The error is a prevalent issue encountered by many Windows 10 users. This error message is an indication that the system is having trouble accessing a particular file, device, or path due to various potential reasons. These reasons range from simple file misplacement to more complex permission or system settings. 

Grasping an understanding of this error is crucial as it can disrupt day-to-day operations, whether you’re attempting to open an essential document, run an application, or access specific system settings. 

This article provides a comprehensive guide on the causes of this error and proven methods to rectify it, ensuring smoother operation of your Windows 10 system.

Common Causes for the Error

1: Missing File or Shortcut

Sometimes, the file or the shortcut you’re trying to access might have been moved, deleted, or is not where you think it is.

2: Incorrect File Permissions

Your user account might not have the required permissions to access the file, leading to this error.

3: File Blocked by Windows Security

Windows has a feature to block certain files downloaded from the internet for security reasons. This might be preventing access.

Step-by-step Solutions

Navigating and rectifying the “Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file” error requires a systematic approach. Here are refined and comprehensive methods to address the issue:

Method 1: Check the File’s Location

  • Locate the File: Begin by navigating to the location you believe the file or application resides. Confirm its existence.
  • Validate Shortcut Paths: If accessing a shortcut, right-click on it and select ‘Properties.’ Under the ‘Shortcut’ tab, ensure the ‘Target’ points to the correct file location.

Method 2: Adjust File Permissions

  • Access Properties: Right-click on the problematic file or folder and choose ‘Properties.’
  • Modify Permissions: Navigate to the ‘Security’ tab. Here, view the list of user names and their permissions. make sure that you have ‘Full Control’ or the necessary permissions of the account for the task. If not, click ‘Edit’ and adjust the permissions accordingly.

Method 3: Unblock the File

  • Identify Blocked Files: Some files, especially those downloaded from the internet, may be blocked by Windows for security purposes.
  • Unblocking Process: Right-click the file, select ‘Properties,’ and at the bottom, if you find an ‘Unblock’ checkbox, tick it. Click on the ‘Apply’ button and then press ‘OK’ button from the screen.

Method 4: Disable Your Antivirus Software

  • Identify Interference: Some antivirus software can flag and block certain files or applications if deemed suspicious.
  • Temporary Disabling: Turn off your antivirus temporarily and try accessing the file. If access is successful, whitelist the file or application in your antivirus settings. Remember to re-enable your antivirus afterward.

Addressing the error with these methods ensures that you tackle both surface-level and deep-rooted causes, restoring seamless access and operation on your Windows 10 machine.

Prevention Tips

Preventing the “Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file” error is more efficient than constantly seeking remedies after it occurs. Here are detailed measures to ensure you limit the chances of managing this error:

  • Regular Backups: Consistently backup your files to have an uncorrupted version available, especially important if the present one becomes damaged.
  • Update Windows Regularly: Always keep your system updated with the latest security patches and system enhancements to address known issues that might cause such errors.
  • Monitor File Health: Pay attention to signs of file corruption, such as unexpected behaviors or random characters when opening them.
  • Maintain Network Health for Remote Files: If accessing files from a network location, ensure stable connectivity and routinely verify you have the necessary access permissions.
  • Ensure External Drives are Connected Properly: When accessing files from an external hard drive, ensure it’s securely connected and periodically monitor the drive’s health.

By following these straightforward tips, you’ll minimize the chances of facing the “Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file” error and ensure a smoother user experience.


Errors like “Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file” can be nerve-wracking, but they’re usually straightforward to resolve. With the above solutions in your arsenal, you’ll be back to your tasks in no time. Remember, patience and a systematic approach can resolve most computer issues.