How to Delete Files That Need Administrator Permission on Windows

By Shea Laverty

When stubborn files refuse to submit to deletion -- even while you use your administrator account -- change their ownership and permissions.

Being denied the ability to delete a file or folder because it requires administrator permission can be quite annoying -- especially when you're on your administrator account. To delete these stubborn files, you need to take ownership of them and adjust your permissions.

Tip

In the case of files that aren't locked out from administrators, all you have to do is sign in to an administrator account to delete the file. If you aren't your computer's administrator, ask that person about deleting the file for you.All actions that require administrator permissions to delete have a blue and yellow shield next to them.

Step 1

Open File Explorer and find the file or folder you want to delete. Right-click the file and select Properties.

Make sure you've selected the right folder before you begin.

Warning

If the file or folder in question is listed as belonging to TrustedInstaller, make sure you know what you're doing before proceeding. TrustedInstaller is a built-in account for installing and updating Windows programs and components. Any changes to these files may cause serious problems with Windows.

Step 2

Click the Security tab followed by the Advanced button.

Folder properties, with the Security tab selected.

Step 3

Click Change near the top of the dialog box. The box display's who is the owner of the file or folder, and if the name doesn't match your administrator account, you can't delete the file.

Don't change any of the other options unless you know what you're doing.

On Windows 7 computers, instead select the Owner tab from the dialog box, followed by Edit.

The Advanced Security Settings dialog (Windows 7).

Step 4

Type the username you want to take over ownership of the file or folder in the Enter the object name to select field. Click Check Names to make sure you've entered a valid name, then click OK. This closes the dialog and returns you to the Advanced Security Settings dialog.

You don't have to type the exact name, just your username. Check Names fills in the rest of the information.

On Windows 7 computers, instead select your name from the Change owner to list. Click the box next to Replace owner on subcontainers and objects and click OK. This finalizes changing ownership for Windows 7, so close the Properties window and follow Step 1 and Step 2 to return to the Advanced Security Options dialog and skip to Step 6.

The Owners tab.

Step 5

Click the box next to Replace owner on subcontainers and objects and click Apply. When the Windows Security prompt appears, click OK and close out all the dialogs, as well as the Properties window. The prompt reminds you that to make any changes to the file or folder, you need to close and re-open the properties dialog.Follow Step 1 and Step 2 to return to the Advanced Security Options before continuing.

You can also click OK from the Advanced Security Settings dialog to achieve the same effect as clicking Apply.

Step 6

Select your name from the list -- you may be listed simply as Administrators -- and click the box next to Replace all child object permission entries with inheritable permission entries from this object. Click Edit.

The Advanced Security Settings window.

For Windows 7, select the Permissions tab and click Change Permissions.

The Permissions window (Windows 7).

Step 7

Click the Full control box in the Basic permissions section and click OK.

The Permissions dialog (Windows 8.1).

For Windows 7, select your name from the list. Click the Include inheritable permissions from this object's parent box and Replace all child object permissions with inheritable permissions from this object box and click Edit.

The Permissions window (Windows 7).

Step 8

Click OK on the Advanced Security Settings dialog. When prompted, click Yes to apply the permissions. This ends all steps for Windows 8.1. The selected files or folders can now be deleted.

Windows Security prompt (Windows 8.1).

For Windows 7, click the box next to Full control in the Permissions list and click OK.

The Permissions dialog (Windows 7).

Step 9

For Windows 7, click OK on the Advanced Security Settings dialog. When prompted, click Yes to apply the permissions.

The Windows Security prompt (Windows 7).

Tip

These instructions are for changing permissions entirely within Windows. If you're comfortable using third-party software, there a number of simple solutions also available.