How to Delete or Rename a Locked File in Windows

Usually it\’s easy to delete files, Indeed, it\’s much more common to delete a file by accident. However, there are some files which can\’t be deleted: they\’re in use by an application, by Windows or for another reason. Here are five ways of deleting or renaming files which are in use.

When a file is classified as \”in use\” by Windows, it is typically still open by another process, which could be making changes to it. In many cases, Windows even points you directly to the program in question in the error message, allowing you to simply close it and try again. Typically though, this isn\’t the case.

If the file is displayed as \”in use\” but there\’s no indication of which app is using it, you have two options to proceed: You can either use the handy tool Unlocker, which integrates itself into the Windows UI seamlessly, or delete or rename files over the command prompt without any third party software. 

Here are the methods we\’d try – in this order – to delete or rename a locked file.

1. Close Windows Explorer

If you\’ve closed down all the obvious apps which could be using the file and you still can\’t delete it, it\’s probably because Windows Explorer (File Explorer in later versions) is accessing the file, perhaps to display a preview.

You could move all other files in the folder to a temporary folder and then delete the folder that contains the immovable file, but if this still doesn\’t work, try closing Windows Explorer or File Explorer.

If they won\’t close, you can force them by using Task Manager (right-click on the taskbar and choose Task Manager).

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