How To Take Ownership of Files or Folders or an Entire Hard Drive

In this tutorial we will look at how to access files or folders (Take Ownership) when connecting an external hard drive from another computer or a stand alone hard drive. This can be a USB memory stick, memory card from your camera or an entire hard drive that you wish to access the data held within but are getting a permissions error or no files are showing, yet you know they are there.

Firstly, if you are wishing to connect a hard drive from another computer to your one, then there a couple of ways to do this. If this is a stand alone external hard disk with USB input, then simply plug it in to the back USB ports of your desktop and the device will show itself in My Computer. The reason for using the USB ports at the back is that they are connected directly to the motherboard and not via a separate USB card inside the desktop. If you are connecting it to your laptop, then any of the USB ports will do.

If the device you are attaching is a standard hard drive (IDE or SATA) then you can either connect it directly to your computer by opening the side up of your computer and should you have a spare SATA data cable and power adapter cable then just plug it in and reboot. If it is a IDE, then again make sure you have the IDE power cable and IDE data cable and set it to Slave. You will see how to set it to Slave on the back of the hard drive itself or consult the manufactures website.  Please note that in my pictures of the IDE data cable, my motherboard connector is red. Most are actually blue in colour. The IDE power connector end should already be present in your desktop as it should be attached to the PSU (spare one)

IDE Cables

SATA Cable Leads

A much simpler way to do this though, it to purchase a hard drive enclosure or a USB to SATA/IDE Adapter with a Power adapter which is what I use as it can connect 2.5″/ 3.5″ HDD’s be them IDE or SATA. It only cost me £17.99 ($29.00) and is an invaluable bit of kit. Here are some links should you wish to purchase any, but note that the links may change over time, but a simple look on Amazon or Newegg will find it for you:

Once you have connected your device, you will next need to Take Ownership of it. Please note that sometimes you may not have to do this and can access all files and folder with in. If you are unable to access certain files, you will get a permissions error or the files that you know are there seem to be hidden. There are two ways to get around this. Firstly if you try to access a certain folder/ file you might get the error message below:-

No Permissions Notice

Now you can either click Continue and let Windows grant access to that particular folder which will give you access, but it might not grant access to all files and folders as well on the hard drive. So to do this we must change the ownership of the drive to yourself. Plug in or connect your drive and then locate it via My Computer. Right click on the drive and select Properties which will show the following window:

Disk Properties

Now click on the Security tab and then on the Advanced button at the bottom:

Note: The Security Tab will not show if the HDD that you are trying to access is FAT or FAT32. It must be NTFS. Also, for the Security Tab to be shown in XP you must have Simple File Sharing unchecked in Folder Options, which can be found via Control Panel>Folder Options>View. In XP Home this is enabled by default, so to get a workaround, boot the computer into Safe Mode and log in via the admin account. You should now see the Security Tab. (Cheers to commenter Matt for pointing this out, as I forgot to add it)

step 3

The Advanced Security Settings window for the drive in question will now show:

step 4

Now click on the Owner tab and click on Edit as shown in the image below:

step 5

Now depending on how many user accounts you have on your computer, you will now want to select the user that will be the new owner of the device. Check the ‘Replace owner on sub-containers and objects’ box and hit Apply.

Replace owner on sub folders

A Windows Security window will pop up, just click Yes.


Windows will now start the process of changing ownership of the files and folders on the drive:

changing ownership

Once the process has finished you will see the following message:

security message

That’s it. You should now be able to see and access all of the files on the drive that you wish to save or use. In my case it belonged to a friend of mine, who’s motherboard had died, and needed personal files like family photos saved.

drive to take over

Note: This was done using Windows 7 Ultimate, but the procedure is very much the same in XP and Vista. If you have any questions, please ask below.

%d bloggers like this: