How to Fix the “Windows Cannot Access the Specified Device, Path, or File” Error.

When using, downloading, or installing software, devices, or files, typically, you can use them right away. You can open and start the program without any issues, in so long as it is compatible with your computer. However, some users report being unable to open a file, even if they have used it previously. This is one of the more frustrating errors and is always accompanied by the error message, “Windows cannot access the specified device, path or file”. There are several causes behind this error which we are going to outline below and give you 8 methods for fixing it.

What Are the Causes Behind the “Windows Cannot Access the Specified Device Path or File” Error Message?

There are several causes that could be the culprit behind why this error message is suddenly popping up for you.

  • The most common reason is because you do not have the permissions to access the folder, the drive it is stored on, or the file itself.
  • If you are trying to access the file through a shortcut, where the file is located on an external device or on a network, the connection may no longer be available with your computer, causing the error to pop up.
  • The file, folder, or device has been deleted or moved. It could also be corrupt or the shortcut to the file or folder could be corrupt.
  • Windows is blocking the file, or your installed antivirus thinks it is a threat.

Because there are several potential causes for this error, it is recommended that you try all recommended steps below.

8 Methods for Fixing the “Windows Cannot Access the Specified Device, Path, or File” Error Code

There is no real way to know exactly why a file, folder, or device suddenly can no longer open, so it comes down to using a trial and error method to weed out which solutions work, and which do not. In some cases, a file is likely to just have the wrong permissions because they were reset and in other cases, the file or the folder has become completely corrupt. Here are 8 methods you can use to fix the error.

Fix One: Temporarily Disable Your Antivirus Software.

The job of your antivirus software is to scan for well-known viruses and malware and protect you against them by either blocking them completely or removing them from your computer. Unfortunately, sometimes antivirus software can get false positives for files, folders, and devices that are not harmful and block you from accessing them. To see if this is the case, do the following.

  1. Right-click your computer’s primary toolbar and select task manager from the list.
  2. When it opens, move to the startup tab and find your antivirus program in the list.
  3. Select your antivirus program, click the disable button and hit continue.
Task Manager - Disable Antivirus Temporarily

Now try reopening your program, file, folder, or using your device to see if the problem still persists.

Fix Two: Check File Permissions – Give Required Permissions.

Another common reason why a file, folder, program, or device suddenly cannot be opened is because the permissions are suddenly changed. This could be from an update your computer did overnight or from an update done directly to the file. You can check the file permissions to see what is listed and then give it the required permissions for it to open.

  1. Find where your file, folder, program, or device is located on your computer. Right-click on it and choose properties from the menu.
  2. Find the security tab in the top of the pop-up properties window.
  3. Under the Group or User Names section, find your name and choose it. Hit edit to change your permissions.
  4. Also make sure that under the “system” option in Group or User Names, that there is full control enabled. You will see a grey check mark beside “full control” and under “allow”.
  5. Edit permissions as needed and make sure to hit apply before exiting out of the properties context menu.
Edit Permissions

Fix Three: Unblock the File.

If you are still getting the “Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file” then your file may be blocked by Windows itself. You can try unblocking the file with the following steps.

  1. Find where your file, folder, program, or device is located on your computer. Right-click on it and choose properties from the menu.
  2. Find the general tab at the top of the properties menu and at the bottom of the menu, look for “security”. If this is present, it will say that the file came from another computer and might be blocked. There will be a box you can check to remove the block.
  3. Check the unblock box, hit apply, and exit out.
How to Unblock a File

Fix Four: Check the Location to See if it is Available.

Another reason why you suddenly won’t be able to access a file is the location has become unavailable. This happens a lot if you are trying to access a device, path, or file through a shortcut that is connected to an external hard drive or network. You can find out if the location of the target file is still available by doing the following.

  1. Right-click on your file’s shortcut and choose properties from the menu.
  2. Click to the “shortcut” tab at the top of the window.
  3. Find the “target” line and see if there is a path listed.
  4. If there is a path listed, copy it and paste it into your file explorer.
  5. If nothing pops up in your file explorer, the location path is unavailable.
Check File Location

If a location path is unavailable, you will need to re-install the program or file again. If it is available, the error message is popping up for a different reason.

Fix Five: Recreate a Shortcut for the File or Folder.

If the device, path, or file’s shortcut is corrupted, you can try a quick fix by deleting/removing the shortcut and creating a new one. To re-create a shortcut on Windows 10 or Windows 7, do the following:

  1. Right-click an empty area on your desktop.
  2. Choose “new shortcut” from the context menu.
  3. Type in the program path that you want to create a shortcut for or hit the browse button and choose the file, program, or device.
  4. Hit next and enter the name you want for the shortcut.
  5. Hit finish.
How to Create a Shortcut

If you are on Windows 8, the steps are a little bit different. Simply find your program you want to create a shortcut for, right-click it, and choose “send to desktop” to create the shortcut.

Fix Six: Recover the File or Folder if Deleted or Removed.

If a file, folder, device path is removed, deleted, or hidden, Windows will not be able to find it and thus, not open it. The easiest way to get around this is to simply reinstall the program if it has been deleted or removed. But, if you do want to check to see if it is still on your system and is recoverable, you can use third-party data recovery software to try and retrieve it. Third-party data recovery software will scan your entire system for the file and if it is found, will allow you to restore it.

Fix Seven: Repair Corrupted System Files.

If a device path, file, or folder hasn’t been used in a while, you may now be missing system files that are required to use the program. To check to see if your system has corrupted system files that are instigating the error message, run an SFC and DISM scan.

  1. On Windows 10, right-click your start menu button and choose to run the command prompt (administrator) from the menu. You can also get to this by searching “command prompt” in your computer’s search and right-clicking on the application to run as an administrator.
  2. Type “sfc /scannow” into the command prompt and hit Enter. Wait for it to finish its scan.
SFC /Scannow command
  1. Once the scan is done, run the following commands to check and restore health:
    • Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /CheckHealth
    • Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /ScanHealth
    • Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth

Hit Enter after each one. Once these commands are done, restart your computer and see if the problem still persists.

Note: If you run into an SFC /Scannow error when starting the scan, don’t worry. We have written dedicated articles on what to do if SFC scannow is not working, including:

Fix Eight: Give Admin Permission Through Group Policy Editor.

Another way to give yourself permission to open up device paths and files, is to tweak the admin privileges in the Group Policy Editor.

Please note: this is only available to Windows 10 Pro users. The Group Policy Editor is not included in Windows 10 Home Edition.

  1. Right-click your start menu and choose the run program.
  2. Type in “gpedit.msc” and hit Enter. If it will not open using this, find the group policy editor in your control panel – administrative tools.
  3. Find computer navigation and click it. Head down to Windows settings, security settings, local policies, and finally into security options.
  4. Find the “User account control: admin approval mode for built-in administrator” option in the menu.
  5. Enable it and hit save.
  6. Restart your computer.

If the above methods do not work, you can try using Windows hidden administrator mode to access the file. This fix is for those who have tried everything else and are comfortable with booting their computer into safe mode.

3 thoughts on “How to Fix the “Windows Cannot Access the Specified Device, Path, or File” Error.”

  1. I upgraded from windows 8 to 10. Using the Administrator account, In settings I couldn’t access any link. “Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file” error when you try to install, update or start a program or file” However if I browse directly to the file I can run it.

    The fix: enable 1 item for user account control in group policy.

    Type gpedit.msc in run box.
    Open Windows Settings>Security Settings>Local Policies>Security Options.
    Scroll down to ,”User Account Control: Admin Approval Mode for the Built-in Administrator account”.
    Change to Enabled. Hit OK
    Sign out of Windows and Sign back into windows.


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