How to Fix: 'Access Denied' Folder on Mounted VMWare Virtual Disk

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Ted G. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

Thank you for your pearls of wisdom! I have a question regarding VMWare Workstation. I recently virtualized a friend's PC which was facing numerous blue screens - I suspect his PC has a hardware error. After virtualizing the machine I mapped his drive in Windows Explorer; when I try to access c:\users\jim (his user folder), Windows keeps giving me an 'Access denied' error. There does not seem to be any way to access his files using this method. For the record I have tried copying the files by networking his virtual machine to mine but it is insanely slow. How can I fix the 'Access denied' error after mounting the disk (when attempting to access the user folder)? "

My response:

First, let me say that the reason you are encountering an "access denied" on the user folder is because there are security bits set for that specific user account which are trying to keep "outsiders" out of the folder. Hence, you receive the access denied. Typically Windows can get around this if your user account has administrative privileges, but for some reason this simply doesn't work when dealing with a VMWare mapped disk.

That said, I have run into this problem numerous times and I believe the "access denied" error has to do with the way that the virtual disk is mounted (mapped). For what it's worth, I do not have this issue when I mount image disks made by Macrium Reflect (a disk image backup program). The "access denied" error message may appear but I am still about to get through.

How to Fix: 'Access Denied' Accessing Folder on Mounted VMWare Virtual Disk

I did some digging into this problem and here is what I found.

  1. Normally when I receive an "access denied" error in Windows Explorer, I can get around the issue by opening up an administrative command prompt, then "cd" (change directory) directly to that folder. This method is much faster, as Windows Explorer will typically try and traverse the directory structure before giving you temporary administrator access to the folder (if you have admin access). Once I have cd'd to the folder, typing in "explorer ." on the command line will open a Windows Explorer window in the current directory. As such, accessing a folder in this manner is usually very quick. Unfortunately, the VMWare virtual disk drive letter which is mounted and accessible in Windows Explorer does not exist in the command prompt - so this method did not work.
  2. After a bit more digging I thought it may be possible to mount my VMWare virtual disk using a third party tool, in hopes of bypassing the "access denied" error when attempting to open a user folder. I played with a few utilities, and "OSFMount" worked best. Unfortunately, accessing the user folder using Windows Explorer resulted in the same access denied - however I was able to bypass this (read on!).
  3. At this point I decided to give one of my favorite utilities "TreeSize Free" a try to see if I could bypass the "access denied" error. This program has an option to run in "Administrator Mode" which helps to access files that are normally not accessible in Windows Explorer. I typed in the path to the user folder (after mapping the drive letter using OSFMount), and TreeSize Free immediately crashed - however, it gave me the option to "continue using the program." I did just that, and was finally able to access the folder. I then used "copy and paste" to copy files from the mapped virtual disk to my local drive.

So there you have it - the next time you mount a VMWare virtual disk and need to access a user folder in order to copy files over - use OSFMount and TreeSize Free to access the folders that normally aren't accessible. This method is WAY faster than copying files over the network (from virtual machine to physical machine).

Note that there are two important things you need to do when using this method:

  1. When OSFMount asks "which partition to use" and gives the option for "entire partition" or only a specific partition, choose the specific partition you want, otherwise it won't work. In other words, the "entire partition" option doesn't work and won't mount the drive letter properly.
  2. After the drive is mounted using OSFMount, you need to launch TreeSize Free in Administrator mode, otherwise it won't work.

I hope that helps!

Additional 1-on-1 Support: From Dennis

If all of this is over your head, or if you need help with your virtual machine / accessing files, etc - I can help using my remote desktop support service. Simply contact me, briefly describing the issue and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question -- or even a computer problem that needs fixing -- please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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sytruck_8413's picture

Dennis, In Windows, when trying to access files from a different machine I get around the Access Denied message by taking ownership. Would that work in this situation?


Dennis Faas's picture

That might work in some cases - and only if you are willing to completely destroy the permissions - however, you certainly would not want to do this in most cases, such as mounting a read-only vmware mapped disk. Any changes to the file system, especially on a virtual disk used on a virtual machine will result in data corruption on any snapshots made.