I have two screens with two Explorer windows open. Both are showing different subfolders in the same network path.

I pick a folder on the left window that I'd like to move to the right window, I drag it across, and an alert pops up:

The action can't be completed because the folder or a file in it is open in another program.

This is probably just the file indexer or the thumbnail database or whatever. I don't care, I want to do it anyway. This happens literally every time I want to move or rename a file or folder on a network drive.

How do I fix this?


This is a known problem with Windows 7 related thumbnail caching which locks hidden files, thus preventing deletion or moving them.

  1. Empty the recycle bin. If this doesn't resolve the issue move to the next step.
  2. Disable thumbnail preview in Windows Explorer - How to Enable or Disable Thumbnail Previews in Windows 7 Explorer. If this doesn't resolve the issue move to the next step.
  3. Start/Run/gpedit.msc
  4. UserConfig/Admin Templates/Windows Components/Windows Explorer
  5. On the turnoff the caching of thumbnails in hidden thumbs.db files choose enable.
  • This still happens on Windows 8. Empyting the recycle bin fixed the problem for me. Like the OP stated, this problem has been driving me crazy. – Xonatron Oct 2 '13 at 20:06
  • what does it mean if running gpedit.msc doesn't work? I'm on Win 7 Pro 64b. – jcollum Jan 12 '14 at 3:37
  • @jcollum Asking a question in a comment of another question/answer is not acceptable. You need to post your own question in order to be attended to. – CharlieRB Jan 13 '14 at 13:55
  • @CharlieRB or it could be something that is added to this answer to make it more complete. – jcollum Jan 20 '14 at 18:10
  • @jcollum Are you actually stating that you've tried this and it didn't work for you? In that case, you should post your own question where you can give the details of your situation (which are separate from this question) so it can get proper attention to help you. – CharlieRB Jan 20 '14 at 19:39

This error message preventing folders and files to be moved, renamed or deleted is an issue that has driven people nuts in almost new Windows version (it was ultimately fixed after long in previous ones). This has helped the most:

  1. Run gpedit (type run on Windows start menu, click on app result, type gpedit)
  2. On the left pane go to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Explorer
  3. Click on File Explorer and on the right pane, right click on "turn off the caching of thumbnails in hidden thumbs.db files" > Edit > Enabled > Ok
  4. Reboot.

I used to use Unlocker successfully in Windows XP. I guess there's a version for Windows 7 now, which I am going to try. Be careful, it's bundled with Adware.

So apparently this version doesn't work like the old one, which would automatically open a dialog whenever you tried to change a locked file. Now you have to manually click the file name and open Unlocker and unlock the file, then try what you were doing again. It works, just not effortlessly.

  • Unlocker did not work for me in Windows 8. It detected no locks when I was unable to move a folder and its files. – Xonatron Oct 2 '13 at 20:07

I'm using Windows 7 and this worked for me:-

  1. Open Windows Exploer, then Open Folder Options (From the Organise Menu) - and click on the View tab.
  2. Make sure the box 'always show icons, never thumbnails' is ticked.

I was then able to move or delete a file that previously complained about being open or in use.

I suppose in all of this, make sure the preview button is turned off.

Hope this helps.


Try turning off thumbnails. Go to View > Options > View and then check "Always show icons, never thumbnails" hit Apply then OK. Then try moving your folder. Somehow this worked for me.


You can also use the registry to completely disable the thumbnails over the network folder:

1) Run -> regedit

2) Find HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer

Add new REG_DWORD "DisableThumbsDBOnNetworkFolders". Put the value "1".

Reboot Windows.

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