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So, you’re doing your annual Spring cleaning. OK, your apartment still looks like an ECW match happened in it, but you’re cleaning old files off your PC. You go to delete a text file you no longer need and”¦

Cannot delete file: It is being used by another person or program.


This is likely the most frustrating thing I’ve ever dealt with during my tenure as a computer nerd. I know for a fact that I haven’t opened this file in years, let alone in the last few minutes. Yet, Windows still acts as if it’s behind a thick pane of glass. You can’t open, edit, delete, or otherwise change it. It’s untouchable. Until now.

The free File & Folder Unlocker does exactly as advertised. You can use this portable application 100 Portable Apps for your USB Stick (for Mac and Win) 100 Portable Apps for your USB Stick (for Mac and Win) Read More (no installation needed) to unlock any locked file or folder. With it, you may search all loaded system drivers and processes, and all files opened, whether locally or remotely. Searches can be complex or simple, i.e. “*.txt”, or the offending file can just be dragged and dropped into the program. You’ll be able to see which process, if any, has the offending file open. This program lists all open processes, so that you may check each one for locked files.

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In this example from the program’s download site, the file Myletter.txt is being held captive by a hex-editor program. With a right-click, the file can be made unlocked and free. From the File menu, you may list all open objects, but be ready to wade through a long list if you do so.

I recommend File and Folder Unlocker not because of its advanced features, but because of its portability. Honorable mention goes to Unlocker, which isn’t portable, but installs in the Windows right-click menu, and has less advanced features. We’d love to hear how you deal with these problems, so give your favorite tool a shout-out in the comments.

  1. Cheryl
    August 21, 2009 at 10:55 am

    This week, twice, Windows did security updates in the wee hours of the morning.

    Found an unwanted folder left on D:\ with two subfolders. Access was denied trying to delete. Both folders included this file => filterpipelineprintproc.dll as well as others.

    UNLOCKER to the rescue! Right-clicked on folder name, chose Unlocker/UnlockAll, waited for MsgBox to confirm. Then right-clicked again, chose Unlocker/Action:Delete. Again, waited for MsgBox confirmation. Did this on both subfolders. Clicked away, then clicked on folder itself again, and could then Delete it.

    Thank you MakeUseOf for promoting this wonderful tool!

  2. Doll
    June 14, 2009 at 3:57 am

    I use win system,user :)
    And you can have it all...

  3. synergy
    May 18, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    I have a stubborn little program that needs to be removed on my desktop so I'll give this a go and see if it works.

  4. dadsa
    May 18, 2009 at 11:23 am

    unlocker is the only one I know of until now.

  5. Mohammad Badi
    May 16, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Noway, Unlocker is the best app to do this job.

  6. venkat
    May 16, 2009 at 8:49 am

    I am using unlocker since some days for now it really worked great

  7. CGA
    May 16, 2009 at 3:09 am

    Lockhunter is a good one that works with 64-bit.

  8. Olaf
    May 16, 2009 at 4:48 am

    File & Folder Unlocker doesn't work for me either. To replace Unlocker on a 64bits OS, you can try ( Not as good as Unlocker, but seems to do the job for now.

    • guser
      May 19, 2009 at 3:41 am

      yay thanks!
      using lockhunter 64bits ^^

  9. Arun Shivaram
    May 15, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    I've only used unlocker so far, but always worried that it's not a portable one. Now, this one surely finds a place on my pen drive.

  10. Nick
    May 15, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    Unlocker is very impressive application that I have been using for years.

  11. Danny Keith James
    May 15, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Doesn't work for me with 64 bit Vista. Program just keeps crashing.

  12. guser
    May 15, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    i used unlocker for a long time until i decided to install vista 64bits
    too bad it doesnt work with 64bits :\

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