Sep 27

Windows experts often change display options for Windows Explorer so that it shows “super hidden” files—files with both the system and hidden attributes. (You make this setting in Folder Options. On the View tab, clear Hide Protected Operating System Files [Recommended].) Those who do so invariably discover the profile folders from Windows XP, including Documents And Settings, My Pictures, Application Data, and so on. But then they’re surprised to find that double-clicking one of these folders (or other similar items) results in an “access denied” error message. Similarly, trying to work with any of the files contained within these folders or their subfolders produces the same error. (You can reach those files and subfolders by typing the path name at a command prompt, for example. This is true even if the protected folders are not displayed in Windows Vista.) Using an administrator account makes no difference; all users are blocked from these folders.

In fact, these items are not folders at all; they are junctions or symbolic links that point to their Windows Vista corollary folders. (For example, the Documents And Settings folder is merely a pointer to the Users folder.) These junction points are in place to provide compatibility for older applications for Windows. As part of their implementation, the Everyone group has a Deny ACE for List Folder / Read Data.

The solution is simple: do not use these folders for navigation! Aside from application compatibility, they offer nothing that the new folder names do not. Don’t delete the folders, and don’t remove the Deny permission, as that can have other unintended consequences. To work on the files and folders that appear to be in these folders, instead follow the path of nonhidden folders to find the same files and subfolders. Honestly, the best solution is to hide the protected operating system files, and forget that you ever found these folders.