On Windows XP, when I try and delete a specific file it says:

Cannot delete blah.blah: Make sure the disk is not full or write-protected and that the file is not currently in use.

How can I go around this warning and delete it anyway?

  • I know the file in question is a Trojan like virus that is trying to send spam email from my computer. But I don't know how to delete the stupid thing. I do have an Anti Virus but for some reason it is not picking up this file, although it pick up a number of similar files.
    – Ron Tuffin
    Jul 26, 2009 at 19:49
  • The answers to my question here: superuser.com/questions/6607/… may be of help to you too...
    – jerryjvl
    Jul 26, 2009 at 22:01
  • Given you know a trojan has run on your system you cannot trust it anymore, the safe way out of this is reinstalling from a known good media.
    – Shadok
    Aug 26, 2011 at 12:25
  • you can delete the locked file by using linux live usb Jul 5, 2015 at 8:39

9 Answers 9


To successfully delete a locked file, you will need to identify the process which has locked the file. You need to exit the process first and then delete the file. To know which process has locked a file you need a tool such as Microsoft Sysinternals' Process Explorer (PE).

Once you have PE installed ...

  1. Click the Find menu, and choose Find Handle or DLL ...
  2. Type the file name (name of the file which is locked by some process.)
  3. After typing the search phrase, click the Search button

You should see the list of applications which are accessing the file :

Process Explorer

Now you can kill the offending process using PE or something else.

  • SysInternals Utilities are great tools, explore the others here it's worth ten minutes: technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb795533
    – Shadok
    Aug 26, 2011 at 12:27
  • In Windows 7, if you try to delete a file that is locked, the error message will tell you which process has it locked Sep 25, 2012 at 17:16
  • 1
    On Windows 10 Process Explorer didn't show the locked folder, but LockHunter found and unlocked the folder. Feb 8, 2017 at 20:18

With Unlocker. You could also try booting into safe mode (or just rebooting) and see if you can delete it then.

Edit (2013-02-09): I've found something better. LockHunter.

  • 1
    when I download this, my virusscanner says there is a Trojan: Yabector.A ??????
    – Natrium
    Oct 8, 2009 at 7:07
  • A small FYI - the author of Unlocker states these alerts are a false positive: ccollomb.free.fr/blog/?p=69
    – Isxek
    Apr 6, 2010 at 6:25
  • 3
    Unlocker now bundles Adware and toolbars. Stay away!!! Aug 15, 2011 at 18:35
  • 4
    Or just uncheck the boxes asking if you want to install them?
    – LawrenceC
    Aug 7, 2012 at 20:30
  • 1
    LockHunter unlocked the folder, that wasn't shown in Process Explorer Feb 8, 2017 at 7:14

Unlocker is good, but personally I prefer MalwareByte's FileAssassin.


An easy CLI way is:

  • download handle, it's just a small command-line tool
  • open a command prompt as administrator, go to handle directory
  • run handle <part_of_the_path_of_the_locked_file>
  • from the output determine the PID
  • now you can
    • kill the process running taskkill /pid <the_PID> /f (/f means "force")
    • or close the handle without killing the process: handle -p <the_PID> -c <hexadecimal_code_of_the_handle>
  • now you can delete the locked file

When I have a file I can't delete, say from some application I wanted to try out, I reboot and see if I can delete it then. If that fails, I either:

  1. Boot into Safe Mode and delete (as has been mentioned elsewhere)
  2. Boot using a Live CD or Rescue CD, and use the CD tools to mount the drive and then delete the file.

This is one reason why I used Sandboxie(http://www.sandboxie.com/) to test new applications. Sanboxie makes it very easy to clean about the detritus of an application install.

If you computer has been compromised, most security experts would strongly recommend that you clean install you system.

If you have been infected by a Trojan:

  1. You should back up all you data, perhaps including important configurations files (e.g., your Browser settings, or at least you bookmarks).
  2. Then you should clean install your system, apply all available security patches, and install some kind of virus and/or malware scanner.
  3. Finally, scan all the files you backed up, using you newly cleaned system or some other clean system, before restoring them.

Trying to manually clean a system is only possible in the luckiest of cases, and you never know if something was left behind. I would recommend not taking the chance.


Try a program such as Unlocker (only available for x86). You can use it to see all the locks and remove them if you want.

For x64, there might be similar programs as well. A more complicated and more general approach if there isn't is to use program such as Process Explorer, where you search for handles containing the file or program name, and delete all the handles you see.


A good and neat tutorial about this can be found here:



Normally this is not easy, but Microsoft had made this really easy for us. Microsoft has created a software suit called “Windows Sysinternals” for IT pro and System administrators. This suit consists of various tiny but powerful software tools to manage, troubleshoot and diagnose your Windows systems and applications.

You can download the entire Suit

or any single utility

What we need today for our problem is “Process Explorer”, which can be downloaded from:


Download and Run “procexp.exe” tool from there.

It will take some time to populate all running process.

Look for the find tool in toolbar or menu bar.

Open this find handle or DLL box to search for the blocking handle.

In this find box just type the exact name of file or folder is being locked.

The search utility will find the handle for process or software that were using or opened your file. Click on the search result to see detail in lower pan of main window.

In this case it was notepad opened a handle to my file preventing me from deleting the file/folder.

Right click on the file handle entry and just select Close Handle.

And yes this is really important! You must be aware of what you are closing.!

Click yes to go ahead!

Now you are free to rename/delete/move or edit your file/folder


Seeing your comments, it's best to have a different antivirus do it for you then. All of the other files associated with it will also be removed from the system.

Raven's answer is correct, of course, but if you're pretty sure the file is part of a worm/virus, it's better to have it deleted by an actual antivirus.


Using Windows Resource Monitor (inbuilt app)

  1. Press the Windows key on your keyboard, type resmon.exe and press Enter.
  2. In the window that appears, click the CPU tab.
  3. In the third bar from the top, you should see the label Associated Handles.
  4. Type the name of the file you're trying to close into the Search Handles bar, and then click the magnifying glass icon.
  5. Locate the program that is using your file.
  6. Right-click the program using the file in question and select End Process. enter image description here all the glory to https://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch000714.htm

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