Tutorial Thursday

Microsoft has made some good efforts to make Vista a lot more secure than previous versions of Windows by locking down files and folders on your system. They must have figured if it’s verging on painful for you to move or delete the files then it would probably be difficult for viruses to do the same. What if you wanted to modify or delete a system file for one reason or another?

This can be done by taking ownership of the file or folder. Taking ownership will not only let you manage the file or folder, but it can also be used as a way to avoid the User Account Control (UAC) prompt. For example, if you take ownership of the “Mozilla Firefox” folder in the “Program Files” you’ll never see the UAC prompt when dealing with that particular folder.

Important: It should be noted that whatever files you take ownership of could become more vulnerable to attacks.

–Manual Steps–

There are two ways to do this manually, and neither are much fun. The next section of this article offers a one-click solution, but I’m sure many of you are curious as to what taking ownership of a file or folder actually entails.

  • GUI (Graphical User Interface) – As expected being able to take ownership of a file can be done through the file properties window. We’ve already put together instructions on how to do this before, but it can be a rather daunting 5-step process if you have to do it repeatedly.
  • Command line – The How-To Geek has a great set of instructions as to how you can use the command line to take ownership of a file. It’s pretty much a two-line job, but it’s not the easiest thing in the world to remember.

–XdN Tweaker (Homepage)–

So how can we make taking ownership a little easier? There are all kinds of registry hacks floating around out there, but I’m going to point you to one of my favorite tweaking utilities for Vista. It’s called XdN Tweaker, and not only is it free but there is also a version that requires absolutely no installation.

After you get the program up and running the first thing you’ll want to do is jump to the Files & Folders section in the sidebar. In the lower-half of the screen you should see the Take Ownership option, and all you have to do is click the Add Option button:

xdn tweaker
(Click to Enlarge)

There’s no need to restart your computer once the option has been enabled. You can see the new menu item that was added whenever you right-click on a file or folder:

take ownership

Clicking on the Take Ownership option will essentially duplicate the tedious manual steps that we mentioned above, but it is a lot faster than going through it all yourself. If for some reason you decide that you don’t want the Take Ownership option to show up anymore it can be removed by simply running XdN Tweaker again and choosing the Remove Option button.

Now if only Microsoft would fine tune UAC so that it is a little easier to use, but that won’t be happening anytime soon. I guess it’s a tradeoff you have to make for the added security.