Windows Cannot Access Credential Manager

By Jack Gerard

Having to re-enter authentication information such as usernames and passwords when connecting to networks and websites can be an annoyance, especially if the locations are visited frequently. Windows 7 includes a feature known as the Credential Manager which allows users to securely store login information for automatic entry when visiting specific websites or network locations. Unfortunately, errors sometimes occur which prevent access to the Credential Manager.

Accessing Credential Manager

The Credential Manager is accessed from the Windows Control Panel as one of the options available in the "User Accounts and Family Safety" control group. The Credential Manager window displays a list of all Windows credentials, online certificates and generic credentials that are stored in an encrypted file location known as the Windows Vault. New credentials can be added manually from the User Accounts window by clicking the link to add a credential in the upper right corner of the credentials list appropriate to the entry you wish to add.

Credential Manager Problems

When attempting to open the Credentials Manager window, some users encounter error messages stating that Windows cannot access the Credentials Manager. So long as Windows cannot access the Credentials Manager, new credentials cannot be saved by the system. The error can be due to improperly-set file permissions that do not recognize the user as the owner of the credentials or damaged system files that are necessary to access the Credentials Manager and the Windows Vault.

Correcting Ownership Issues

To correct ownership issues, a user must turn on the advanced file option that makes hidden files visible and then navigate to the "AppData\Local\Microsoft\Credentials" folder under his username in the "Users" directory of his computer. Once there, the user should check the ownership of files in the directory by looking at the advanced security settings in the files' "Properties" window. If the user is not listed as the owner of the files on the "Owner" tab he can edit the ownership of each file so that Windows recognizes him as the proper owner.

Repairing System Files

If system files have become damaged, corrupted or deleted, a Windows utility known as the System File Checker can be used to identify, repair or replace them. The tool must be launched from a command prompt running with administrative privileges, accomplished by right-clicking the "Command Prompt" icon in the "Accessories" folder and selecting the "Run As Administrator" option. At the prompt the user should type "sfc /scannow" without the quotes and press the "Enter" key. The System File Checker will scan all Windows system files, making repairs where necessary to restore them to proper working order.