How To Edit or Delete a Locked File or Folder

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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.

D’oh!

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 (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.

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.

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Comments (13)
  • Cheryl

    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!

  • Doll

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

  • synergy

    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.

  • dadsa

    unlocker is the only one I know of until now.

  • Mohammad Badi

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

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.