Chaos Laboratory Chaos Laboratory
Error Deleting File or Folder? Delete an in-use (locked) file

How often have you come across a message like, “Error Deleting File or Folder” while trying to delete one? For me, it’s been a frequent occurence while trying to get rid of some spyware file that I spotted on my system and invariably on each occasion I’ve been rebuffed with a message like that. To add to the frustration, no further details are provided about WHY such an error crept us, except for maybe a little elaboration on the lines of…

“Cannot delete file: Access is denied. Make sure the disk is not full or write-protected and that the file is not currently in use.”

Error Deleting File or Folder

Pretty insightful, eh ? The message comes in various other flavours too…

  • There has been a sharing violation.
  • The file is in use by another program or user.
  • The source or destination file may be in use.

Such misbehaving executables / files can be quite difficult to get rid of and for the really desperate it might involve quite a few reboot-delete-reboot or reboot into safe mode-delete-reboot cycles. Wastage of time & effort if you ask me. Isn’t there any way out of this mess?

Well fear not, for there are quite a few handy utilities out there which can do the same for you in one swift stroke, without requiring you to reboot anyhow. One such noteworthy application is Unlocker. It’s a freeware that does a real good job of unlocking and deleting such files. IMHO, it might be the best all-rounder in this category.

Once installed, it adds a menu option named “Unlocker” in the right-click context menu that pop-ups when you press the right mouse button in Windows Explorer while pointing at any file or folder. Coolest part is that you would never require to bring up this dialogue manually. When you encounter a locked file, the window pops-up on it’s own and asks you to take an action.

Unlocker Pop-up Menu

Selecting the Unlocker option pop’s up a window showing the locking status of a file or folder, along with a list of processes that are currently maintaining locks on it. Also listed are the handles, process id’s and execution paths of each process.

Unlocker Window Screenshot

You’re provided with three direct action buttons – Kill Process, Unlock and Unlock All. Using Kill, you can kill any particular process in the list. Similarly Unlock will release the lock maintained by a single process while and Unlock All will release all the locks on the file.

Note that, this doesn’t delete the file – it simply removes the locks on it enabling you to safely delete it. For the actual deletion, they’ve provided you with a dropdown box that gives you the option of Deleting / Renaming / Moving / Copying the file in question.

On some rare occasions, the lock cannot be released owing to some complications – there you’re given the option to mark the file for deletion upon reboot. But on 99% cases, you wouldn’t require a reboot.

Lets say with this tool I got a totally new-found sense of freedom on the Windows genre of OS-es. So what are you waiting for? It’s FREE, it’s tiny and it’s as useful as it can be. Get Unlocker today.

arrow46 Responses

  1. 90 mos ago

    gimana cara download na
    kayak mana

  2. Mauricio D.
    88 mos ago

    Love it. It works.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Mauricio: Glad you found the tool useful :) That makes me feel like the review was well worth it.

  4. Art
    86 mos, 3 wks ago

    So, what if this doesn’t do it?
    Pocket Killbox doesn’t either.
    Neither does Microsoft’s ProcessExplorer.

    I’m about to try del /P “PathOfFile” in the safe mode, which just better work!

    Re: AutoCAD files. Apparently they are protected under Windows/XP Professional, but Home Edition is too stupid to deal with it.

    - Art

  5. Drew
    84 mos ago

    OMG!! this worked like a charm!! thanks sooo much!!! i have uploaded an .avi file on my gps memory card and the couldn’t delete it. But this program has saved my but from formatting the whole thing!!!!! THANKS A MILLION!!!!!


  6. 83 mos, 2 wks ago

    Cheers Drew. Glad you found it so useful. :)

  7. Melissa
    82 mos, 1 wk ago

    Oh, thank you!!! I had a desktop icon that just wouldn’t die.

  8. sami
    80 mos, 3 wks ago

    thank you !!

  9. mike paget
    78 mos ago

    Awesome. Tryed to kill some of old icons for a long time and now it is gone.

  10. Iain
    77 mos, 2 wks ago


    I love it. I have been plagued by such problems for so long now.

    Excellent review.

  11. 77 mos, 2 wks ago

    Thanks Iain. Unlocker is simply too good and bails you out from the tightest corners… :D


  12. iunno
    77 mos ago

    this will not work if a file is in a recursive directory and the folder names are for example c:/program files/configuration.old/configuration.old/configuration.old/… and so on. this appears to be a windows limitation, you’ll have to rename the folder names to something shorter to be able to delete them.

  13. Luke
    76 mos, 1 wk ago

    This does not work with XP Pro x64

  14. 75 mos, 3 wks ago

    @Luke: Unfortunately Unlocker doesn’t work with x64 systems and as far as I know there aren’t any x64 compatible releases yet.

    Alternatively, you can use Process Explorer. This one has a “Find Handle” command, which searches for open files and gives you a list of applications that currently have a lock on them.


  15. x
    74 mos, 3 wks ago

    I hate windows. You shouldn’t have to do find a freeware program to do what windows should be able to do. I don’t ever have this problem at home on my macs.

  16. Alma
    73 mos, 3 wks ago

    THIS WORKS!! After numerous try and programs and tech help….this one program actually work…..

  17. denis
    72 mos, 2 wks ago


  18. Revathi
    66 mos, 4 wks ago

    Thanks a lot.This one saved my time.I wasted 2 days to delete a folder.

  19. 66 mos, 3 wks ago

    I’ve been using the soft at that resolves the long filename & path issue and deletes locked files.

  20. 66 mos, 2 wks ago

    how to deleted kido virus from machine

  21. Dustin
    66 mos, 2 wks ago

    Thanks so much :)

  22. 66 mos, 1 wk ago

    is required do right-click in any disk unit to unlock.
    one file that want to delete the program says: not found it locked

    so any action to delete and not delete this file. >:(

    what’s process to correct unlock and delete ?

    Greetings :)

  23. Superman
    65 mos, 1 wk ago


  24. Superman
    65 mos, 1 wk ago

    Thanksss soooooooooooooooooooooooo muchhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
    Thanks a million!

  25. Simanta Sarma
    65 mos ago

    Really you are genius. I am very grateful to you for letting me know about this great software. Many Thanks.

  26. Shah
    64 mos, 3 wks ago

    Impressive. it works! and its free!

  27. Alwyn
    64 mos, 3 wks ago

    thanks man really appreciate it

  28. Dan Muniz
    64 mos, 2 wks ago

    dude you rock! I had a couple of files that would not delete or transfer to different location. I read this and downloaded the unlocker tool and it worked! Thanks for the post, you made my day.

  29. 63 mos, 2 wks ago

    thanks a lot,,,,,,,
    i have tried for deleting the file for past 3day.
    but now with the help of unlocker. i deleted that stupid file.
    thanks a lot,,,,
    its realy great…..
    hats offffff……

  30. Ian
    63 mos, 2 wks ago

    WOW – this is soooooo easy, Thank you for this it has saved me time and effirt in tidying up my Hard drives

  31. spiderman
    63 mos, 1 wk ago

    thank you………….very much……………….

  32. Alex
    63 mos, 1 wk ago

    It worked. I had a folder that wouldn’t delete because the error message states that the specified file cannot be found. I downloaded the Unlocker and although it wasn’t able to unlock the hidden spyware file(s) in the folder, it gave me an option to delete and magically deleted the folder for me.


  33. Taurus
    62 mos, 3 wks ago

    Thank you very much. Unlocker is amazing. This freeware works perfectly fine. It unlocked and deleted the files without restarted. i have tested it on Windows XP Professional and Windows 2005 Server and works well.


  34. Lloyd
    62 mos ago

    Downloaded some dodgy porn for a laugh which I couldn’t delete, got really worried but unlocker allowed me to delete it, phew :)

  35. Mike
    60 mos, 2 wks ago

    Entirely too easy. You’re supposed to suffer correcting problems like this. I had some corrupt files while trying to do a restore. When trying to restore correctly I couldn’t move them. They weren’t locked, but the program still deleted them without a problem.

    This was the first search item I looked up and it was perfect. Wish they were all this simple. Thank you very much.

  36. YEAH
    60 mos, 2 wks ago


  37. Jorge
    60 mos, 1 wk ago

    I just wanted to say Thank you. I had an 8 gb file taking up space for the longest time, and in less than 1 minute that it took to DL and install i deleted it completely.. THANK YOU

  38. clats
    60 mos, 1 wk ago

    Unlocker says it deletes file, but it is still there…Any ideas????

  39. 60 mos, 1 wk ago

    @clats: What file are you trying to delete? Some sort of system / cache / dll ? Can you elaborate on it a bit. Maybe easier to diagnose that way.

  40. Kevin
    59 mos, 3 wks ago

    You haven’t explained why the problem occurs, just sold a product. I get it EVERYTIME I move a .mov file from my camera to the computer. I cannot delete the file from the camera! I have to reformat the card.

  41. Marrie Alen
    48 mos, 4 wks ago

    The problem with these files is their long paths,for me nothing helped than a small tool available at

  42. 46 mos, 3 wks ago

    Great Job……………Keep Helping……….those who don’t know the Techniques and Methods.
    Thank You

  43. Syed Kazim Ali Shah
    46 mos, 2 wks ago

    Dont download any software, just click on folder, right click on folder and select rename, rename folder with alphabets (no special charecters like +-,;) and try to delete.

  44. 44 mos, 3 wks ago

    That may work in some cases but not all. Some locked files / folders won’t even allow you to rename.

  45. akshay
    44 mos ago

    man this is gr8888..

    i loved his software.. i could not delete those stupid files using other software’ thank you very much

  46. bobbi
    43 mos, 3 wks ago

    2011 still works :)

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