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We're running Windows Server 2003 R2 with Active Directory and are having an issue with network shares whereby users, in an attempt to secure their documents, remove everybody (including the Administrator account) from their files/folders permissions. Since the Administrator no longer has read permission to them, we can't even backup files manually as we get permission errors.

One solution that we've found is to change the owner of the files and directories to the Administrator account. We can then change the permissions as we wish. The problem is that this has to be done manually so can't really be applied to an entire share.

Another solution that we've tried is to use cacls as follows:

cacls d:\path\to\share /C /T /E /G Administrator:F

The problem with this is that we're still getting an ACCESS DENIED error on files/folders on which Administrator was removed.

Q1: Is there a way to restore at least read access to all files/folders to the Administrator account in a recursive fashion?

That would be for the short term. For the long term we're looking for a solution to prevent users from removing Administrator from files/folders permissions. Since we're going to migrate to Windows Server 2008 R2 soon we could wait until we've migrated to implement such solution if need be.

Q2: Is there a way to prevent users from removing Administrator from files/folders permissions on Windows Server 2003/2008?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Q1: Is there a way to restore at least read access to all files/folders to the Administrator account in a recursive fashion?

If permissions are inherited (ie. not set separately on different files and folders) then changing the permissions on the root folder and setting the "Replace all child object..." checkbox will replace all the permissions with inherited permissions.

This will of course replace permissions on child items that are supposed to have different permissions.

Q2: Is there a way to prevent users from removing Administrator from files/folders permissions on Windows Server 2003/2008?

No.

While there is a separate flag for "Change Permissions" Windows will ignored this for the owner of the file (the owner can always change the permissions), otherwise an empty ACL (or one with deny everyone everything ACE) wouldn't be reversible.

we can't even backup files manually as we get permission errors.

Why would you want such manual operations? Backup software should be run with and assert the backup (and on restore, the restore) privilege which will bypass ACLs. If the user needs to manually backup some part of their files that they own then they can easily copy.

Perhaps this is really an issue of user training: if you deny administrators access then administrators cannot help you with file management.

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The reason we need to do a manual backup is that our backup solution is no longer usable. I know it's bad, but we are implementing a new backup solution on Server 2008 and we will migrate soon, so these manual backups are only a temporary solution. Have you got any recommendations (apart from asking users to add the administrator account back) as to how fixing this temporarily? Thanks. –  user64204 Nov 15 '11 at 8:53
    
@user64204 No, you are stuck you either use the Backkup privilege or you have access through the ACL. There are no other options. The solution is to get the new backup working ASAP – if you don't have the resources to implement quickly raise the business risk with management. –  Richard Nov 15 '11 at 9:47

Exactly what to do depends on how widespread the problem is - how many people have done this and how the directories affected are structured.

You should have shared directories set up so that personal and group directories inherit permissions. Then, if it's not too many people, you could take control of their directories and reset the permissions. Or you could just tell each person - "no backup for you until you let an admin use your account and change things back."

(And tell them that they'll be sorry if they do it again, with "no backup" being the start of the problems.)

If it's widespread, you could take ownership of everything, set the desired admin permissions (after this, I'd make it "full control" not just read access), then add the appropriate user or group permissions.

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I'm afraid that the problem is too widespread to attempt any sort of manual fix here. Isn't there a way to automatically and recursively set Administrator as the owner of all files/folders and then add full control permissions for Administrator? –  user64204 Nov 15 '11 at 9:29
    
Yeah, go to the root directory of your shared directories, take ownership from there and apply it to all child directories. –  Ward Nov 15 '11 at 9:40

After you get the mess cleaned up, you can prevent it from happening again like this. You can leave the user with "full control" on the NTFS perms, just set the share perms to change instead of full. Network access is a combination of the two. When your admin team needs full control to the data over the network, use one of the driveLetter$ shares to the same path where you still have full control at the share level.

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I would say never give the user full control. The most they need is Change. –  Mitch Nov 18 '11 at 20:33

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