Windows accounts are separated into Administrator and Standard levels. Standard accounts can make changes that only affect them on the computer, like making changes to the personalization options or installing software for themselves, but you need an Administrator account to change the clock, access protected system files, add users, and more.
Perhaps you’ve just tried to access something and were told you don’t have administrator rights. If you need to get admin privileges, here are several scenarios and what you can do about them.
Make Sure You’re Allowed Admin Rights
It sounds obvious, but perhaps you don’t have administrative privileges on a computer because the person managing it doesn’t want you to. On a corporate computer or one owned by your parents, friends, etc. you’ve probably been restricted to a Standard account so you can’t make major changes.
Not having admin rights to my own computer as a developer is driving me NUTS! 2 days to get approval for something that takes 5 minutes…
— Darling Nisi (@carpediemtre) June 21, 2017
If you need admin access on someone else’s computer, ask them to make you a new account with admin rights. The following tips shouldn’t be used to break into a computer. Only use them to recover admin access should you lose it.
User Account Control: Know Your Rights
Windows uses the blue and yellow User Account Control (UAC) shield icon to designate computer functions that require admin privileges. If you try to take an action, you’ll see two different prompts depending on whether you’re an administrator or not.
Admins simply have to click Yes when asked if they want to allow a program to make changes. Standard accounts must type an Admin’s password to proceed. This lets you perform administrative functions without staying logged into one — a smart account management strategy. As long as you know an admin password, you can get through UAC prompts at any time.
If you want to elevate your Standard account to an admin account, first log in to another Admin account and open Settings. Visit Accounts and click the Family & other people tab. Select your account under Other People and click the Change account type button. Change it from Standard User to Administrator and you’ll have full privileges.
Make sure you haven’t disabled UAC, either. Doing so will prevent Standard accounts from even seeing UAC prompts, so trying to take admin actions will fail with no notification. Type UAC into the Start Menu and click Change User Account Control settings. Make sure the slider is not set to the bottom option of Never Notify. The second option from the top is the default and should work fine.
If You’ve Forgotten the Account Password
One situation where you can’t log in to an admin account occurs when you lose your password. Thankfully, all is not lost if the password has slipped your mind.
We’ve covered how to reset a Windows admin password. If you use a Microsoft account for the admin account, it’s easy to reset your password via Microsoft’s portal. Local accounts have several other methods for resetting a password, but they take some work. Once you recover your account password, you’ll be back in with full admin rights, just like before.
Temporarily Access the Windows Administrator Account
Since Windows Vista and the advent of UAC, Windows ships with the built-in Administrator account disabled. This is to protect your PC, as the default Administrator account can take any action on your computer without boundaries. Needless to say, malware getting ahold of this would be catastrophic.
You can visit a few utilities to give admin access back to your own account, but none of them will work if you’re not an administrator yourself. Depending on what your exact problem is with admin rights (maybe you can accept UAC prompts but not access other user’s files), you might still be able to enable the built-in admin account.
In our guide to the Windows Administrator account, we covered the easiest method for enabling it.
Give it a try by typing cmd into the Start Menu, then right-clicking it and choose Run as administrator. If you’re able to accept the UAC prompt, great! Enter this line to enable the built-in Admin account:
net user administrator /active:yes
Now, just log out of your account and you’ll see Administrator as an option. It has no password, so you’re free to log in and perform any function you like.
Built-In Account Workaround
If you try to open an elevated Command Prompt as above and can’t due to a lack of admin rights, you’ll have to enable the Administrator account using a workaround.
Fixing Your Own Account
Once you’ve logged in with the Administrator account, you can use Windows tools to fix the problems on your own admin account. Start by visiting the same accounts page as before in Settings to make sure your account is indeed an admin.
Go to Settings > Accounts > Family & other people. Click your account name under Other People and then hit the Change account type button. Change the drop-down box from Standard User to Administrator if it’s not already.
Another way of doing this works via the User Accounts page. Type netplwiz into the Start Menu to access it. Here, you’ll see a list of every user on your machine. Click one and hit the Properties button, then select the Group Membership tab. You can change an account from Standard to Administrator. The Other option contains lots of other account types that aren’t common outside of business use.
There’s one other place you should check to make sure you aren’t missing any rights. Open a File Explorer window to This PC (the Windows key + E shortcut does it instantly). Under Devices and drives, right-click on your primary hard drive and choose Properties. This is likely the one labeled C:.
In this window, switch to the Security tab. Next, click the Advanced button near the bottom. You’ll see the full list of permissions for each group of users on your PC. This will vary if you’ve made changes, but here’s an idea of what a normal permissions list should look like:
Make sure that the Administrators group has Full Control listed for Access. If it doesn’t, that’s what’s preventing you from viewing files. Click the Change permissions button first to make changes, then double-click on a group to modify it. Make sure to tick the Full control box for the Administrators group. Remember, you shouldn’t change anything here you’re not sure about.
Congrats, You’re an Admin!
We’ve covered the most common solutions for gaining administrative rights. Whether you’ve disabled UAC, forgotten your password, or are suffering from strange file settings, these methods let you recover admin rights and control your PC again.
What scenario applied to your lack of admin rights? Was your problem fixed with one of the above solutions? Let us know if you had a different issue by leaving a comment!
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