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Open Windows Explorer In Elevated Mode

A few operations can only be performed via the Windows shell (ie. Windows Explorer), and occasionally administrative permissions are required. Normally a process that requires administrative permissions will ask to be elevated via User Account Control in Windows Vista/7, but some may not. These operations will fail, because all processes inherit their rights from the parent process, and Windows Explorer runs without administrator rights when the user logs in, even if the user is a local administrator. So anything launched from Explorer will not be granted administrator rights.

It isn't possible to simply execute Explorer.exe in elevated mode as with other applications, because running Explorer.exe simply opens a new window within the context of the existing Explorer.exe process (which was launched at login).

However it is possible to shut down Explorer.exe completely and open it in elevated mode, as follows:

  1. Open an elevated command prompt.

  2. Close the existing instance of Windows Explorer:

    Windows 8 and above:

    Press and hold down Ctrl-Shift, and right-click the taskbar:

    Windows Vista/7:

    Choose Start .

    Press and hold down Ctrl-Shift, and right-click the shutdown icon:

  3. Click Exit Explorer.

    The Start Menu, taskbar etc will disappear.

  4. Re-spawn Windows Explorer with elevated permissions. In the CMD prompt, type explorer and press Enter.

Explorer.exe will inherit permissions from the elevated command prompt, and the Desktop, Start Menu, Explorer windows etc are all now running in elevated mode.

When the necessary task is completed, it is best to log out, and log back in again, so that Explorer is given its proper privileges. Running the shell in an elevated state is a security risk and may cause other unexpected behaviour because most processes in the shell expect to be running in a certain user context.

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