The Mysterious “Error = 5” aka “Access Denied”

Next to an “error = 53” (“name not found”), I don’t know of too many diagnostic messages that can cause so much confusion or uncertainty in the heart of your desktop / network support tech.

An error = 5 message comes in a number of circumstances.

Unlike the “error = 53”, however, the “error = 5” message can come from predictable situations. If you see “access denied” in these scenarios, your system is working as it’s supposed to (or at least, as it’s configured).

  • Look at the complete error message. Some well known, yet obscure, problems can be easily diagnosed, and resolved.
  • If your server is using Guest authentication, you’ll get “access denied” for any activity that requires administrative access. This might be a registry retrieval in “browstat status”, or any attempt to access a protected folder or share, such as (but not limited to) “C$”, “C:\”, “C:\Program Files”, or “C:\Windows”.
  • If your firewall is setup to block file sharing, you’ll get “access denied”.
  • If you just haven’t configured file sharing to allow access to the account in question, you’ll get “access denied”.

The “error = 5” message can, alternatively, come from unpredictable situations.

Looking at the complete text of the message may provide a clue. There are variations on “…access denied”.

  • If the name of a resource can’t be translated to an address, for any reason, you’ll see “…name not found…”.
  • If the resource in question is setup to block you from accessing it, whether you agree with that or not, you’ll see “…insufficient authority…” or the like.
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