PowerShell “Access to the path is denied” (Administrator)

Published by Nyau Wai Hoe - Updated on

When you’re working with PowerShell to handle files and folders, sometimes you hit a snag with a message that says “Access to the path is denied.” You might see this pop up when trying to do stuff like removing items, reading content, adding to files, moving stuff around, or even when trying to save something, like a CSV file. And yeah, this can happen even if you’re running PowerShell with all the admin powers. This error is basically a big red stop sign saying you don’t have the right permissions to do what you’re trying to do with a file or folder. We’re going to walk through what causes this issue and how to fix it so you can get back to your PowerShell tasks without a hitch.

Also check out: Get-AppxPackage is Not Recognized or Access is Denied

PowerShell Access to the path is denied

“Access to the path is denied” due to file and folder permissions in PowerShell

The main reason you’re seeing the “Access to the path is denied” error in PowerShell is all about permissions. When your script tries to touch a file or folder, it needs the right permissions, like being able to read, write, or run stuff on that file or folder.

Example: Say you have a file called example.txt chilling in the C:\Data folder. If you want to delete this file with the Remove-Item command, you (or your script) need to have permission to say goodbye to example.txt.

Solution: To fix permission troubles, you can change the file or folder’s permissions. Just right-click it, hit ‘Properties‘, and go to the ‘Security‘ tab. Here, you can tweak the permissions to make sure you or your PowerShell script has the green light.
Allow read and write permissions for files or folders Windows 11

For tougher cases, you can use the icacls command in PowerShell to change permissions. Like, to give full control to user Alvin on example.txt, you’d type:

icacls "C:\folder\example.txt" /grant Alvin:F

PowerShell Access to the path is denied Remove-Item

Getting the right permissions in place means no more “Access to the path is denied” headaches when using commands like Remove-Item, Get-Content, and Move-Item in PowerShell.

Related resource: PowerShell Open URL in Specific Browser such as Chrome or Edge

PowerShell “Access to the path is denied” when files or folders are in use

Another common cause for this error is when the file or folder you’re after is being used by something else. This means PowerShell can’t do things like delete, move, or read the file because it’s locked.

Example: Imagine you’re trying to delete a log file (log.txt) that’s currently being used by an app. If you try to remove it with Remove-Item, you’ll get an access denied message because the app has the file under lock and key.

Solution: Make sure nothing else is using the file or folder you’re working with. Tools like Process Explorer or the Resource Monitor (just type resmon into the Run box) can help you find and stop the process that’s hogging the file.
Process Explorer to check file in use

Sometimes, closing the app using the file is enough. If it’s a system thing, you might need to stop a service briefly to do what you need in PowerShell.

After making sure the file or folder is free, try your PowerShell command again and it should work this time.

Handy guide: How to Reverse an Array in PowerShell

Dealing with “read-only” attributes

Files or folders marked as read-only can also throw up the “Access to the path is denied” error, especially if you’re trying to change or delete them.

Example: If report.docx is set to read-only, trying to delete it with Remove-Item or change it with Set-Content will bounce back with an access denied message.

Solution: You can get rid of the read-only attribute using PowerShell or the file’s properties. With PowerShell, you can use the Attrib command like this:

attrib -R "C:\folder\report.docx"

PowerShell Access to the path is denied Get-Content

Or, right-click the file, choose ‘Properties‘, and uncheck ‘Read-only‘ under Attributes.
Set read-only file

With the read-only hurdle gone, you should be able to do what you need without the “Access to the path is denied” error popping up.

Final words

That pesky “Access to the path is denied” message in PowerShell usually boils down to permission issues, files being in use, or the read-only setting. The fixes depend on what you’re trying to do and your script details. Even with admin powers in PowerShell, you might not dodge every permission or file access block.

If you’re stuck, try launching the PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE) with admin rights. Right-click the PowerShell ISE icon and pick “Run as administrator.”
Run PowerShell ISE as Administrator

This can give your scripts a boost, helping you skip those annoying access denied errors.

Nyau Wai Hoe
Nyau Wai Hoe is the Founder and Chief Editor of WindowsDigitals.com. With a degree in software engineering and over 12 years of experience in the tech support industry, Nyau has established himself as an expert in the field, with a primary focus on the Microsoft Windows operating system. As a tech enthusiast, he loves exploring new technologies and leveraging them to solve real-life problems.

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