Accessing the My Documents folder


I need to access the documents and settings folder to manually transfer my old mail etc. I cant get access.
I am logged on the pc as admin and even when I try to set full access I get a error telling me im not allowed. I turned off windows firewall and ran selective startup to not load my symantic suite that came with the pc and it still wont let me access or change the access (sharing) rights. This is my 3rd pc in a week. The first one also wouldnt let me make the system restore disks and had other problems, but it did allow me access to all files and folders. The second wouldnt boot up. This is really killing me as I need that old mail. I’ve been with windows since
3.1 so im not a novice to windows or the problems the new releases cause.

TIA for any help you might offer.

Carl = A disgruntled new vista user

BTW nice site.


First, Windows Firewall and Symantec definitely aren’t related to your problem, so go ahead and turn those on. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to disable security features during troubleshooting and then forget to re-enable them–I’ve seen lots of very secure computers get hacked because of this.

I’m not sure what you have and haven’t done, so let’s go through all the steps.

    1. Open Explorer and browse to the folder you want to open, but can’t. Right-click it and then click Properties.
    2. Click the Security tab.
    3. Click the Advanced button.
    4. On the Advanced Security Settings dialog, click Edit.
    5. Clear the Include inheritable permissions from this object’s parent check box. Click OK.
    6. Back at the Advanced Security Settings dialog, click the Owner tab.
    7. Click the Edit button.
    8. UAC will prompt you. Go ahead and provide administrative credentials; you can’t take ownership otherwise.
    9. Select the Replace owner on subcategories and objects check box. Then, click OK.
    10. Click Yes at the Windows Security dialog. Then, click OK to close all dialog boxes.
      If your problem was file permissions, that you let you get your file back.
  • Still can’t get to your files? uh-oh. Were they encrypted (say, with EFS)? If so, you’re going to need the decryption key. Here’s a relevant article: Data Protection And Recovery in Windows XP.
  • If your files weren’t recovered but Windows can’t seem to reach them, try burning a bootable ISO and loading a different operating system. Don’t worry, they won’t make any permanent changes to your files, but they can read your files and allow you to copy them to a different location or to external media. Take a look at Knoppix Linux and LNX-BBC. These tools bypass all Windows security, but can’t bypass encryption.

Good luck, and let me know the results.

10 Responses to “Accessing the My Documents folder”

  1. whut? says:

    oddly enough, this was the FIRST thing i googled for. in so doing i still got permission denied, so i changed the entire c:\ drive to administrator as the owner
    if vista is gonna make it hard, i’m gonna make it easy

  2. Daniel says:

    This is a very frustrating procedure!!!! My wife’s computer died so I put the hard drive in a USB enclosure to copy to the new Vista computer I bought. Every time I tried to access something, I got security popups that eventually said I couldn’t do that!

    By the way, if you change the owner and forget to change the subitems, it looks like you’re stuck with changing individual items. Fortunately I found that you can right click the folder, select Properties, select the Security tab, click the Advanced button, select the Owner tab, click the Edit button (click OK on the popup), click on the new user to be the owner and check the “Replace owner on subcontainers and objects”. Finally click OK. Of course you may get more popups that require clicking OK, but this sets the owner on subitems if you forgot in the first place (yup, some of our brains have the C Nile virus).

    This is SOOOOO compilcated!!!! There ought to be an easier way to transfer stuff from a hard drive. You can do it the hard way so why not have a way to override the security for one session or something if you are the administrator???? Or enter the license key from the old computer, anything to make this easier for those with legitimate access. It is like we don’t own our own data!!!

  3. Bart says:

    This procedure fixed my problem (in MS Vista Ultimate)immediately!, Bravo!, and thank you!

  4. stanley says:

    Vista Sucks

  5. Jerry says:

    Thanks for this tip, but I still have a problem accessing what is now my Documents folder in Vista with UAC on. I have several partitions and drives, all used for different data. I moved the Documents folder to be all of F:. Downloads is H:. I cannot access either one of these drives with UAC on. I have gone through all of these steps and I still just get a access denied error. The user I am logged in with is an administrator not a regular user. UAC on, nope. UAC off, no problem. Can this have something to do with the “special folders” being redirected to an entire drive? Would this maybe be solved by creating a Documents and Downloads folder on each of the drives and just moving all data into these and redirecting to that folder?


  6. Gareth Wills says:

    I was having the same problem of Vista denying access to unbelievable folders besides My Documents. I found at right click>Security>Advanced, permissions tab that I was listed has having full access. But I also found this insidious entry of “deny-everyone” on every one of these folders. The solution was simple: edit, remove, and click ok all the way back. But why should I have to do this and where did this entry come from? Standard Vista?

  7. devon says:

    Wow, great help!

    After my main Vista boot drive was struck by a rather sneaky trojan, I decided to make it a slave drive, and put vista on a new primary drive. To get a scan on it without activating said virus.

    I never did expect a slave drive to keep folder permissions to the old operating system. I was expecting the opposite. Quite a headache.

    Your Tip/Walkthrough allowed me to gain access to the files under Slavedrive:/user/username..

    Thankyou very much.

  8. Kris says:

    Fixed it right away after much searching. Great article and very very very helpful!!! YAY!!!!

  9. Vale says:

    Tried this 4 times, got bored, still cant access doc and settings. All changes i make come up as errors. I am the Admin, i am the only user, my files arent encrypted !!
    Vista is a backward step…. I am off back to XP pro.
    Dont mend what aint broken Mr Gates !!!!!!!

  10. kstampo says:

    Cheers mate! It worked like a charm!!!!!