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Issue #404: Apr 19–25, 2015

Q: Recently, while installing Java 2, an unwanted program was installed. While uninstalling the program I was asked if I wished to clear all of the Chrome add on programs or just the unwanted one. I clicked OK for yes clear all. The only add on program involved was Roboform, which I planned to reinstall. All went well on the reinstall until the following error message appeared: “Cannot create registry key Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Run’ in ‘Hkey_Current_User’: Access is denied. (Error 5)”.  In Regedit I went to the key and got the following message when trying to open it: Run cannot be opened. An error is preventing this key from being opened. Details: Access is denied. I attempted twice to restore the computer to an earlier date. Each time restore ran for about six hours before telling me it could not perform the operation. I don’t know if this is related to the Run key error. I do not have an image or full backup of drive C; only a backup of the data files. In the above circumstance is there any way to correct the error in the registry without reinstalling windows 7 and all of the programs?

– Allen T.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A: Any time you see the message “Access is denied”, Allen, it is an indication that the current user account does not have sufficient account privileges to do whatever it was trying to do.  Some examples of when you might see that error include when you are trying to get into a password-protected folder that belongs to another user, or trying to terminate a process that belongs to Windows.  Often times the knee-jerk reaction from users is “But this is my computer!  I own it, and I should be able to access anything I want.”  In a perfect world, that would be true, but the world of Windows is far from perfect.  It is filled with various security measures that have been made necessary by nefarious hackers writing evil little programs that wend their way into our PCs and wreak havoc.  The operating system can’t know in all cases, the difference between actions instigated by a human operator sitting at the keyboard, and those of a rogue program that is trying to alter the way your computer works or access data that you would rather remain unaccessed.  Usually, people “solve” this problem by granting their user account permanent “Administrator” status, never realizing that under that configuration, any processes (including malware, and malware installers that execute in the background) run with full privileges.  To combat this dangerous trend, a while back Microsoft actually in a sense crippled the privileges of the Administrator account to protect users from themselves.  More on that below.

So, it’s obvious you’re being blocked by a security issue.  Many people don’t realize it, but the system registry also has security built-in.  Permissions can be set right down to the level of individual keys.  What I would bet happened, is that Administrator privileges were used when the program was originally installed, so either the registry keys are owned by the Administrator account, or only and administrator account can create or edit them.  I would further bet that you are now trying to perform the re-installation without those privileges, and Windows is denying you access.  One way you should be able to get around this is to run the Roboform installer with real administrator-level access.  By that, I don’t mean an account with administrator privileges, or even the Administrator account itself, because as I said above, those don’t really have full the full privileges.  The trick is in how you launch the installer.  Instead of double-clicking on whatever file you use to launch the install (usually something like Setup.exe) right-click it instead, and from the context menu, select “Run as administrator”.  You’ll have a few dialogs to go through as Windows User Account Control warns you of the dire consequences of what you’re about to do.  You’ll also need to know the password of an account that has administrator privileges (otherwise ANY account could do this, which would defeat the whole purpose).  If this doesn’t work, you’ll need to get into the registry and change the security of the problematic key.  That’s a whole other issue, and you’ll need to contact me again for further assistance.

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