How to fix “Windows Cannot Access the Specified Device, Path or File” error

How to fix Windows Cannot Access the Specified Device, Path or File error

Are you encountering the error message “Windows Cannot Access the Specified Device, Path or File” on Windows 10 or 11? This problem usually appears when you try to run an EXE application or open a document. When this error occurs, you cannot run some programs or access some documents, limiting the usefulness of your computer.

So how to solve the “Cannot access the specified device” error? Take a look at some troubleshooting steps you can take below.

1. Run the application with admin rights

Some programs, for various reasons, require admin privileges to perform specific tasks. In fact, in certain cases, you may not be able to open them either.

The error “Windows Cannot Access the Specified Device, Path or File” can also be a result of this problem. So, if you are looking to fix this error, running the application with admin rights will be the best option for you. If the problem is due to lack of admin privileges, your application will run when these steps are completed.

2. Disable unwanted application blocking feature

Unwanted application blocking is a feature of Windows Security that helps prevent applications and software of low reputation from running. That feature may cause a “Cannot access the specified device” error when enabled. You can check if unwanted app blocking is enabled and disable it as follows:

1. Double-click the shield icon (Windows Security) inside the system tray area to the right of the taskbar. You may also need to click the small up arrow on the taskbar to see the system tray icons.

2. Select the App & browser control tab in Windows Security.

3. Then click the Reputation-based protection settings link to see more settings.

4. Uncheck the Block apps checkbox if that feature is enabled.

3. Edit file permissions

Another cause of the “Cannot access the specified device” error message is insufficient file access permissions. That’s something you can fix by editing permissions for the affected files. So, try editing the permissions of the affected file as follows:

1. Open the folder containing the file that caused the “Cannot access the specified device” error.

2. Right-click on the affected file and select its Properties option.

3. Select Security in the properties window.

4. Then select the Windows user account with which you are logged in.

5. Click the Edit button.

6. Select your Windows user account on the permissions window that opens.

7. Uncheck all selected Deny permission check boxes.

8. Select Apply to set the new permission settings.

9. Click the OK buttons on all windows.

4. Carefully check the location of the file

Do you install software and save some files to an external or network hard drive? If so, an access error may occur because the file located on the drive is currently inaccessible.

Double check the location of the files you are trying to run or open by right-clicking on their desktop shortcut and selecting Properties. You can then check the path for the shortcut in the Target box shown directly below.

That Target box will display whether the file is located on another drive or not. If so, connect the external hard drive containing the file to your PC to access the file. Double check that the specified file has not been deleted if the Target box refers to the local C: drive. To do that, open the specified folder path in File Explorer.

If you discover that the shortcut’s file has been deleted, you can retrieve that file. Open the Recycle Bin to see if the file is in there. If so, right-click the file and select Restore.

7. Enable admin rights with Group Policy Editor

Users have confirmed that enabling admin approval mode in Group Policy Editor can resolve this file access error. However, Group Policy Editor is only available in Windows 11, Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise editions. If you can use Group Policy Editor, try enabling admin approval as follows:

1. Open Group Policy Editor and select Computer Configuration in the utility.

2. Double-click Windows Settings to expand that configuration category.

3. Then, double-click Security Settings > Local Policies > Security Options in the Group Policy Editor sidebar.

4. Double-click the policy Admin Approval Mode for Built-in Administrator account.

5. Then select the Enabled button.

6. Click Apply to set up the policy.

7. Select OK to exit the policy settings window and close the Group Policy Manager utility.

10. Repair or reinstall the file

If you are experiencing this problem due to a corrupt file, repairing or reinstalling it is the best way to go. Using Control Panel will be your best choice in this case. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Go to the search bar in the Start menu, type ‘control panel’ and select the most relevant result.
  2. From there, go to Programs.
  3. Then select Programs and Features.
  4. Right click on any program and select Uninstall/Change.

Depending on the app, you’ll have the option to remove or change its settings. Just follow the on-screen instructions and you’ll be done in no time. If you have already installed the app, make sure you download it from a trusted source and then see if you get the same error again.

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