Monday, October 17, 2016

Folder Access Denied: How to delete any folder in Windows

One of the most bemusing errors in Windows is the infamous “You require permission from blah blah blah to make changes to this folder“.
The irony is that even the almighty Administrator isn’t exempt from this problem.
You thought signing into your box as an Admin gave your carte blanche access to the kingdom didn’t you?  You thought the administrator had unfettered and absolute reign over the entire file system didn’t you? You thought the omnipotent admin could do virtually anything in Windows right?
I know I did, that’s why I was so incensed the first time I encountered this error.
What do you mean I can’t perform this action? I’m the damn Administrator of this computer! I demand my rights!
Hey, you’re not alone.  The error is annoying that it’s almost crass.
In this guide I’m going to show you how to get reclaim your authority as the administrator of your computer.

Two approaches

The first thing you need to do is take ownership of the folder you want to axe.  In one deft move we’re going to take over the folder and bend it into submission.
It’s time to make this stupid error desist!
Windows 8.1 Folder Access Denied
Right click on the folder you want to banish to oblivion and choose Properties.
Under the Security tab click the Advanced button
Windows 8.1 Folder Properties Security tab
Along the top of the Advanced Security Settings dialog box for the folder you’ll see the Name and Owner.  In my case, someone named TrustedInstaller has exclusive rights to this folder.
Who is this TrustedInstaller guy?
Windows 8.1 Advanced Security Settings
The TrustedInstaller is a built-in account which installs, modifies and removes Windows updates and components. But here’s the thing: if the TrustedInstaller is the owner of a folder then you shouldn’t take ownership of that folder unless you really know what you’re doing; that’s because if you rename and delete such a folder you may render your system unusable.
I’m going change the ownership of this folder for this demonstration but in reality you shouldn’t ever need to do this on your computer.
Incidentally, if you’re running Windows 7 or Vista you can change the owner by clicking the Owner tab and choosing the Edit button.
Windows 7 Advanced Security Settings
Back in Windows 8.1, enter the user name you want to takeover ownership then click the Check Names button and choose OK.
Windows 8.1 Select User or Group
You’ll get whisked back to the Advanced Security Settings screen but notice the owner is updated and there’s a little checkbox under it called Replace owner on subcontainers and objects.
Make sure you put a little check in there so you become the owner of not only the parent folder but everything in it too.
Windows 8.1 Advanced Security Settings Replace owner on subcontainers and objects
Alright now click Apply.
Windows will bark at you about reopening the properties before you can change permissions.
Windows security box
That’s what we’re going to do next, click OK and and close out of all the windows except for the one that shows the folder you want to access.
If you try to delete it you’ll get an even sillier error message this time:
Folder Access Denied can't delete folder
Notice it says that I require permission from FBV-PC\Vonnie to make changes to this folder.  This message invariably shows up no matter how many times I click Try Again.
What the!!?!?
Ok so we have one more step to fix this inane problem… we basically need to explicitly give ourselves Full Control of the folder.
Right click on the folder again, choose Properties, go back to the Security tab and click the Advanced button.
Back in the Advanced Security Settings window select the user you want to allow from the Permission entries list and make sure Replace all child object permission entries with inheritable permission entries from this object is checked (highlighted in yellow below).
Then click the Edit button.
Advanced Security Settings replace all child object permission entries with inheritable permission entries from this object
Now in the Permission Entry window check Full control and click OK all the way through until all the permissions and properties windows are closed.
Windows 8.1 Permission Entry Full Control
If you see a nebulous message about inheritance click Yes.
Windows is cordially informing you that any permissions defined on any subfolders are going to be overridden by the permissions you defined at this top level folder… which in my case is Windows Media Player.
Windows 8.1 Explicitly Defined Permissions
Now you can delete the folder you wanted without Windows nagging you about permissions.

Get Unlocker

If this doesn’t work for some reason try using Cedrick Collomb’s excellent freeware program called Unlocker. Unlocker has been tested and works great on Windows XP, Vista and 7 but I’m not sure if it works in Windows 8.
Just make sure you pay attention when going through the installation tool because if you blithely click Next through each screen you’ll unwittingly install adware on your computer.
Make sure you click Skip on these…
Windows 8.1 Unlocker Adware
I actually managed to install Unlocker on my Windows 8.1 box without any issues.
Windows Unlocker
If a program is running in memory and you try to delete the folder that contains the executable Windows will shrug its shoulders and spit on you:
The action can’t be completed because the folder or a file in it is open in another program.
Windows 8.1 Unlocker Deleting an Open Folder
Just right click the folder and choose Unlocker from the menu to delete it.

The Bottom Line

When Windows says “No” it not only sucks but also conjures morbid memories of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In Arthur C. Clarke’s famous Space Odyssey series,  HAL was the ultrasmart computer that made the unilateral decision to kill the astronauts when Hal learned it was about to be disconnected.
Admittedly, computers haven’t evolved to that point – yet – but it’s still disconcerting when Windows refuses to do something even when you feel you have the permissions to do so.
I hope this article helped you get your sanity back.  If it helped you in any way (or you have questions), I’d love to hear about in the comments!

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