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 I can't access files in a user account protected by a password on a hard disk drive that was installed in another PC running Windows XP

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PostSubject: I can't access files in a user account protected by a password on a hard disk drive that was installed in another PC running Windows XP   Mon Feb 04, 2008 4:54 pm

Problem

When the power supply on my ex PC failed it took the motherboard and the processor with it to component heaven. (I can't tell you how much it hurt me to have to bin them.) I built a new computer - new power supply, motherboard, processor, memory, hard drive. I installed the old hard disk drive, which was found to be working, in a USB enclosure in order to use it as a backup drive, but I also have many gigabytes of music and images on the drive that I want to recover. Unfortunately, the files are in a user account that is protected by a password, so I am unable to access them. Is there any way that can be done?

Answer

When a password is set for a user account, Windows XP provides an option to make its files private. With NTFS as the file system, right-clicking on a folder, and clicking Sharing and Security allows you the option to make that folder private. The option is there if FAT32 is the file system, but it can't be enabled. Making files private in those ways sets NTFS security permissions that prevents them from being accessed by other users. You must have made the files private.

Because NTFS uses a combination of the username and a unique Security Identifier (SID) key that is created when you install Windows XP, even if you use the same username, the file system security in the new installation of Windows identifies the files as belonging to a different user, so it won't allow you to access them.

Fortunately, Windows XP allows you to change the ownership easily. How this is done depends on the version of Windows XP is being used.

In Windows XP Professional Edition, open Windows Explorer (right-click Start => Explore) click on Tools => Folder Options => View tab, and turn Simple File Sharing off (use your mouse to uncheck the option called Use simple file sharing (Recommended and click Apply).

If you have Windows XP Home Edition, you must first start the PC in Safe Mode by repeatedly pressing the F8 key after the memory count and just before Windows itself starts to install itself. Log in as the Administrator. That account is shown only in Safe Mode and usually has no password. Open Windows Explorer. Right-clicking on a folder should present an option called Sharing and Security. Click on it and then click on the Security tab of the window that presents itself. Next, click on Advanced => Ownership, select the group entry for Administrators and place a check mark with the mouse in the box called Change ownership on sub-containers and objects, and click on Apply. If a message come up saying that it needs to reset permissions, click OK. All of the files should now be accessible to you.

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I can't access files in a user account protected by a password on a hard disk drive that was installed in another PC running Windows XP
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