My hard drive (containing Windows 10), doesn't boot anymore and I have many important files in the Downloads folder and on the Desktop of my user account. And the account is password protected. So I'm not sure if I can use a SATA to USB device to connect the drive to another computer and expect those folders to just open (since they're under a password protected user account).

How can I gain access to the files in those folders again? And yes I do have the password to said Windows account obviously. Thank you.

  • Password protection doesn't matter unless encryption is enabled. Apr 10, 2021 at 4:11
  • Technically speaking password protected folders don’t actually exist in Windows. Windows only has EFS, which requires the certificate, in order to decrypt. Without the certificate the file cannot be decrypted. Now you need the password to the certificate, but that required, because the file is encrypted.
    – Ramhound
    Apr 10, 2021 at 4:58
  • The folders were not/are not password protected. As I said, the whole user account is password protected. Also regarding the encryption thing, I don't remember having gone out of my way to enable encryption. So whatever Windows 10 Pro's default encryption policy is, would be the state those folders are in. Apr 10, 2021 at 5:20
  • Win10 does not have any encryption whatsoever - unless you enable it. Assuming you did not enable encryption - if you boot a different OS (different windows, or some other OS running on a USB stick) - you should be able to access the HDD content. Linux might even ignore any file permission on the HDD. If you use Windows OS to access the HDD - you just need to access it using an account with admin privilege.
    – Darius
    Apr 10, 2021 at 5:48

2 Answers 2

  takeown "Z:\Users\YourOldUser\Downloads" /a

See takeown /? for help.


  icacls "Z:\Users\YourOldUser\Downloads" /grant Administrators:(MA)

See icacls /? for help.

If your local account doesn't boot then it no longer exists. Your password is gone. You need to take ownership then grant permissions to a new user.

Administrators have a privilege of taking ownership of objects even if they aren't allowed to by security. Owners (normally the person who created the file) have a privilege of setting the security of an object even if they aren't allowed to by security.


Hei there

As long as you did not use encryption, you can use one of the following options for your mess.

  • using a USB Adapter,
  • Using a Live Boot Medium as ubuntu or Debian Provide on USB
  • use another PC to copy it natively directly to another Computer

As told, only as long as no encryption was used. The Files are stored on NTFS usually which either have the State none, compressed or Encrypted in easy words told. This is the reason why you are should be able to get your files easy back to your hands

The User Accounts don't have any to do in case there was no encryption enabled to the filesystems or files/folders. Anybody with Physical Access can fetch your files if he has enough time.

  • Okay, I'm getting one of those SATA to USB boxes, it'll arrive in a few days, and I will see if the hard drive is even recognized using that device. Because as of right now, the drive is not even recognized by the BIOS, I mean at all. Apr 10, 2021 at 16:06

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