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How do I reset the "proper" owner of the entire system drive in Windows 10?

Posted on 2016-10-03
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Last Modified: 2016-11-09
OK, I'll admit this is rather dumb...

I was having a few issues with some applications and file permissions on my C: drive so I (brilliantly) decided to set the owner of the entire drive to what seemed like a logical choice: SYSTEM.

To my dismay, during the process (and of course I had inheritance turned on), several files were "access denied" so God knows who owns them!

Well, let's just say things are not working quite so well now.  The machine is really slow and several features simply don't work anymore like most functions on the task bar (right-clicking on an icon, opening the Action Center) and it's become almost too "painful" to use.

So, please tell me that this can be "reversed" or fixed?

Is there an "official" owner of the system drive and, if so, how do I set it?

I don't want to hear that this is yet another "reinstall Windows" solution but, then again, I *can* handle the truth!
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Question by:KhaiPi
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19 Comments
 
LVL 4

Assisted Solution

by:Uttam Kumar
Uttam Kumar earned 332 total points
ID: 41826186
If you take ownership of the entire C drive, it transfers to its subcontainers and objects. Do you have 'system restore' activated and a restore point created for date prior to you took ownership, if yes, you can try this easy option to going back to that date. Else you can try the steps mentioned in this article http://winaero.com/blog/how-to-restore-the-trustedinstaller-ownership-in-windows-10/
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Author Comment

by:KhaiPi
ID: 41826704
Thanks Uttam,

Unfortunately, System Restore was (for some unknown reason) turned-off on my C: drive, perhaps as a consequence of my bungling.

So, I tried setting the owner of the entire C: drive to TrustedInstaller while in Safe Mode and, although the OS is now more responsive, the same things that didn't work before still don't work including (which I forgot to mention), the actual Start Button itself.

I did notice however that during the ownership change, some folders were not accessible including "C:\System Volume Information" which I cannot even see on my system even with no files or folders "hidden".

Can you think of any way to fix these issues (all of which are related to the Task Bar)?  Is it related to the folders which were not accessible and therefore not affected by the ownership change?
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LVL 5

Assisted Solution

by:Mustafa L. McLinn
Mustafa L. McLinn earned 332 total points
ID: 41826869
Well for one System Volume Information is not (really) accessible.


but trusted installer is not the way to go... you need to give a user access if anything have the administrator/Domain administrator take recursive ownership first...

Or worst you can always grab the ole attrib command and work your magic..

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb490868.aspx
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LVL 56

Assisted Solution

by:McKnife
McKnife earned 1336 total points
ID: 41826894
An inplace upgrade should reset permissions on all system folders.
http://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/16397-repair-install-windows-10-place-upgrade.html
Please compare https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/306952 to see it confirmed (that was for win2000, but I see no reason why this would have changed). You could give it a try. If you want to preserve this broken state just to be sure to have it if the inplace upgrade fails due to the "brokenness" of your system, do a system image now.

And for the next time, have a system image ready, it will be the perfect resort.

Last note: be aware that this will not reset permissions on the user profiles foolders. These need to be reset by you, owner: the specific user of the profile. Administrators: full. Users: full. Sytem: full.
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Author Comment

by:KhaiPi
ID: 41827152
OK, by following Moose's advice I now seem to have a responsive system again but the task bar (including the Start Button) still does not function correctly.

I can click on icons to launch apps but I cannot right-click on them to view their properties, the Action Center icon does not open the Action Center and, as I said, most crucially, the Start Menu does not open.

Curiously though, icons in the Notification Area *do* respond to right-clicks (even the Action Center icon).

No icons on any part of the task bar show tool tips.

I really want to avoid any kind of "reset" or "reinstall" if at all possible as I have a huge number of highly configured and customised applications so can anyone suggest how I might be able to restore normal functioning of the task bar?
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LVL 56

Expert Comment

by:McKnife
ID: 41827501
I have already told you what would be the most sensible thing to do. An inplace upgrade does not destroy anything, applications, files and settings are kept, while security settings like permissions on system files are being reset.
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Author Comment

by:KhaiPi
ID: 41827540
Sorry McKnife, I wasn't intentionally ignoring your advice but when I read the article I noticed that the media has to be the same or a newer build than the OS installed and I suspect that it isn't given that the only DVD I have came with the machine about 18 months ago.

I will at least try it though as it seems like the last resort before doing a full clean install.

And, it's fortunate that I haven't been able to get the Anniversary Edition to install yet so perhaps I'll be in luck!

I'll report back with the results...
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LVL 56

Assisted Solution

by:McKnife
McKnife earned 1336 total points
ID: 41827547
Wait, you can easily download the latest installation media for win10: https://www.microsoft.com/software-download/windows10
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Author Comment

by:KhaiPi
ID: 41827621
OK, so I tried it and it appears that there's no compatibility issues with the version of Windows 10... however, when I get to the screen to select what I want to "keep", the only option available is "Nothing" and a note appears at the bottom of the screen explaining that this is the only option because "Windows may be installed in a non-standard location".

Well, what is "non-standard" about C:\Windows?

Could it be related to the very problem I'm trying to fix, namely the file permissions and owner?
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LVL 56

Assisted Solution

by:McKnife
McKnife earned 1336 total points
ID: 41827644
ouh... that is indeed weird. But definitely that's because of the permissions.
You will have to manually compare ACLs with a clean system and take ownership of the system folders and set permissions to the default values. Sorry, no easy way out.
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Author Comment

by:KhaiPi
ID: 41827896
Unfortunately I don't understand much of what you just wrote or how to even go about achieving what you are suggesting.

I am sure your advice is spot-on but could you possibly explain it in a bit more detail so that I can at least make an attempt at applying this resolution?
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LVL 56

Expert Comment

by:McKnife
ID: 41827908
An ACL (="Access Control List") is listing the permissions to an "object" (that object could be a file or folder, or user, or system service, or...). The folders that you need to compare are c:\windows and c:\program files and c:\program files (x86) and c:\program data. If you right click those folders on a working system and select properties,, you see the security tab and on that tab, the users with their permissions (=the ACL). Adjust the ACL on the problem computer to match the permissions on the working computer. To do that, you will first need to take ownership of the folders. That is achieved on the same tab, navigate to advanced and there to ownership. Change ownership to the same as on the working system and apply to all subfolders and files (there's a checkbox to achieve that). Then, adjust the permissions.
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Author Comment

by:KhaiPi
ID: 41827926
OK, thanks for the detailed and clear explanation.

I guess the final "Spaniard in the works" is that I don't have access to any other Windows computer :-(

Is it too much trouble to ask you to provide me with those details from a machine you have access to?  I know that's asking a lot but to have to reinstall everything from scratch will put me out of work for at least a couple of days...
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LVL 56

Accepted Solution

by:
McKnife earned 1336 total points
ID: 41827941
There you go:
--
C:\WINDOWS\system32>icacls c:\windows
c:\windows NT SERVICE\TrustedInstaller:(F)
           NT SERVICE\TrustedInstaller:(CI)(IO)(F)
           NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM:(M)
           NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM:(OI)(CI)(IO)(F)
           BUILTIN\Administrators:(M)
           BUILTIN\Administrators:(OI)(CI)(IO)(F)
           BUILTIN\Users:(RX)
           BUILTIN\Users:(OI)(CI)(IO)(GR,GE)
           CREATOR OWNER:(OI)(CI)(IO)(F)
           APPLICATION PACKAGE AUTHORITY\ALL APPLICATION PACKAGES:(RX)
           APPLICATION PACKAGE AUTHORITY\ALL APPLICATION PACKAGES:(OI)(CI)(IO)(GR,GE)
           APPLICATION PACKAGE AUTHORITY\ALL RESTRICTED APPLICATION PACKAGES:(RX)
           APPLICATION PACKAGE AUTHORITY\ALL RESTRICTED APPLICATION PACKAGES:(OI)(CI)(IO)(GR,GE)
--
C:\WINDOWS\system32>icacls "c:\Program Files"
c:\Program Files NT SERVICE\TrustedInstaller:(F)
                 NT SERVICE\TrustedInstaller:(CI)(IO)(F)
                 NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM:(M)
                 NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM:(OI)(CI)(IO)(F)
                 BUILTIN\Administrators:(M)
                 BUILTIN\Administrators:(OI)(CI)(IO)(F)
                 BUILTIN\Users:(RX)
                 BUILTIN\Users:(OI)(CI)(IO)(GR,GE)
                 CREATOR OWNER:(OI)(CI)(IO)(F)
                 APPLICATION PACKAGE AUTHORITY\ALL APPLICATION PACKAGES:(RX)
                 APPLICATION PACKAGE AUTHORITY\ALL APPLICATION PACKAGES:(OI)(CI)(IO)(GR,GE)
                 APPLICATION PACKAGE AUTHORITY\ALL RESTRICTED APPLICATION PACKAGES:(RX)
                 APPLICATION PACKAGE AUTHORITY\ALL RESTRICTED APPLICATION PACKAGES:(OI)(CI)(IO)(GR,GE)
--
C:\WINDOWS\system32>icacls "c:\Program Files (x86)"
c:\Program Files (x86) NT SERVICE\TrustedInstaller:(F)
                       NT SERVICE\TrustedInstaller:(CI)(IO)(F)
                       NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM:(M)
                       NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM:(OI)(CI)(IO)(F)
                       BUILTIN\Administrators:(M)
                       BUILTIN\Administrators:(OI)(CI)(IO)(F)
                       BUILTIN\Users:(RX)
                       BUILTIN\Users:(OI)(CI)(IO)(GR,GE)
                       CREATOR OWNER:(OI)(CI)(IO)(F)
                       APPLICATION PACKAGE AUTHORITY\ALL APPLICATION PACKAGES:(RX)
                       APPLICATION PACKAGE AUTHORITY\ALL APPLICATION PACKAGES:(OI)(CI)(IO)(GR,GE)
                       APPLICATION PACKAGE AUTHORITY\ALL RESTRICTED APPLICATION PACKAGES:(RX)
                       APPLICATION PACKAGE AUTHORITY\ALL RESTRICTED APPLICATION PACKAGES:(OI)(CI)(IO)(GR,GE)
--
C:\WINDOWS\system32>icacls "c:\Programdata"
c:\Programdata NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM:(OI)(CI)(F)
               BUILTIN\Administrators:(OI)(CI)(F)
               CREATOR OWNER:(OI)(CI)(IO)(F)
               BUILTIN\Users:(OI)(CI)(RX)
               BUILTIN\Users:(CI)(WD,AD,WEA,WA)
--

Khaipi, the that bracket is what you need to understand. F=Full acess, M=modify, RX=Read and execute. The others: see https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc753525%28v=ws.11%29.aspx
0
 

Author Comment

by:KhaiPi
ID: 41829244
Great - that's so generous of you!  Thanks!

So, do I use the icacls command itself to make the modifications and does this need to be done in Safe Mode?
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LVL 56

Expert Comment

by:McKnife
ID: 41829346
You can use icacls, but you can also use the GUI. Safe mode is not needed.
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Author Comment

by:KhaiPi
ID: 41829362
OK, so just before I attempt this, I notice that in all cases the CREATOR OWNER is basically "inherited".

But inherited from who or what?  I am assuming it would be inherited from the parent directory (which is C:\) and the owner for C:\ is currently TrustedInstaller.

Is TrustedInstaller the correct owner for C:\ or should it be someone else (as it would seem that the inheritance will not work if that which is being inherited is not correct!)?
0
 
LVL 56

Expert Comment

by:McKnife
ID: 41829372
That is correct, trusted installer. But in order to change permissions, you need to set your own account as the owner and later change the ownership again to trusted installer.
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