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How to view folder ownership on Windows 10

The admin account on Windows 10 gives you access to most areas on the operating system however, it doesn’t give you unrestricted access. You will find that there are still some folders that you cannot access, and some modifications to the Windows registry that you cannot make. When you try to make these modifications, Windows 10 gives you the access denied alert and authenticating with the admin user does not grant you access. If you need to view folder ownership on Windows 10, there’s a fairly easy way to do it.

View folder ownership

In order to view folder ownership, you need to download a free tool from Microsoft called PSTools. You can download it here. It will download as a zipped file, Extract it, and then copy the folder’s location.

Open Command Prompt with admin rights, and use the cd command to move to the extracted folder. This is where the folder’s location that you copied to your clipboard will come in handy.

Example

cd C:\Users\fatiw\Desktop\PSTools

Once you’re in the folder, run the command below.

psexec -i -s cmd.exe

You will see an on-screen alert telling you to accept the PSTools EULA. Go ahead and accept it, and a new Command Prompt window will open. Close the Command Prompt window that you executed the first two commands in. This new window is where you need to enter the command that will reveal folder ownership.

In the new Command Prompt window, run the following command;

icacls "Path to folder"

Example

icacls C:\Windows\System32

The results will return who owns the folder. The screenshot below shows that the System32 folder is owned by TrustedInstaller. Not all folders under the System32 folder are restricted to the admin user. For example, you can access the AdvancedInstallers folder easily. This means that some folders inherit the permissions of the parent folder, while some do not.

To narrow down which permissions a particular folder has, simple run the same icacls command again but include the full path to the folder that you want to access;

Example

icacls C:\Windows\System32\DriverState

Understanding permissions

The permissions, when displayed, are abbreviated and even if they weren’t the average user may not be able to understand them. Microsoft has a helpful document that will explain the various terms that the icacls command returns when it shows you folder ownershhip. Scroll down to the Remarks section to get started.

Changing ownership

As an admin user, you can change ownership of a folder from the Windows 10 GUI, or by using third-party apps. Regardless of how you choose to do it, make sure you know what you’re doing when you modify one of these restricted folders as changing something here could have a negative impact on your system.

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