FIX: Windows 10 error while applying attributes to files

By: Elsie Otachi
5 minute read
error while applying attributes

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Windows 10 has come with a myriad of teething problems here and there, but, most, if not all of them, usually have a workaround that can fix issues that users who either upgrade or get computers with the OS pre-installed face at one time or another.

One of the common issues is the Windows 10 error while applying attributes, which usually displays with the message: An error occurred applying attributes to the file: Access is Denied.

Whenever you get errors with the Access Denied alert, or other errors when you access or work with files/folders in Windows 10, you either get the Access Denied error (or similar message), you cannot therefore access or modify (change/save/delete) files or folders, and you cannot open a file or folder after an upgrade or installation of a new version of Windows.

This article looks at the steps you can take to resolve what best describes your situation in as far as the Windows 10 error applying attributes problem goes.

FIX: Windows 10 error applying attributes

  1. Take ownership of a file or folder
  2. Check if you have appropriate permissions
  3. Check if the file/folder is encrypted
  4. Create a new user account
  5. Run Microsoft Safety Scanner
  6. Recover files from the Windows.old folder

1. Take ownership of a file or folder

Usually, the Windows 10 error applying attributes message comes up either because you don’t have the appropriate permissions, or the file is encrypted. For recent upgrades to Windows 10 from earlier version(s), some account information may have changed so the access or ownership is denied as you may no longer have ownership of some files or folders.

This can be resolved by restoring ownership using the steps below:

  • Right click the folder that you want to take ownership
  • Select Properties.
  • Click the Security tab

windows 10 error applying attributes

  • Click Advanced

windows 10 error applying attributes

  • Click Change. If you are prompted for an administrator password or for confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  • Type the name of the person that you want to give ownership to
  • Click Check Names. The account name for the person that you are assigning ownership to is displayed.

windows 10 error applying attributes

  • Click OK.
  • If you want this person to be the owner of the files and subfolders that are contained in this folder, select the Replace owner on subcontainers and objects check box.

windows 10 error applying attributes

  • Click OK.

— ALSO READ: ‘Write to disk: Access Denied’error with uTorrent [Fix]

2. Check if you have appropriate permissions

Issues experienced when trying to access files and folders, such as Windows 10 error applying attributes, may be related to permissions, which determine whether or not you can access or change the files and folders.

Check the permissions using the steps below:

  • Right-click the file or folder, and then click Properties.
  • Click the Security
  • Under Group or user names, click your name to see the permissions that you have.

windows 10 error applying attributes

To open a file, you have to have the Read permission. To change the permissions of a file or folder, follow these steps (log on as an administrator to change permissions on files and folders):

  • Right-click the file or folder, and then click Properties.
  • Click the Security
  • Under Group or user names click your name to see the permissions that you have.
  • Click Edit, click your name, select the check boxes for the permissions that you must have, and then click OK.

3. Check if the file/folder is encrypted

Encryption protects files and folders from unwanted access. You can’t open an encrypted file/folder without the encryption certificate, but check if it is encrypted by doing the following:

  • Right-click the file or folder
  • Click Properties.
  • Click the General tab

windows 10 error applying attributes

  • Click Advanced.

windows 10 error applying attributes

  • Check if the Encrypt contents to secure data check box is selected. If it is, then you will have to get the certificate that was used to encrypt the file or folder so as to open it. If you don’t have the certificate, get it from the person who created or encrypted the file or folder, or have that person decrypt the file or folder.

windows 10 error applying attributes

— ALSO READ: How to fix Windows 10 error ‘unable to access jarfile’

4. Create a new user account

If your user profile is corrupted, Windows may prevent you from accessing files or folders, so you need to use a new user profile by first creating a local user account, which in turn creates a user profile.

Here’s how to create a local user account:

  • Click Start and select Settings
  • Select Accounts

windows 10 error applying attributes

  • Click Family and Other people

windows 10 error applying attributes

  • Click Add someone else to this PC

windows 10 error applying attributes

  • Fill in the form with the user name and password. Your new user account will be created.
  • Click on Change account type
  • Click the drop down arrow to set the account to local user level
  • Restart your computer

Login to the new account you just created and see if you can access the file or folder.

If the issue goes away, then it may mean your other user profile is corrupted. You can try the following in case of a corrupted user profile:

  • On your new account, use it to downgrade your usual account
  • Click Apply or Ok
  • Raise back your old account to its default admin level
  • Rinse and repeat a few times as this will help to remove any corruption
  • Leave your account on as Administrator

5. Run Microsoft Safety Scanner

Microsoft Safety Scanner is a tool designed to locate and remove malware from Windows PCs. It only scans when manually triggered, then you get to use it 10 days after you download it.

However, it doesn’t replace your antimalware program. It helps remove malicious software from your Windows 10 computer that cause the problem.

Here’s how to run Microsoft Safety Scanner:

  • Download the tool and open it
  • Select the type of scan you want to run
  • Start the scan
  • Review scan results on the screen, which lists all malware identified on your computer

To remove the Microsoft Safety Scanner tool, delete the msert.exe file by default.

— ALSO READ: How to fix error 0x80070005 ‘Access is denied’

6. Recover files from the Windows.old folder

If you recently upgraded your computer to Windows 10 from an earlier version of Windows, and you did not reformat the hard disk, you might still be able to access your old files from the Windows.old folder.

Here’s how to do this:

  • Click Start and open File Explorer, and then click This PC

windows 10 error applying attributes

  • Double click the drive that Windows is installed on (typically, drive C).
  • Double click the Windows.old folder

windows 10 error applying attributes

  • Double click the Users folder

windows 10 error applying attributes

  • Double click your user name.
  • Open the folders that contain the files you want to retrieve. For example, to retrieve files in the Documents folder, double click Documents.
  • Copy the files you want from each folder and paste them to a folder in Windows 10. For example, if you want to retrieve everything from the Documents folder, copy all the files and folders from the Documents folder in the Windows.old folder, and then paste them to the Documents library in Windows 10.
  • Repeat these last three steps for each user account on your computer

Let us know if any of these solutions helped fix the file permissions issue on your computer by leaving a comment below.

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