Saturday, February 02, 2008

Get the Security Tab in XP Home! For Free!

XP Home and XP Professional have a few differences.

Overall, I really haven't found a need for the extra features of XP Pro at home.

Except one glaring problem: File-level security management and user rights.

Security and File Permissions in XP

Being used to the "Security" tab for file and folder properties at work on our XP Pro and Windows 2000 systems, where they supplement user-account restrictions, I feel a bit lost at Home.

Back when I was working on trying to remove some pesky (and updated) Flash files, the files were locked down in the security settings, and it took some clever work to reset them enough where I could delete them.  It was a piece of cake in Windows 2000 and XP Pro. Flash9b.ocx and Flash9b.ocx File Deleting Goodness

So in a round of recent troubleshooting trying to get an otherwise wicked-good application to work on my XP systems, I found I needed to play around with the security rights on the files/folders.

On XP Pro I would just right-click the file/folder, select "Properties" then select the "Security" tab and could modify the rights to my hearts content.

As I previously discovered, XP Home required a bit more work, and none of the methods were particularly graceful.

  1. Drop into command-line mode and use the CALCS command to change the rights.

  2. Purchase the application File Security Manager - (trial/$) - "File Security Manager allows you set, view and modify NTFS access permissions in Windows XP Home like in Windows XP Professional. You can easily lock, deny or allow access to files, folders and drives, define advanced permissions."

  3. Purchase the application Permissions Manager - XPHome tools - (trial/$) - "Permissions Manager is a software supplies GUI to manage security settings of files and folders. This GUI is quite different than generic Windows security dialog. It allows creating predefined sets of access control entries (presets) and applying these presets to file system objects."

  4. Drop into Windows Safe Mode - (free) - Yep. It's that cheap and that easy. Just boot XP Home in Safe Mode (F8 at boot). Now the File Security Manager tab magically appears in it's full XP Professional glory and will allow you to make any advanced special file permission settings changes in it's full GUI glory.

So what was I to do on my XP Home system?

I needed to make frequent changes to the security settings but paying for the software options didn't seem worth it.  I could drop into Safe Mode or the CLI but that was a lot of work for the number of files and folders I was working with.

Were there other options I had missed?


Method One: Easy but not so Elegant

Use the Shared Folder wizard as a workaround.

Go to Start > Run and type "SHRPUBW"

A menu appears, browse to the folder you wish to to set security permissions on, give it a share-name, click Next >

Click the "Customize share and folder permissions" radio-button and click "Custom".

In the "Customize Permissions" window you can add additional groups and/or users, then set the permissions associated.

Confirm through and your folder will have the permissions set.

Con: It's a drag to do this for lots of files.  Only works on folders (and their contents).  Once set, it is difficult to remove the "shared folder" setting on the folder.  I had to create a 2nd folder, copy the files into it, then delete the shared folder to clear its settings.

For a visual walkthrough see TweakHound - XP Home Permissions 1

See also: How to configure file sharing in Windows XP - Microsoft KB304040

Method Two: Wicked-cool and Awesome!

This is wild but it works great (on my XP Home system)!

Download and install the Windows NT SP4 Security Configuration Manager from Microsoft.


That easy.  There's the "Security" tab restored to XP Home, just like in its big-brother, XP Pro.

I know what you are thinking...install an Windows NT feature into XP Home? Are you Crazy?

Yep.  But it works.

  1. Download the file linked above from Microsoft.

  2. Run the file, and allow it to extract to a folder of your choosing.

  3. Open the file and look at the contents.

  4. Find the file named "setup" or "setup.inf"

  5. Right-click it, select "Install"

  6. The installation will occur.

  7. Reboot the system when prompted.

Now when you right-click on a file/or folder and select "Properties" you will see the "Security" tab in all its wonderful goodness!  Add users and permissions, remove users and permissions, change permissions for users.  It's all there!

Warnings:  This should only be used by folks who are skilled and knowledgeable-enough to know and understand the dangers of mucking around with file security permissions.  Do the wrong thing and you can seriously make working on your system miserable if you assign incorrect security rights.

See also: Downloading and Using the Security Configuration Manager Tool - Microsoft KB245216.

Before trying this tip, I took the precaution of creating a system-restore point.

I didn't need to use it, but it was good to do.

Proceed only if you feel this is truly needed.

Now I can quickly, easily and comfortably modify and swap-around the security settings in XP Home, without paying any $, either. 

This could also be useful in locking down bad malware files on a XP Home system as well if you are having to do some high-level malware troubleshooting and cleaning.




Anonymous said...

Sounds good -- but: the MS FTP site offers two applications: SCESP4A.EXE and SCESP4I.EXE. Not sure what is what -- which is the one you've had success with?

Anonymous said...

The file you want is SCESP4I.EXE. The other one is for the old Alpha platform.

Anonymous said...

In fact, the right way is described in -- just switch OFF simplified comon access to files in My Computer/Settings, and the Security tab appears in file properties dialog. Anyway, thanks a lot for the article!

Anonymous said...

You can turn off Simple File Sharing in XP Pro, but not in XP Home, as stated in
"Windows XP Home Edition-based computers always have Simple File Sharing enabled."
This solution sounds interesting,... I should try it ASAP!

Anonymous said...

Uhh why would you prefer to use File sharing to change permissions on your files? The file from NT 4 is just 2.7mb... It puts the security TAB in the properties menu... Hmmm you will be doing it the share way taking more time cause you will have to leave them or do as Guy above said and make a new folder and copy them into the new folder so you can delete the old folder.. If not you will have to keep sharing on.. and last time I heard not good unless you really need it! While you are doing all that I will right click left click, left click, select the exact permissions I want for my each file or whole folder whichever I need, and won't have to worry about turning sharing back off and copying here and there!! @B-)

deuce said...

Yes! Thanks Claus! Never would have thought of doing that one! Got it going without a hitch and finally got these permissions set right, without all that sharing files and folders and copy and this and that. Awesome! Was looking for a freeware utility to do this for like 3 or 4 hours, and took less than 20 minutes to get them files right.. Probably would have taken less time to do the share files in this instant, but in the future will have this already and won't have to worry about doing it the hard way.. Oh and Thanks again Claus!