How to delete a locked file on Microsoft Windows

Have you ever tried to delete a file in Microsoft Windows, only to discover it was "locked" by another program or process? In that case, you'll receive one of the following error messages, or something similar.

  • Cannot delete folder: It is being used by another person or program
  • Cannot delete file: Access is denied
  • There has been a sharing violation.
  • The source or destination file may be in use.
  • The file is in use by another program or user.
  • Make sure the disk is not full or write-protected and that the file is not currently in use.
Ways to resolve this ; 

Rebooting the computer and entering Safe Mode, and one involves installing and running a freeware program. The program Unlocker is free and well-respected. 

To use the program ;
  • Dowload Unlocker here 
  • Install it, 
  • In Windows Explorer, right-click the file you want to delete, and select Unlocker from the context menu.
  • A window will be displayed listing the programs that have the file locked. Click Unlock All, and you should then be able to delete the file.
The other, more time-consuming method involves rebooting the computer and placing it into Safe Mode. Safe Mode restricts the drivers and processes that are loaded when the computer boots, and as such an end user should be able to delete files locked under normal use.
  • Assuming the computer is running, click on the "Start" button, and select "Restart." If the computer is not already running, power on the computer.
  • Hold down the "F8" key when the system reboots. When the Windows Advanced Boot Options Menu appears (7 and Vista), select Safe Mode.
  • Log in to the computer with an account that has full Administrator privileges.
  • Navigate to the file, and delete it. This should work, but if not, continue.
  • Click on the "Start" menu and launch the Command Prompt.
  • Enter the command: "chkdisk X: /F" and hit carriage return. Replace the "X:" with the drive letter where the undeletable file exists. This will test the disk for file corruption and attempt to fix any such corruption.
  • Navigate to the file, and delete it. If you still cannot delete the file, there may be an issue with the drive that is uncorrectable with normal Windows utilities.
  • Reboot the computer and log in to Windows normally.



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