Getting Windows 7 to stop protecting me

One of the advantages of Windows XP is that you could poke around in the user data areas, which was in C:\Documents and Settings(user)\Application Data or even into \Local Settings\Application Data. There were things in there I made use of, like going into the cache folder of Internet Explorer or other web browsers to save copies of pictures or other info.

Along comes Windows 7 and now you get an “Access is denied” message. I know that’s there to protect the applications and to keep people from changing things they shouldn’t, but I would still like to be able to get in there. I can probably do it if I remove the hard drive and plug it into a USB adapter so I can sort through it manually, but I’ve noticed in the past that Windows can be a bit pedantic about how folders are named. For example, if you have a “Desktop” or a “Favorites” folder somewhere else on the hard drive, it sometimes gets treated as the user profile folder with the actual Desktop and Internet Explorer Favorites. This may be because I would make a copy of that folder, so maybe there’s some metadata being saved along with it.

Is there any way I can get full access rights to all folders on the computer so I can see what’s in there? Do I need to boot into Safe Mode? Do I need to create some kind of superuser account that has more permissions than my standard Administrator account?

If you are an administrator on the machine you should be able to do that. Administrator is the superuser.
You do sometimes get prompted with “You do not currently have permissions…” but there should be an option to just go ahead anyway.

Make sure you have “Show hidden files” selected (and also “Hide protected operating system files”*). Other than that, you should be able to see everything.

* I say hide protect OS files because there is really nothing you can do with them except screw up your computer, so I keep them hidden.

Those options are already de-selected. And in terms of a “superuser”, I was thinking that since Windows was not letting an administrator account get into a folder, then maybe there was an even higher access somewhere.

Checking a little further, it seems to be shortcuts rather than folders that are restricted. For example, the directory tree shows the following (the dashes are to simulate the indenting):

Desktop
– Libraries
– Homegroup
– Roger
------ .net
------ .thumbnails
------ AppData
------ Application Data

That last one is a shortcut that should take me into the C:\Users\Roger folder. Clicking on that shortcut is what makes the “Access is denied” message appear. Interestingly enough, I can manually go into that folder without a problem and that same shortcut is still there, but it’s also off-limits. The icon’s ghosted out, indicating it’s a hidden file, but if I bring up the properties, there aren’t the standard access options like Read only or Hidden, and the Security section shows I have full access to it.

Cookies, Application Data, Local Settings, Recent and a few others are shortucts that don’t want to let me use them.

That last one should be taking you to the AppData folder. That’s how it worked on my Vista computer and on my 8.1 machine, and on Windows 10.

If it isn’t, then there is something hokey going on.

I tend to ignore shortcuts if I want to access something specific - because they sometimes just don’t work. For example, if the shortcut was created by someone else & is a pointer to their documents folder then if I access it I will get my documents folder.

If you need to go to somebody else’s documents folder then it’s just quicker and easier to go through C:\Users…

Win7’s folder structure is different and a lot of the things you’re looking for have moved or been consolidated to new locations. The “shortcuts” aren’t shortcuts—they’re NTFS junctions and they’re not there for your use, but rather for legacy applications that depend on XP-style locations. You can’t access them because of the default Windows group policy configuration (not file system permissions).

I suspect what you really are looking for is this table of system folder locations in Win7 vs WinXP.

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