Here is the fix if you cannot decrypt files in Windows 10/11

by Ivan Jenic
Ivan Jenic
Ivan Jenic
Troubleshooting Expert
Passionate about all elements related to Windows and combined with his innate curiosity, Ivan has delved deep into understanding this operating system, with a specialization in drivers and... read more
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Encryption is great till you have the key and is able to decrypt the file back using the said key. If not, you will find yourself in the same boat as those whom you wanted not to have access to your files or folders.

Fortunately, Windows 10 provides for a robust encryption feature so that you should be able to decrypt your files back without much of a fuss.

But then, there are also times when things do go wrong, when even the right keys fail to decrypt an encrypted file. Here is what you can do if you face such a situation.

What to do if you cannot decrypt files in Windows 10

1. Malware or ransomware attack

One of the most common reasons when you get stuck trying to decrypt a file is when there is a malware attack. In fact, failing to decrypt files that have been encrypted happens to be the most common sign of a malware or ransomware attack.

Also, there usually would be a mail or an intimation using any other means asking for a ransom to decrypt the files if it indeed is a ransomware that is the culprit.

In any case, one way to rule out chances of a ransomware attack is to have Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool to check your system. MSRT is already part of the monthly Windows Update, which means it should already be a part of your system if you update regularly.

Else, you can also download it from Microsoft as a standalone tool. It is highly recommended to scan your PC with the MSRT to help eliminate chances of a malware or virus attack.

2. Try decrypting using a different user account

You will do good to see if you are able to decrypt the files when attempting via a different user account. Here is how you create a new account.

  • Click on Start > Settings > Accounts.
  • Select Family & other people from the options on the left.
  • In the Family & other people page, select Add someone else to this PC option towards the user check for updates missing
  • In the window that pops up, select I don’t have this person’s sign-in information.
  • In the next page, select Add a user without a Microsoft account.
  • Follow on-screen instructions, like adding username, password et all.

3. Change account type to an administrator account

  • Click Start > Settings > Accounts > Family & other users.
  • Select the account owner name and select Change account type.change account type run as administrator doesn't work
  • Under Account Type, select Administrator.
  • Click on OK.

4. Sign in with the new admin account and see if you are able to decrypt the files

Try decrypting using built in administrator account:

If the above methods fail to evoke the desired result, you can try enabling the built in admin account and see if that works. Here are the steps:

  • Type cmd in the Cortana search box and press Enter.
  • From the search results shown, right click on the Command prompt desktop app and select Run as administrator.
  • Select Ok in the User Account Control prompt that pops up.
  • Enter the following command: net user administrator /active:yes and press enter.
  • This will enable the hidden admin account.
  • Check and see if you are able to decrypt the encrypted files.

So, there you have it, a list of all that you need to do if you face any issues decrypting an encrypted file.

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