is performed automatically.

You don't currently have permission to access this folder.

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