How to Delete Files That Need Administrator Permission on Windows

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If you're thinking to yourself, "My computer says I need permission to delete a file, but I thought I was the one who gives the computer permission to do stuff – not the other way around," there's a good chance you're not alone. When your Windows PC gets sassy and denies you the permission to delete the files you want to get rid of on your own device, take back your file-deleting power with a few quick clicks in the file's Properties menu.

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What's an Administrator, Anyway?

It's never fun when your computer tells you that you need administrator permission to delete a file. What's an administrator in the first place?

When you power up your Windows PC and log in, you're using a Windows account, a system that allows various users to log in with their own profiles and preferences. Some accounts are administrator accounts, and others are not. An administrator is someone who is allowed to make changes on your computer that affects other users of the same PC. The special permissions that administrator accounts have include changing security settings, installing software, making changes to other accounts and, in some cases, deleting files.

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In Windows 10, you can see which type of account you're currently using – Standard or Administrator – by accessing the Start Menu, right-clicking the name or icon of the current account and clicking "Change account settings." Administrator accounts display the word "Administrator" under the account name, while Standard accounts do not.

Deleting Administrator-Protected Files

If you're sharing a computer with a primary user who is registered as an administrator, ask that person to change your Standard account to an Administrator account.

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To do so, they log in with their Administrator account and go to the "Settings" menu from the Start Menu. Under "Accounts" and "Family & Other People" (or "Other Users" in older versions of Windows 10), they click on the account in question, choose "Change account type" and pick "Administrator." Clicking "OK" confirms the change.

When your account has administrator permissions, you can delete that stubborn file.

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The TrustedInstaller Problem

Oftentimes, the inability to delete a file in Windows 10 can be blamed on a process called TrustedInstaller, which runs in the background to ensure the smooth installation of updates. This can even affect Administrator accounts, but there is a reasonably quick workaround for the TrustedInstaller roadblock.

Right-click the problem file to access the Properties menu, select the "Security" tab and click "Advanced." Now choose "Owner." If the owner is listed as "TrustedInstaller," click "Edit" and choose the Administrator account from the menu that appears. Click "OK" to confirm your choice and close the Properties menu. When the Properties menu once again, click "Security," followed by "Edit." Now choose the user account you just selected and check all the boxes to "Allow." Click "Apply" and "OK" to close the menu for the last time and enjoy your newfound file-deleting privileges.

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