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Can't delete a file or folder

Windows won't let you delete a file or folder

You try to delete a file or folder and Windows tells you it can't because the file's in use.

As far as you can tell, it's not.

What's up with that? And more to the point, how can you make it stop acting up?


You need to work out what program has the file in use.

Sometimes it's Windows Explorer itself. If you've selected a file in Explorer and its preview is showing in the Preview pane, the file is most likely open. Select a different file, then right-click the file you want to get rid of and choose Delete from the pop-up menu.

Sometimes it's Windows Explorer just thinking the file is open when it's not. Or shouldn't be. If Explorer's behaving like a brat, swat it:

Sometimes, a deeper dive into Windows is called for. You need to find out what program has the un-deletable file open and close the program or at least use the program to close the file. To find out what program has the file locked:

It's not 100% accurate but with luck, it will point you at the program that's holding your file open and keeping you from removing it.


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Can't delete a file or folder
Last update 07 April, 2021
Created: 06 November, 2016