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How do you delete stubborn files from a hard-drive that was in another machine?

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December 5, 2012 5:28:28 PM

Hello, I am running a 320Gb SATA internal hard drive as an external hard drive using a SATA/IDE to USB 2.0 adapter. It works well overall, but various files & folders refuse to be deleted. They are all inside the original "Windows," "Program Files" and "Boot" folders (the drive's PC ran Windows Vista, if that matters). I am able to rename all those folders, which is often a sign that they should be delete-able, but no such luck.

Seemingly random subfolders within those 3 folders can be deleted, but I get an endless "Preparing to Delete" window or "Access Denied" error when I try to delete others. The "Adobe" folder in "Program Files" is one example of a folder that won't budge. Some "Windows" subfolders with "Windows" in their name delete OK while others don't. I've tried an app that searches for processes locking files but it says there are none.

I've tried turning OFF attributes for Read Only, System files, etc., and it's worked in some cases but not others ("Access Denied").

The hard-drive has two partitions and one was called "RESTORE" (for HP's Windows Vista system recovery). Not sure if that's related at all. I was able to purge everything in that partition and rename it. I have too many files on the drive to mess with formatting it.

I also experimented with showing all Hidden files and System files. After doing that, some folder/file icons are "grayed out" (can never delete them) while the ones that look normal tend to be easier to delete, but it's still a random thing.

DLL and application files are typically the hardest to delete, but what process would be using them when the hard-drive is detached from its original computer? Might it be expecting its old administrator logon which I lack from the USB host PC? I never get admin-privileges warnings, though.

Any theories or tips?
a c 119 G Storage
December 5, 2012 5:40:27 PM

http://eraser.heidi.ie/
You can use a program like this one called eraser and have it installed as a Windows option when you right click on a file it comes up along with properties and delete and the other Windows options.
If you clean off the files you want to save you could format the drive and if it won't let you format then you could delete the partition and make a new one and format it.
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December 5, 2012 8:58:20 PM

inzone said:
http://eraser.heidi.ie/
You can use a program like this one called eraser and have it installed as a Windows option when you right click on a file it comes up along with properties and delete and the other Windows options.
If you clean off the files you want to save you could format the drive and if it won't let you format then you could delete the partition and make a new one and format it.


I had tried another shredder (in AxCrypt) but kept getting "access denied" errors. Eraser seemed to root out some files I couldn't find manually, but the Eraser tasks all showed "completed with errors." It couldn't delete anything in the "Boot" folder, but freed maybe 1Gb between the "Program Files" and "Windows" folders (out of ~15Gb total). Eraser took an hour scrubbing around on that drive but something's still locking most of the files.

Formatting is problematic because I'd have to buy a new HDD to stage important files already on this drive (my computer lacks space for that). I hoped avoid that scenario by salvaging this drive. If there's no real answer I could manage with some lost capacity.
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December 5, 2012 9:10:30 PM

You didn't say which OS you're running on now, but it should be similar. This is for Win 7. Right click on the file or folder, and select properties. In teh "Security" tab, click on "advanced" THe window "Advanced Security Settings for <foldername>" should appear. Click on the "Owner" tab, and change it to your user (assuming you have admin rights). This might take a while since it will have to change every object under it (choose that if given a choice), and some system folders have a LAAARRGE tree underneath it.

Once it is done giving you ownership, the other utilities can delete the objects in that folder for you
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December 6, 2012 3:42:39 AM

nyarrgh said:
You didn't say which OS you're running on now, but it should be similar. This is for Win 7. Right click on the file or folder, and select properties. In teh "Security" tab, click on "advanced" THe window "Advanced Security Settings for <foldername>" should appear. Click on the "Owner" tab, and change it to your user (assuming you have admin rights). This might take a while since it will have to change every object under it (choose that if given a choice), and some system folders have a LAAARRGE tree underneath it.

Once it is done giving you ownership, the other utilities can delete the objects in that folder for you


The computer is a netbook running Windows XP, and it only gives General, Sharing and Customize tabs under Properties, with no Security settings access. But that's the angle I was thinking of before, also. Articles show that it should be possible in XP, so why would the Security tab be missing? I can do all sorts of manipulations on the stubborn folders, including changing their icons. Just not deletion.

My instinct is that the undeletable files were ones usable only by the user logged on to the previous PC, which was me.

Update: I ended up having to use Safe Mode to get that Security tab to show in XP. Then I had to go beyond just giving ownership to myself; I had to check both boxes at the bottom of the Permissions tab ("Inherit from parent...child objects..." and "Replace permission entries...child objects...") to get the folders to delete. It worked, but oddly I don't seem to have significant freed space on the drive because of it! Maybe they were like ghost folders all along?

Also worth noting is that the "Current owner of this item:" (i.e. the stubborn folders) was "S-1-5-80-956008885-3418522649-1831038044-1853292631-2271478464" before I took ownership with my logon. That number Googles to an arcane "TrustedInstaller" thing, possibly native to Windows Vista. The complexity of this stuff boggles the mind, but I got through it OK.
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