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.

A raver at heart - the only way I can aptly describe me is a bouncing ball of sheer energy. Blame it all on my air sign - but I find it extremely difficult to affix myself a certain spot (apart from when I'm sitting in with my hi-tech paraphernalia) . Traveling's foremost on my itinerary. Photography comes only second to that.. and of course there's my computer - which is the very essential elixir of life for me & deserves a special mention. My free time's spent in mastering the art of spinning Fire-Pois as well as having fun with my other trip toys. If you've no clue as to what Pois are, check out this site: The roar of blazing fire rushing past your ears gives you the most natural high ever. Apart from that Meditation helps me a lot in the course of daily life. I envision myself retiring to a li'l recluse on some secluded white-sanded island surrounded by azure waters - someday in not-too-far future.. and rave like a mad cow till my last breath... ;) On a side note, a lot of my friends have been complaining about the lack of my proper name anywhere in my profile... So here it goes - yours truly is better known as Sourjya Sankar Sen. :D Yeah, I know it's pretty long & winding & almost teeth-breaking, but my name does compliment my length and breadth quite well.

47 Responses to “Error Deleting File or Folder? Delete an in-use (locked) file

  • gimana cara download na
    kayak mana

  • Mauricio D.
    8 years ago

    Love it. It works.

    Keep up the good work!

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

  • 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

  • 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!!!!!


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

  • Melissa
    8 years ago

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

  • thank you !!

  • mike paget
    8 years ago

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


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

    Excellent review.

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


  • iunno
    8 years 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.

  • This does not work with XP Pro x64

  • @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.


  • 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.

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

  • denis
    7 years ago


  • Revathi
    7 years ago

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

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

  • how to deleted kido virus from machine

  • Dustin
    7 years ago

    Thanks so much :)

  • 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 :)

  • Superman
    7 years ago


  • Superman
    7 years ago

    Thanksss soooooooooooooooooooooooo muchhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
    Thanks a million!

  • Simanta Sarma
    7 years ago

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

  • Impressive. it works! and its free!

  • Alwyn
    7 years ago

    thanks man really appreciate it

  • Dan Muniz
    7 years 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.

  • 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……

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

  • spiderman
    6 years ago

    thank you………….very much……………….

  • 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.


  • Taurus
    6 years 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.


  • Lloyd
    6 years ago

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

  • 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.


  • Jorge
    6 years 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

  • clats
    6 years ago

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

  • @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.

  • Kevin
    6 years 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.

  • Marrie Alen
    5 years ago

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

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

  • Syed Kazim Ali Shah
    5 years 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.

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

  • akshay
    5 years ago

    man this is gr8888..

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

  • bobbi
    5 years ago

    2011 still works :)

Trackbacks & Pings

  • :

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

    If you’ve ever encountered those frustrating locked / in-use files which you’ve been consistently trying to delete, you should read this post….

    8 years ago

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