Dreaded “Access Denied” on SPD Workflows

A client called stating that they had lost access to the majority of their content. It looks like in the process of creating a new Doc Library at the root of their portal, either there was a hiccup, or they accidentally edited the root site’s permissions instead of just the Doc Library. Oops.

While walking through the portal to verify that all the access was fixed where it needed, they reported that one of their users could no longer start or edit a workflow. This started on the same day as the permissions issue, so I had initially assumed the workflow was trying to write somewhere that the user no longer had access to. The “Access denied” message is usually a giveaway.

I spent almost an hour troubleshooting trial by error and walking the user through testing with no result. I tried giving “Full Control” to the Doc Library, the Task List, and the Workflow History list – no effect. I even tried to remove & re-grant access. Same results.


  • Upon starting a workflow, the user receives “Access denied.”
  • The workflow actually starts (as evident by viewing the workflows on the document).
  • The user can view the task created by the workflow.
  • The user cannot edit the task created by the workflow (“Access denied”).
  • The user can create & edit a new task in the same task list manually.

After trying everything that I could think of – which included opening the workflow in SharePoint Designer and verifying that there were no other locations that the workflow was attempting to write to – I reached out to Google.

For some people, this is simply a permissions problem. For my situation, apparently this is a bug that crops up from time to time in SharePoint Designer created workflows. I found this post with a proposed solution that ultimately resolved my problem.


  1. Open SharePoint Designer and navigate to the workflow.
  2. Right-click on the offending workflow’s folder and check it out.
  3. Right-click on the offending workflow’s folder and check it back in.

Simple as that.

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