Can't Get My Documents after Reinstalling XP

QUESTION:
Please help! I reinstalled Windows XP over my old installation to fix some problems I was having. It fixed the problems but now I have a new one. I can't open the files in the My Documents folder. They're still there, but I get a message that I don't have permission. What's going on?

ANSWER:
When you reinstall the operating system, all the old user accounts are wiped out. Even if you create new accounts with the same name as the old ones or even if you're using the built in Administrator account, these accounts are recognized by XP as different accounts. So you are no longer the owner of the My Documents folder and its files. But don't despair. Even though there is no way to get the old accounts back, you can take ownership of a file or folder. Here's how:

1. Log on with an account that has administrative privileges.
In XP Home, you need to start in safe mode.
In XP Pro, simple file sharing needs to be disabled.

2. In Windows Explorer, go to the My Documents folder and right click it. Select Properties.

3. In the Properties dialog box, click the Security tab (it won't appear in Home if you're not in safe mode or in Pro if simple file sharing is enabled).

4. Click the Advanced button.

5. Click the Owner tab.

6. Under "Change ownership to " select the user account you want to use to access the folder. Check the box that says "Replace owner on subcontainers and objects." Click OK twice to exit the dialog boxes.

Note that if you're using XP Pro and you had encrypted the files in My Documents with EFS, you will not be able to open them even if you own them, unless you saved the EFS encryption certificate to a different location (such as a floppy or USB drive or a separate partition) before you reinstalled XP.