How to Take Ownership of a File or Folder To Delete It

By Peter Bromberg

If you perform an installation or upgrade of a Windows OS this often creates temporary folders called "windows.old". These folders are system folders and you may not be able to delete them. This is how to perform these actions.

In Windows, the owner of the object controls how permissions are set on the object and to whom permissions are granted.

The Take Ownership permission on an object or the Restore files and directories user right are the minimum requirements to perform this procedure.

To take ownership of a file or folder:
Open Windows Explorer, and then locate the file or folder you want to take ownership of.

Right-click the file or folder, click Properties, and then click the Security tab.

Click Advanced, and then click the Owner tab.

Click Edit, and then do one of the following:

To change the owner to a user or group that is not listed, click Other users and groups and, in Enter the object name to select (examples), type the name of the user or group, and then click OK.

To change the owner to a user or group that is listed, in the Change owner to box, click the new owner.

To change the owner of all subcontainers and objects within the tree, select the Replace owner on subcontainers and objects check box.


An administrator can take ownership of any file on the computer.

Assigning ownership of a file or a folder might require you to elevate your permissions by changing User Access Control. This can be cone in Control Panel / Users applet.

You can transfer ownership in two ways:

The current owner can grant the Take Ownership permission to others, allowing those users to take ownership at any time. A user granted the Take Ownership permission can take ownership of the object or assign ownership to any group that the user is a member of.

A user who has the Restore files and directories privilege can double-click Other users and groups and choose any user or group to assign ownership to.

The Everyone group no longer includes the Anonymous Logon group.

There are also some freeware utilities that can help automate this process. Search on "take ownership".
You can also download a Windows Explorer Shell Context Menu extension for this here.

How to Take Ownership of a File or Folder To Delete It  (2182 Views)