Every file or folder in a NTFS volume has a owner. Certain system files are owned by TrustedInstaller, some by SYSTEM account and others by the “Administrators” group. If a user creates a file or folder, that user is usually the owner of the file or folder. The owner is the one who can assign permissions (Allow or Deny) to other users for that object.
If a user is not the owner of a file or folder, or the user has no permissions to access the file, he gets the “Access is Denied” error when accessing the object. If that user is an administrator, he can take ownership of the object using the file or folder’s Properties – Security tab, and assign himself the required permissions.
This post tells you how to take ownership of a file or folder, and assign required permissions for it using the command-line instead of GUI.
Windows includes a command-line tool named Takeown.exe which can be used from an Admin Command Prompt to change the ownership of a file or folder quickly. Here is how to take ownership of a file or folder and then assign permissions for an account using command-line.
Taking ownership of a file
Open an elevated Command Prompt window. Use the following syntax to take ownership of a file:
TAKEOWN /F <filename>
Replace <filename> with the actual file name with full path.
If the operation was successful, you should see the following message:
"SUCCESS: The file (or folder): "filename" now owned by user "Computer Name\User name"."
Then to grant Administrators Full Control permissions for the file, use ICACLS. Here is the syntax:
ICACLS <filename> /grant administrators:F
Another example: To assign Full Control permissions for the currently logged on user, use this command:
ICACLS <filename> /grant %username%:F
%username% represents the account name of the currently logged on user. ICacls accepts this variable directly.
Taking ownership of a folder
Use the following syntax:
takeown /f <foldername> /r /d y
Then to assign the Administrators group Full Control Permissions for the folder, use this syntax:
icacls <foldername> /grant administrators:F /T
The /T parameter is added so that the operation is carried out through all the sub-directories and files within that folder.
To know the complete usage information for Takeown.exe and ICacls.exe, run these commands from a Command Prompt window.
Easier Methods for Taking Ownership
To further simplify the process of taking ownership, Tim Sneath of Microsoft provides a .CMD file (Windows Command Script) which takes ownership and assigns Full Control Permissions to Administrators for the directory which is passed as a parameter to the CMD file. For more information, read Tim’s post Secret #11: Deleting the Undeletable.
Add "Take Ownership" command to the Context menu
This again uses the special runas verb in Windows Vista and higher, which I’ve covered earlier (REF RunAs).
Download takeown_context.reg and save to Desktop. Right-click on the file and choose Merge. Click Yes when asked for confirmation. This adds an extended command named Take Ownership in the context menu for files and directories. To access the command, you need to press and hold the SHIFT key, and then right-click on a file or folder.
About the author
Ramesh Srinivasan is passionate about Microsoft technologies and has a vast experience in the ITeS industry — delivering support for Microsoft's consumer products. He has been a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional [MVP], for 10 years in a row from 2003 to 2012 for his contribution in various Windows support forums.