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.

warning

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.

Comments

  1. Hi, Im trying to recover my files from a harddrive on a laptop were it wouldnt boot up beyond the windows startup screen. Ive plugged in my enclosure USB to another laptop with this harddrive and I have followed the steps to get ownership to the files that I want to recover. But I was wondering how long this process can take, I started it at 2.30pm and its now 23.30pm and still going. the “changing ownership of” thing is still going through files so it hasn’t frozen and i’m only trying to access the user file which wasn’t particularly big in size either.

    Any help would be great, thanks!

    • Hi Neilly,

      To be honest it shouldn’t take more than 10 mins at most. The ones I have done are usually between 3-10 mins, but I guess that it comes down to the size of the HDD you are working on and the speed of the PC that you have the HDD connected to. The amount of time that your is taking would indicate something is wrong (physically) eith the HDD. You said: “I’m trying to recover my files from a harddrive on a laptop were it wouldnt boot up beyond the windows startup screen”.

      The reason that your laptop couldn’t boot past the Windows start screen may well be down to a faulty HDD which would also probably be why the Changing Ownership is taking such a long time. You could attempt to let it continue as it seems like it is working albeit at an excruciatingly slow pace, but I would defiantly run some diagnostic tools on the HDD when you can to check for errors.

      • Thanks Richard,

        I let it run all night and it still didn’t finish so I stopped it. I tried system restore and repair on my laptop before which didn’t work but came up with error codes etc…. Is there any other way to get access to these files without changing permissions. If there is something wrong with the HDD then attempting a factory restore will be out of the question after??

        Thanks again.

  2. I am trying to do what you explain, but in Windows 8 I don’t have the option “owner”. So what must I do now?

    • @b056bba8422f89632d5bfe7c3885fcc1:disqus I will be doing another article for Windows 8 soon. There is also another way to do this which is by adding a ‘Take Ownership’ option to the right-click menu and doing it that way. Try downloading the reg file below. Unzip by dragging the 2 files to your desktop. Double click on the ‘InstallTakeOwnership.reg’ file. Hit Yes and OK when asked.
      Now right-click the parent folder where your files are, for example Music Folder which also contains subsequent child folders, and choose Take Ownership.

      The reg file will work for Windows 7 and 8

      http://www.howtogeek.com/downloads/TakeOwnership.zip

    • Riiigghht__O says:

      In Windows 8, Owner is mentioned and changeable at the top of the dialog…it does Not have it’s own tab. Just click on ‘Change’

  3. unable to set new owner. access denied. is there anyway to get around this? my situation is the same as yours except i’m doing it for my brother.

    thanks

    • update to obove request. ignore it :). i was trying it on the wrong drive. apparently when i connected the hard drive with all the above shown cables attached to it to my lap top via the usb cable, the laptop does not even recognize it so there is nothing there for me to access so i can get the files out of it. is there a way to scan for the new connection to my laptop so it can recognize this external thing i am trying to access? i went to device manager but i didn’t see anything that could help me or i just don’t know how to do it. pls help. thank you

  4. richard says:

    Hi, If only i got this site before i did some silly things on the hard drive. Anyway, my first problem was the same as you discussed. But since i didnt know how to solve the access denied problem, i just unplugged the cable without the “safely remove hardware.” And the scary part happened when i connect the harddrive to the computer again. I couldnt locate the previous drives (which previously can be accessed) and only the system preference drive. When i remove again, it suddenly popped up a window mentioning format drive G and F (i think those are my previous drives). Any ideas what should i do?

    Appreciate any help. Thanks.

    • Hi richard Firstly, try reconnecting the HDD (Hard Drive) again, and then head over to Disk Management and try to refresh to see if you can see your drive. Start>right-click on My Computer>Manage>Disk Management>Action (at the top of the Disk Management window)>Refresh. If you still can’t see your device then there is another way.

      Download a Linux LiveCD (32-bit version is fine) via the link below.

      http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop

      Burn it to a CD using something like ImgBurn or what ever you normally use to burn CD/DVD’s.

      Plug the HDD that you have files on that you need to recover.

      Now once the LiveCD has been created you will need to boot to it. (like you would if you were installing windows for the first time) You may need to change your settings in BIOS to make your computer boot to the CD first instead of your normal hard drive.

      Once it has booted to the LiveCD, choose your preferred language (I presume English) and then select “Try Ubuntu without any change to your computer”.

      You should now see the Ubuntu desktop. At the top choose Places and you will hopefully see your HDD that you wish to recover data from appear in the list. Click on that to access it. Linux will ignore Windows security policies so no worries regarding taking ownership.

      Now find the data that you want and transfer it to another hard drive/USB that you have plugged in.

      Notes: The Linux LiveCD is free to use and won’t cause any changes to your computer unless of course you tell it to.

      Let me know how you get on.

      Richard

  5. Peter smith says:

    I do not have an owner tab when I go into the advanced security settings. Any ideas?

  6. Hey I get up to, Windows will now start the process of changing ownership of the files and folders on the drive but it says ‘an error accured with applying security information, access denied’ Because I have all my folders on there but all my files aren’t there but it still has the same amount of GB used up so I know they are there :( help please

  7. I tried taking back ownership of my files but I keep getting an error that it is copywrite protected? Help!

  8. Hi…This is subbarao form Inida. I am using vista sp1, I have external hard disk segate 1TB. I have put security restrictions on some of the folders. when ever I want to see them it asks me the permission. any why I have taken out the security for some of the files/videos then watching them. now recently I have re installed my vista. now I am unable to see those folders itself on my hard disk and in other laptops also. even I can’t see them on others laptop before re install. Now i have tried what you said above exactly and still now I am unable to watch them. Can you please help me in this regard. but i can see their names in the above process.

    • Graylodge says:

      There are several ways to go about grabbing ownership of files and folders, but most of them are convoluted, complicated and frequently lead to error messages that then need to be researched and dealt with. However, by using the Administrator account (NOT “an” administrator account, but “THE” Administrator account), one can use the icacls command to do pretty much anything one wants with the discretionary access control lists (DACLs).

      In Vista, Win 7 and Win 8, the Administrator account can be restored (it is disabled by default) by bringing up a command prompt (run as administrator, of course), and typing “net user administrator /active:yes” (without the quotation marks). Then switch user to that account (no password unless somebody already activated that account and put one in), bring up a command prompt (run as administrator) again, and type the following to strip all restrictions from all files and folders on drive X and allow access to any user on any machine you plug the drive into:

      icacls X:* /T /C /grant everyone: (OI) (CI) (F

      When it is done running, close the command prompt window, switch user back to your own account, bring up the command prompt (as admin) a third time, and deactivate the Administrator account by typing “net use administrator /active:no”

      I have never known this method to fail.

  9. Ishaan says:

    Thank You sooo much. Thought I had lost all my files and my work + pictures.
    Thanks

  10. Dude,u r a genius…I had so many important documents and videos in my hdd.When my laptop harddisk crashed and i changed it, i couldnt access my external hdd.Thnx to you i can access it again.Thank you very much.

  11. I followed all these steps and took ownership of drive..I could open drive and folders, but when I open pictures folder and click on a photo..message came up saying access denied blah blah….so why cant I still get access to photos??..I need to take all photos off this drive and put them into my new computer.

    • Hi kads

      Can you double check that you followed the Taking Ownership steps correctly, as missing something can be easy to do.

      Here are a couple of other ways to do this:

      The people over at How To Geek have created a .reg file that will allow you to Take Ownership of a drive just by right-clicking on it and selecting Take Ownership. Simply download the .reg file and extract the two files to the desktop. Right-click on the ‘InstallTakeOwnership.reg’ file and choose ‘Merge’. Say ‘Yes’ to any prompts to finish. Now when you open up My Computer to see the various attached hard drives on your computer, you simply have to select which folder you wish to Take Ownership of in that drive by right-clicking on it and choosing, ‘Take Ownership’. It will then automatically start to Take Ownership of the folder and sub-folders for you.

      http://www.howtogeek.com/downloads/TakeOwnership.zip

      If that still isn’t working then you can also opt to completely ignore the security policies that NTFS has in place by accessing the files via an Ubuntu Live CD.

      Download a Linux LiveCD (32-bit version is fine) via the link below.

      http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop

      Burn it to a CD using something like ImgBurn or what ever you normally use to burn CD/DVD’s.

      Plug the HDD that you have files on that you need to recover.

      Now once the LiveCD has been created you will need to boot to it. (like you would if you were installing windows for the first time) You may need to change your settings in BIOS to make your computer boot to the CD first instead of your normal hard drive.

      Once it has booted to the LiveCD, choose your preferred language (I presume English) and then select “Try Ubuntu without any change to your computer”.

      You should now see the Ubuntu desktop. At the top choose Places and you will hopefully see your HDD that you wish to recover data from appear in the list. Click on that to access it. Linux will ignore Windows security policies so no worries regarding taking ownership.

      Now find the data that you want and transfer it to another hard drive/USB that you have plugged in.

      Notes: The Linux LiveCD is free to use and won’t cause any changes to your computer unless of course you tell it to.

      Let me know how you get on.

  12. ishmael says:

    hi, I ve done everything you said and even downloaded the install take ownership stuff and done that too, but when i try to open some files, not all of them the important files for me music as i work as a dj pictures and vids there is like a lock on the icons of files and folders and doesint let me open it. could it be because the hdd was on a windows XP and now im trying from a windows 7? and what should i do? thankyou very much

    • Hi ishmael

      If that still isn’t working then you can also opt to completely ignore the security policies that NTFS (this is what is forcing you to take ownership) has in place by accessing the files via a Ubuntu Live CD.

      Download a Linux LiveCD (32-bit version is fine) via the link below.

      http://www.ubuntu.com/download

      Burn it to a CD using something like ImgBurn or whatever you normally use to burn CD/DVD’s.

      Attach the HDD that you have files on that you need to recover to a working PC.

      Now once the LiveCD has been created you will need to boot to it. (like you would if you were installing windows for the first time) You may need to change your settings in BIOS to make your computer boot to the CD first instead of your normal hard drive.

      Once it has booted to the LiveCD, choose your preferred language (I presume English) and then select “Try Ubuntu without any change to your computer”.

      You should now see the Ubuntu desktop. At the top choose Places and you will hopefully see your HDD that you wish to recover data from appear in the list. Click on that to access it. Linux will ignore Windows security policies so no worries regarding taking ownership.

      Now find the data that you want and transfer it to another hard drive/USB that you have plugged in.

      Notes: The Linux LiveCD is free to use and won’t cause any changes to your computer unless of course you tell it to.

      Let me know how you get on. I am out for most of the day today, but I will try to keep an eye on this article on my mob, to give you more help if you need it.

  13. Stevie Anderson says:

    Awesome. v straight forward & works like a charm.the mrs was convinced we’d lost everything.
    Many thanks ;-)

  14. Amélie Morency says:

    i get stuck at the stage when i have to change the owner..the computer says access denied again. what do I do then?

    • Hi Amélie Morency, after selecting the Owner tab, go Edit and then check the box next to ‘Replace owner on sub-containers and objects’ box and hit Apply. I have added an extra image showing this.

      If this still doesn’t work then you can try using the Take Ownership registry file, that will allow you to take ownership of a folder by simply right-clicking on it and choosing, ‘Take Ownership’. Simply download the .reg file from the link below and double click on it to allow it to be added to your context menu.

      http://www.howtogeek.com/downloads/TakeOwnership.zip

      If that still isn’t working then you can also opt to completely ignore the security policies that NTFS (this is what is forcing you to take ownership) has in place by accessing the files via a Ubuntu Live CD.

      Download a Linux LiveCD (32-bit version is fine) via the link below.

      http://www.ubuntu.com/download

      Burn it to a CD using something like ImgBurn or whatever you normally use to burn CD/DVD’s.

      Attach the HDD that you have files on that you need to recover to a working PC.

      Now once the LiveCD has been created you will need to boot to it. (like you would if you were installing windows for the first time) You may need to change your settings in BIOS to make your computer boot to the CD first instead of your normal hard drive.

      Once it has booted to the LiveCD, choose your preferred language (I presume English) and then select “Try Ubuntu without any change to your computer”.

      You should now see the Ubuntu desktop. At the top choose Places and you will hopefully see your HDD that you wish to recover data from appear in the list. Click on that to access it. Linux will ignore Windows security policies so no worries regarding taking ownership.

      Now find the data that you want and transfer it to another hard drive/USB that you have plugged in.

      Notes: The Linux LiveCD is free to use and won’t cause any changes to your computer unless of course you tell it to.

  15. When I click on the local disk icon a pop up shows “Access denied” and “not accessible ” ….. Will this method work for that [i am on windows 7]

    • Hi Ashwin,

      Hopefully. Are you trying to open some files that were originally stored on another computer by connecting that HDD to your computer to access them? If so then yes.

  16. Hi,
    My hard drive worked fine till today and all of a sudden it says E:/ is not accessible Access Denied. I am pretty sure my friend connected my HDD to his Mac Book. I think thats when it started. So i connected my HDD to his Mac and other Windows laptop. But i showed up only on Mac. is it ntfs format before.. i cant remember. Please help me… I am a medical student and all my study videos and books,ppts are on that. Cant retrieve now. Please help me asap.
    Thank you

  17. Pan Goul says:

    Hi Richard. Thanks for the nice article. I have succesfully gained access to my old files, but my question is this.
    I want now to reinstall the hdd back to the old pc, but with a new motherboard (identical to the old one that crashed). As all the files I wanted were saved in the old pc’s “Desktop” folder, will the new configuration (old hdd new motherboard) be able to boot after losing access to its old “Desktop” folder? I haven’t changed anything else.
    Thanks

  18. Asmodeus says:

    hello, i recently re-isntaled windows on my on HDD, but i have 3 HDD’s and 1 of them works perfectly, although one of them does not allow me to watch movies on it, it says the files are restricted, and i have tried this method and more, i can not even rename or delete not even copy the files, any ideas?

    • Hi,

      Have you tried booting to a Linux Live CD and copying them from the HDD that is giving you problems over to the HDD that is fine? By using the Linux route you will be bypassing the security restrictions of NTFS. You don’t have to install Linux, just boot to the Live CD and use that to access and copy the required files you want.

      Download a Linux LiveCD (32-bit version is fine) via the link below.

      http://www.ubuntu.com/download

      The other thing you can try is to use the Take Ownership .reg file. Then simply browse to the folder that contains the movies / files you want on the HDD that is causing you problems, and right-click on the folder and choose, ‘Take Ownership.’ You can download the .reg file below:-

      http://www.howtogeek.com/downloads/TakeOwnership.zip

      • Asmodeus says:

        Hello, thanks, i tried both the ideas you mention without any avail, still just slaps me in the face saying “you still need administration from *blabla* user to acces this file” the FUNNIEST thing is, that it wants my own user to administrate it, and i got pissed so i deleted a lot of files, but now there is a file i can not remove AT ALL….

  19. Paul Emery says:

    I have attempted to follow this directions but keep encountering an error specifically on the pictures. I get a pop up that tells me I will have to provide administrator permission to change these settings. I click okay, and then it says “An error occurred applying attributes to the file: file name Access denied.

    • Hi Paul,

      Have you tried booting to a Linux Live CD and copying them from the HDD that is giving you problems over to the HDD that is fine? By using the Linux route you will be bypassing the security restrictions of NTFS. You don’t have to install Linux, just boot to the Live CD and use that to access and copy the required files you want.

      Download a Linux LiveCD (32-bit version is fine) via the link below.

      http://www.ubuntu.com/download

      The other thing you can try is to use the Take Ownership .reg file. Then simply browse to the folder that contains the movies / files you want on the HDD that is causing you problems, and right-click on the folder and choose, ‘Take Ownership.’ You can download the .reg file below:-

      http://www.howtogeek.com/downl

  20. Thank you so much, this completely helped me out. Works on Windows 8.1.

  21. Thanks alot dude. Your’e my salvation. :)

  22. I have a HDD from my Compaq Presario f730US. I bought the adaptor kit, and downloaded the “take ownership” program from the internet. I went through the take ownership until it was done and was able to get pictures, however the main reason I did this was for the retrieval of my money program. Now when I click on Local disk G, and click on users and select my user name, then click on desktop, my money program is not there. it is no where to be found.

  23. hey there I get pretty much to the end but there is no replace owner box to click :/ im trying to do this with external harddrive btw :)

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