Cannot delete folders belonging to previous user account in XP

Tue, 2010-06-22 11:26 by mightyupsetter · Forum/category:


I have recently gotten back a laptop I had lent to my sister a few years ago, and have been trying to spruce it up by reinstalling Windows. Unfortunately I forgot to format the C partition when I did so, meaning that there are some folders that I now cannot delete - my sister's "XXXX XXXX's Documents". Initially I didn't think this was a problem, as the size of these were showing up as zero when I opened their properties, but then I got suspicious because there was far less free space on the hard disk compared to what there should have been. I then ran a backup application to backup the C drive to an external drive, and saw the names of lots of MP3s corresponding with my sister's music taste.

I now think that there is quite a lot of data in her 'My Docs' folder, but that for whatever reason I can't see it. I also can't delete it; if I try, I get an "Access Denied" message, despite being logged in as an administrator.

I have tried various solutions - including Unlocker, changing the "Read Only" property, using the command prompt to delete it with Explorer killed, and running CHKDSK. No dice. Can anyone suggest what I should do to get rid of these files? I'd really like to avoid the hassle of reinstalling Windows again, this time with the partition formatted - but if that's what it takes, that's what I'll have to do.

Thanks in advance for your help.



Tue, 2010-06-22 17:17 by admin

Unlocker should be able to delete them. If all else fails, use its option to delete them after a reboot.

Unlocker's user interface is a little less than intuitive. You have to choose what you want to do from the little listbox.

Still not working!

Wed, 2010-06-23 20:32 by mightyupsetter

Thanks very much for your reply. I've tried Unlocker again - you're right about the user interface - but no result. The folder is still there. But I don't have the option to delete after a reboot, at least not in the dropdown box. Perhaps I have the wrong version? If you know of one that has this option, can you suggest a download?

Thanks again, and sorry for another question....

Unlocker should offer this option

Thu, 2010-06-24 05:55 by admin

Unlocker should offer the option of deleting after a reboot, if it cannot delete the folder by any other means. I have not seen it fail so far.

In your case perhaps you are only lacking the access rights to the folder. Try to log on with administrator rights. If your user account does not have admin rights, log on as Administrator. Go to the problem folder and take ownership. Give Everyone full access to the folder and its content. Then delete it. The ownership and access rights are done by right-clicking on the folder, then clicking on Properties, Security, Advanced. There is an Owner tab there.

This is the same procedure that can be used to delete System Volume Information folders.

Thanks again for your help.

Fri, 2010-06-25 07:12 by mightyupsetter

Thanks again for your help. My user account is for an administrator and you're right that I should be able to select this folder and delete it. However, when I right click and bring up the Properties for the folder in question, there is no Security tab - only "General", "Sharing" and "Customize".

My file system is NTFS, not FAT 32 (I say that because some of the other posts I've read suggest that might be the issue, but it's not).

There does seem to be an odd anomaly where some of my user account's Documents appear in a folder called "Owner" and some in a folder called "Ben". In the latter, there is only the "My Documents" folder. In the former, the "My Documents" folder and all of the other ones, including Start Menu, User Data, Favorites, and so on.

But there is definitely not an option to log in as "Owner" when I hit the usual Windows login screen, and my control panel for user accounts is showing no such account.

Sorry - this one has me completely baffled. Have you any idea how to proceed?

Simple file sharing?

Fri, 2010-06-25 17:08 by admin

Is that XP Home or do you have the Windows Explorer Options, View setting "Simple file sharing …" enabled? That would explain the missing "Security" tab.

Simple file sharing?

Sun, 2010-06-27 10:38 by mightyupsetter

Ah - yes, it is XP Home. Does that mean my potential way around this problem is gone?

Safe Mode, Administrator

Sun, 2010-06-27 19:54 by admin

Not entirely. If you boot your computer into safe mode and log on as Administrator, you will get the "Security" tab. For some more details, please have a look at:

How to take ownership of a file or a folder in Windows XP

Problem solved!

Tue, 2010-06-29 08:26 by mightyupsetter

Brilliant - that has sorted it. Thanks very much for all your help, especially because I've learned something useful for future use.


Tue, 2010-06-29 10:33 by admin

Thanks for reporting back. I've also added some of these details to the article Cannot delete file or folder.

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