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How do I delete a ‘locked’ file?

How can I find out which process is locking a file or folder in Windows?

For instance if you are trying to delete a folder and windows reports

"The action can't be completed because the folder is open in another program"

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marked as duplicate by heavyd, Snark, Mehper C. Palavuzlar, quack quixote, Diago Mar 9 '10 at 18:50

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 70 down vote accepted

Several options:

Microsoft/SysInternals Process Explorer - Go to Find > Find Handle or DLL. In the "Handle or DLL substring:" text box, type the path to the file (e.g. "C:\path\to\file.txt") and click "Search". All processes which have an open handle to that file should be listed.

WhoLockMe - Explorer extension which adds a right-click menu option

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In Windows 7, if you try to delete a file that is locked, the error message will tell you which process has it locked –  Garry English Sep 25 '12 at 17:16
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Would be great if you explained how to use the Find menu in Process Explorer. –  Xonatron Oct 31 '12 at 16:31
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In Process Explorer, go to Find->Find Handle or DLL. In the "Handle or DLL substring:" text box, type the path to the file (e.g. "C:\path\to\file.txt") and click "Search". All processes which have an open handle to that file should be listed. –  sworisbreathing Feb 28 '13 at 6:22
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NOTE: Unlocker installs Adware if you are not careful. From their website: "Promotional feature: Fully optional Delta toolbar." –  Julian Knight Mar 13 at 21:50
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@GarryEnglish for some reason this isn't always the case. I just had to use procexp to tell me that notepad++ had a lock on a folder. Windows 7 was unable to tell me the culprit. –  GuiSim Jul 1 at 20:19

Install SysInternals' Process Explorer, and search for the file using the Find... menu.

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It askes for a handle or DLL substring... what I am running off of is a WinRAR diagnostic error message that reads something like `Cannot open <file> The process cannot access the file because it is being used by another process." How do I search this file? –  Xonatron Oct 31 '12 at 16:33
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Just type in some part of the filename shown in the error message. –  Peter Westlake Nov 1 '12 at 19:13

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